Diane Bryjak and husband George moved to Bloomingdale in 2003 after George retired from teaching sociology at the University of San Diego.
After 24 years of Southern California living, they were tired of the smog, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the many hassles of a big city environment. Diane noted they chose the Adirondacks because of their love of the mountains and that Bloomingdale is less than a four-hour drive from their youngest daughter, Kate, and her family, in Great Barrington, Mass. The opportunity to see grandchildren on a regular basis was an important factor in their relocation decision.
While leaving close friends in San Diego was difficult, the move from sunny San Diego to long, cold North Country winters was not altogether new for the Bryjaks. Diane grew up on a ranch in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of western Montana while George shoveled his share of snow coming of age in Buffalo.
(Photo — Yvona Fast)
A psychotherapist with an established private practice in Saranac Lake, Diane had a therapy practice in San Diego for 21 years. While in California, she was also on staff for five years at Children's Hospital as a medical social worker.
Diane notes there are differences working as a therapist in a big city as opposed to a small town.
"Practicing in a city the size of San Diego, you don't normally run across people you see in therapy outside of the office," she said. "Working in the Tri-Lakes region, it's not unusual for me to see clients at a store, on a hiking trail or in a restaurant. This reduces some of the distance typical between a patient and therapist. People have a sense of who I am outside of the office."
Diane works with individuals, couples and families, young children, teens and adults.
"People experiencing emotional distress often have problems rooted in their relations with family members, friends and co-workers," she said. "Relationship based problems can result in anxiety, poor self-esteem, and depression as well as other emotional difficulties. As a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience I have learned to look at my patients in a more holistic manner: how they take care of themselves, what motivates them, how they interact with others, what they do for exercise and recreation, their eating habits - everything."
Diane devotes special attention to the mind-body connection in her therapy. "We live in such a fast paced, goal-oriented society that we pay little if any attention to what our bodies are telling us. When we don't listen, we can't respond, that's why anxiety and depression can quickly overwhelm an individual. Tuning into the body and unconscious part of the mind can be a gentle yet powerful experience that helps people change. This is a relatively new perspective among mental health care practitioners, and is important to the recovery and well being of a patient."
In addition to her training as a counseling psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, Diane is certified in Guided Imagery and Interactive Guided Imagery. These modalities provide a pathway to the unconscious by way of relaxation and becoming absorbed in the internal process connecting body and mind.
"Guided imagery focuses and directs the imagination," she said. "With interactive guided imagery I talk individuals through to a place of deep relaxation, helping them connect with their bodies. I act as guide helping them understand the images and feelings that present themselves."
GI and IGI are used in numerous areas of psychology and Diane has been involved with Adirondack Medical Center, providing these treatments to cancer patients for the past four years.
Funded by the AMC Foundation, this program is free to patients, family members, and care givers. The program has been well received by all concerned, including hospital staff, and has been extended to other departments at the hospital. Diane notes that GI and IGI "empower people who often feel overwhelmed while undergoing extensive medical procedures and treatments." Oncology patients also have access to meditation and gentle yoga through Mary Bartel at the Inner Quest Yoga & Wellness Center in Saranac Lake.
Diane is also a certified yoga teacher, having trained at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Massachusetts.
"Yoga complements guided imagery," she said.
"Many yoga postures can help reduce and manage anxiety and depression. I also use a lot of breath work in my practice. With both guided imagery and yoga, proper breathing helps individuals drop into their bodies as they learn to connect body, mind, and spirit on their journey to understanding and recovery."
Diane is an avid cross-country skier and with husband George spends many a late afternoon riding her bike in the Bloomingdale and Vermontville area. Most years Diane cares for a large vegetable garden. "It's a lot of work," she said, "but having fresh vegetables for the summer months with enough left over to freeze for winter meals is worth the effort." Diane has been an active member of Voters for Change, the Green Circle, and has worked at the Community Lunch Box and Budget Box at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
Diane and George love to travel and have had a number of memorable vacations. One of the best was a ten day hiking trip over the Tatra Mountains starting in southern Poland and finishing on the other side of that mountain range in Slovakia. In 1994, Diane and George spent four months in Poland. "George had a sabbatical from the university and was working on a social problems textbook. We rented out our home in San Diego and lived in Zakopane, a picturesque mountain town where his grandfather was born. The hiking was terrific and the fresh produce as well as the just caught trout available at the local open air market made for some great meals."
Diane and George's love of the high country was instrumental in bringing them to northern New York.
"We considered moving to either Montana, the Santa Fe region of New Mexico, or the Adirondacks. Being close to family and the allure of these beautiful mountains brought us to the Tri-lakes area. We made the right decision."
Based on an interview with Diane Bryjak. Yvona Fast can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.