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Bridging Minds and Bodies Globally: A Conversation with Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto

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In a recent collaborative check-in, Dr. Lori Baudino introduces the concept of Global Therapists, a program aimed at reaching mental health support globally, starting with children. Dr. Baudino engages in an enlightening conversation with Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto, the co-founder of Higher Ground, a nonprofit organization committed to addressing trauma and poverty in a holistic and community-based manner.

The conversation touches upon the profound impact of movement and dance on mental health and the innovative approach of the Global Therapists program.

Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto shares his personal journey and the inspiration behind Higher Ground, born out of a promise to address the trauma both he and his wife experienced in different ways. Higher Ground initially started as an after-school program centered around movement, incorporating martial arts, dance, music, and art. Over the years, the organization has evolved to focus on community-based approaches, recognizing the interconnectedness of trauma, poverty, and the need for family support.

The conversation takes a significant turn toward the role of graduate students in mental health clinics. Dr. Baudino emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between graduate students and organizations like Higher Ground. The collaboration provides students with hands-on experience and the opportunity to bridge the gap between academic theories and real-world practice. Jansen applauds this approach, drawing parallels with the successful model Higher Ground adopted locally, involving students who needed credit hours and had a passion for the arts.

As the dialogue unfolds, the significance of incorporating movement and dance into mental health interventions becomes evident. Jansen highlights the universality of movement as a language that transcends cultural differences. He stresses that, while mental health issues are prevalent across cultures, the methods of communication must be culturally appropriate. Movement, being a universal form of expression, serves as a bridge to discussing mental health globally.

Jansen further explains the impact of movement on executive functions, citing examples from his martial arts programs. He underlines the importance of integrating movement into therapeutic communication, especially when dealing with highly escalated individuals. Movement, according to Jansen, is the first pathway to safe communication.

"How do we communicate mental health in a way that bridges culture, bridges all these differences? And the solution is in movement, right? The language through movement, we all speak"

The conversation delves into personal practices, with Jansen sharing how martial arts, particularly Kata, serves as a form of meditation and bonding in his life. Movement is a daily practice, deeply ingrained in his routine, and an integral part of his organization's approach when working with children.

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In closing, Jansen offers a valuable tip: to courageously continue the conversation. Acknowledging the challenges of discussing non-mainstream ideas, he emphasizes the importance of reaching diverse groups and engaging in conversations that push boundaries. Dr. Baudino expresses her gratitude for Jansen's insights, and they discuss the potential collaboration between Global Therapists and Higher Ground.

The conversation concludes with an invitation for more thought leaders to join the dialogue and work collectively to move the needle forward in mental health support globally. For those interested in learning more about Higher Ground, go to

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