Ken Breniman is an Oakland, CA-based Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Yoga Therapist with a passion for nudging the Western mental health paradigm in regards to safe, legal and ethical integration of sacred plant medicines or psychedelics. With a thanatological (study of mortality) approach to holding space for others, Ken has a deep reverence for Spirit while acknowledging each of us must find our own way of making sense of the experience of being human. Combining the essence of Kierkegaard's "Live life forward, understand it backwards" with Ram Dass' "We are all walking each other home" provides a hint at how Ken is attempting to understand his own being human.
I strive to be a culturally responsive space holder and continue to engage in ongoing learning opportunities around issues of culture, race, equality, equity, and social justice. In working relationally with my clients, I hope to be transparent and authentic in how I show up in my work and wish to keep the channels of communication open as to how social and cultural identities impact the healing process.
For the past 20 years, I have offered compassionate care for a wide variety of clients in Oakland, CA who are looking for something more from their lives. My offerings include:
- Educational workshops
- Community-enhancing groups
- Private yoga therapy sessions
- Singing bowl sound baths
- Plant medicine integration support
I am dedicated to supporting clients during very challenging life situations. By incorporating the ancient healing practices of yoga, and the supportive counseling tools of Western psychology, clients heal, grow and are better able to cope with many of the stressors life can bring. I truly believe we all have innate healing powers and I am here to help you uncover your own amazing potential.
We live in a rapidly evolving time in human history. The world is more interconnected than ever before, allowing important cultural and scientific dialogues to take place. There are many wonderful opportunities for those of us in the West to experience the life-transforming power of ancient wisdom traditions from around the world, including the practices of yoga and meditation, which are now broadly respected by the scientific and academic communities.
Further, more people are exploring healing through plant medicines, which are also becoming recognized by the scientific community as viable catalysts for personal transformation. Scientific research continues to affirm the value of these practices in providing insights and enhancing the human condition by achieving balance, peace, and happiness. A growing number of researchers and healthcare professionals agree: the body, mind, and spirit are not separate, but rather parts of an interconnected whole.
My life purpose is to help you find the best combination of practices to bring health, equanimity, and happiness through individually designed programs. In supporting you during a challenging time in your life journey, I draw on my clinical training experience in Western psychology, my extensive knowledge of yoga, and my reverence for the wisdom of our ancestors.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about where I have been, where I am right now, and my vision of where I want to be in the near future. I believe in the strength of lifelong learning and it is a guiding principle in my approach to life. And as I continue along my own lifelong path of studying, learning and evolving, I will continue to passionately share my collected knowledge and wisdom with others.
I earned my Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies with a minor in Japanese language from Penn State University, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work with emphasis on children, families, and youth from Washington University in St. Louis. I achieved my license as a Clinical Social Worker from the California Board of Behavioral Science, and one year later became a Registered Yoga Teacher.
With curiosity to learn more about the intersection of yoga and psychology, I furthered my education at the Yoga Therapy Teacher Training at Ananda Seva Mission completing the 500-hour level of yoga teacher training. I became one of the first professionals to become a Certified Yoga Therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). Most recently, I completed a Masters level certification in Thanatology (Death/Dying and Bereavement Studies) at Marian University with the intention of becoming an ADEC Board Certified Thanatologist. I am now officially a licensed LCSW, C-IAYT, and thanatologist. More importantly though, I use my experience and wisdom to care for you.
The Bay Area is a synergistic place for deepening our understanding of how psychedelic plant medicines are slowly being welcomed into our Western framework of healthcare. In addition to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and UCSF continuing to research the healing potential of MDMA in persons with PTSD, there are many other research endeavors taking place around the world. In June 2019, Oakland, CA became the first city to decriminalize plant medicines and more people are seeking safe and ethical access to healing trauma with these gifts from nature. I continue to enhance my private practice offerings through learning from California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS), MAPS and the Haven in Oakland so I can offer a safe and non-judgmental space to integrate their plant medicine sessions.
In 2020, Ken completed his intensive training at the Salt Lake Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapy and Research Program and has recently begun offering his supervisory services to the current participants in this program through a peer-led consultation group.
My clinical experience includes serving clients at Washington University in St. Louis Children’s Hospital, UCSF, Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Alameda County Child Protective Services, Alameda County Health Services Agency, Vital Life Services in Oakland, College Internship Program in Berkeley, Civicorps School in Oakland, the Institute on Aging in San Francisco, and the Liberation Institute in San Francisco.
I continue to volunteer with MAPS, ERIE (Entheogen Research, Integration and Education), and Decriminalize Nature Oakland to create safe and supportive settings for those wishing to integrate their psychedelic experiences.
I have been providing clients supportive services in a private practice setting for the past 15 years. I offer Yoga for Grief gatherings at a variety of settings throughout the East Bay. See the Calendar tab on this website.
I thrive as a life long learner and continue to refine my clinical expertise in the various intersecting fields of Thanatology, Psychedelic Science and Yoga Therapy. . My presentation, The Transformative Nature of Grief addressed the health benefits of yoga for bereaved parents at the MISS Foundation Conference. I offer workplace yoga for local non-profits and other social justice-oriented organizations. Additional nonprofit work includes teaching trauma-informed yoga classes for school teachers in Oakland, and for residents at Oakland transitional living communities.
During the Co-vid19 pandemic, I have been actively involved in the LetsReImagine.org movement with presentations on pandemic-related grief, empathic distress, personal death awareness and resliency. Upon completing my studies at the Salt City Psychedelic Research and Training Program, I was invited to be a group facilitator for their peer process groups (2020-2021). As of June 2020, I am a honored to join the team at WikiHow as a contributing co-author on topics ranging from the topics near and dear to my heart: grief, trauma and yoga therapy.
There was once an argument among the gods over where to hide the secret of life so that men and women would not find it.
One god said: “Bury it under a mountain; they will never look there.”
“No,” the others said, “one day they will find ways to dig up mountains and will uncover it."
Another said: “Sink it in the depths of the ocean; it will be safe there.”
“No,” the others objected, “humans will one day find a way to plumb the ocean's depths and find it easily.”
Finally another said: “Put it inside them; men and women will never think of looking for it there for a long time. By the time they are intelligent enough to discover the secret, perhaps they will also be wise enough to use it properly.”