About Clear Path: Our Story, Our Values, and Our Philosophy of Transformation
By Kristen Radtke, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, and Founder of Clear Path Counseling and Wellness, LLC
October 30, 2023
I began Clear Path Counseling and Wellness in January of 2016 with a heart-centered vision in mind: create a healing space where holistically minded psychotherapists and wellness practitioners from diverse disciplines could provide compassionate, mind-body care to the Madison community. Now, as I look back in time at my 2016 Self—sitting at her dining room table in those winter evenings, working to bring this vision to life—I can put a hand on my heart, smile at her and say, "We did it."
Clear Path Counseling and Wellness has grown to be a multi-practitioner clinic, located in a charming yellow house on Monroe Street in Madison, Wisconsin. We share our home with our partner in holistic healthcare, Bonner Physical Therapy. When you walk into our lobby, it feels like a living room: plants line our windowsills, unique art and stained glass hangs from our walls, and we always have the tea kettle on, ready to offer you a hot cup of tea. We host psychotherapy groups and workshops, training seminars and social gatherings, yoga and meditation classes, and networking events for providers and local businesses.
The therapists at Clear Path provide services to adults, adolescents, couples, and families, and are grounded in two primary therapeutic modalities: Internal Family Systems Therapy and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Springing off from the non-pathologizing orientations provided by these two models—namely, that the inner worlds of human beings have multiple facets or "parts," and that these different part of us have expressions in our physical bodies—we also incorporate methods from Existential Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Narrative Therapy, The Gottman Method, The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, and Mindfulness-based traditions.
In the process of choosing a name for the place I envisioned and developing its brand aesthetic, it was important to me to find a linguistic and visual expression of my philosophy of human transformation, and the role of the therapist in bringing about change. I wanted the name to not just express what services the business would provide, but also convey answers to the questions, "How?" and "To what end?" As the name "Clear Path" suggests, I wanted to create a hopeful vision for clients that whatever traumas they had faced, whatever burdens they were carrying, whatever obstructions to clarity, health, or fulfillment were hindering them, we would embark together on a process of clearing the way to a better life. With my central belief that body and mind are inseparable in healing and transformation work, I wanted the metaphor of path clearing to have a double meaning—applying not only to clearing obstacles out of the way on a person's life path, but also to clearing energetic pathways in the body (as conceived by eastern medicine traditions). Finally, I wanted to bow to the humbling nature of the work as a therapist, which is not to "fix" or "solve," but to deeply understand the direction someone yearns to walk, pick up a broom, and sweep the path at their feet.
A closer look at our logo also reveals something of a spiritual statement. Tracing the outline of the circle may remind a practitioner of Japanese Zen calligraphy of painting an open ensō, a symbol expressing enlightenment, original mind, or "suchness." Having been a Rinzai Zen meditation practitioner for many years, I was always struck by ensō ink paintings done by true masters, which somehow had the power to transform my mind and reorient me to absolute reality. Clear Path's nod to the ensō has two intentions behind it: to potentially give someone something—perhaps just a bit of grounding or calm—upon visually encountering our logo, and to help me, the founder, be ever-reminded of the non-dualistic state of mind that elevates my practice of therapy and my conduct as a leader at Clear Path. With the ensō-inspired circle as the outer structure, the inner content of our logo—the "path"—represents the relative dimension of existence, the expression of absolute reality in everyday forms, the various shapes a human life takes. The path intentionally winds and turns, connoting the nonlinear nature of both therapeutic work and human life, and suggesting the possibility of navigating with fluidity and grace.
In addition to a meaning-saturated name and the logo, Clear Path has articulated four interrelated tenants that express our core values:
Kindness and Compassion
Integrity and Excellence
Universality and Embodiment
Humility and Reverence
The first set of these tenants, Kindness and Compassion, is the foundation of our conduct with our clients, our community partners, and one another. We want to be a part of building a world where people have the skill of holding multiple perspectives simultaneously, leading to a collective shift in our ability to access empathy and care. We want our clients to feel they are always treated with the utmost respect and kindness, and that we compassionately resonate with their experiences.
The second set of values, Integrity and Excellence, reminds us to always strive to hone and practice our craft at the highest level. We stay at the cutting edge of clinical research and training, we acknowledge that masterful therapeutic technique matters, and we hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethics and therapeutic practice.
The third set, Universality and Embodiment, grounds us in our shared humanity with people from all walks of life and reminds us that to be human is to live in a body. The theoretical orientations at the foundation of our therapeutic work, particularly Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, acknowledge emotions, beliefs, inner resources, and traumas to be bio-psycho-emotional phenomena; they have expression in the physical body, and can often only be shifted by incorporating the body. (Interestingly, the official tagline of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute is, “Because Words are Not Enough.”) The work of embodied insight—deep change that has physical expression and translates into action—requires great courage, tenacity, and even swimming against the stream of screen-based modern life. Clear Path therapists and staff believe that living in, taking care of, and empowering our bodies is an essential and indispensable dimension of human thriving.
Finally, in the spirit of a full body bow anchoring our core values, we have Humility and Reverence. These two words guide me daily from the moment I wake up. I marvel at the trees outside my window while drinking my morning tea, I feel gratitude for my life and my circumstances, and I “go to work” as a therapist with an attitude of awe and respect for the human beings with whom I will be in conversation. Clear Path therapists know that we are not special keepers of answers, or experts on others’ ways of grappling with the suffering inherent in human life. We are, instead, as Irvin Yalom describes in The Gift of Therapy, “fellow travelers.” Clear Path team members maintain awareness that it is an honor to be let in on the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. We are committed to embody humility in the work, to honor the profound creativity and resilience people reveal as they navigate existence, to be open to mysteries we do not understand, and to learn as we go from our fellow travelers.
As I reflect on the early days of envisioning Clear Path, I am in awe of how the clinic has come into alignment with that original vision. At the same time, I could never have imagined the winding path of how we got here, or the human relationships that made it possible. Dr. Andrea Vogel and Melissa Walden of the Eating Disorder and Mental Health Support Network gave Clear Path its first office and community of clinicians at 429 Gammon Place. Robin Lending Halsten supervised my work in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as I grew into the therapeutic approach that integrates these two models. Trainers Anne Westcott and Dr. Rebeca Farca at the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute were instrumental in helping me learn and embody the principles of the model. Master instructors Lana Epstein and Grayce Gusmano continue to help me refine my therapeutic technique in trauma and developmental work. Autumn Bonner took the leap with me to create a collaborative clinic when our current building at 1934 Monroe Street became available. And every step of the way, my personal relationships with my loving family members, friends, and colleagues have encouraged and supported me. Clear Path would not be what it is today without the help of so many compassionate, brilliant, deeply kind people.
I also could never have dreamed up the powerhouse team of women who currently give our organization life: Amber Sebastian and Katherine Usher (Marriage and Family Therapists in Training), Karla Angel and Tori Lewis (Masters-Level Clinical Interns), Alane Petrowski (Clinic Systems and Administrative Coordinator), and Kristine Radtke (Service Coordinator). These talented, driven women make Clear Path a place I am proud to work at and lead, and they inspire me daily. I am in awe of what we have built together, and excited for where the path will lead us.