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Interview with Andreja Tokić in the ATVD journal (of the Professional Society of Alexander Technique Teachers of Germany), No. 70 – July 2018

Andreja Tokić

1. Andreja, for how long have you been working with children with neurological issues?
While I was training as a psychotherapist, during my internship I met a colleague who was working with children with neurological problems. I became very interested in her work. I have personally been working in this area since 2004. 

2. How/when did you first hear about/become familiar with the Alexander Technique and what impression did this leave on you? Did it influence your work with children even at that time? If so, can you describe how?
The same colleague had already completed several AT workshops and told me about this technique. That was in 2001, and it impressed me immensely. The manner in which she was working was very different from what I had learned from other psychotherapists. At that time, I was not able to exactly identify what it was; her work was more subtle, she had better results working with children, and she did not look exhausted from work like other colleagues. 

3. I remember very well our first meeting in Zagreb in the spring of 2011. Twenty-two physiotherapists in the group, most of them speaking loudly, or giving each other treatments and showing one another the newest physio techniques, while Hedda and I were trying to explain what the Alexander Technique was. On the first evening, we were seriously considering cancelling the course. During the second day, the situation improved a little, and, in the end, it turned out to be a fantastic course. How did you experience this first encounter with practical work with the Alexander Technique? What do you still remember?
I remember that this first course was a little confusing for me. I understood that you were trying to demonstrate something. It looked as though you were intentionally wanting to confuse me, but how and why was unclear to me at that time. Naturally, in the meantime, I realised that this was the first encounter with my well-established patterns, and that you were attempting to make me aware of this.
What left the deepest impression on me during that first course was the possibility of choice and it suddenly became clear that I had the opportunity to choose. This awareness completely changed my perspectives regarding my entire life. Finally, this encouraged me to decide to undertake AT training.

4. How did this course affect your work with children?
I believe that it immediately affected my work. In fact, any course in which I have participated has changed me in one way or another, and this change was reflected in my work. The children I was working with also reacted differently and were a confirmation of this process. 

5. There followed dozens of other AT workshops and several longer stays in Freiburg when you visited our school. What eventually encouraged you to start training?
Everything developed naturally for me. From the very beginning, I intended to do training in this direction. It just became clear at a certain moment, as a logical continuation of all these visits and the inner changes within me. Like a vessel that is continuously filled, and then one day it overflows… suddenly, the courses were no longer sufficient – I wanted to become a teacher. I felt this inner call, and I followed it.

6. What was work like with “your” children during the training? During the holidays, you always went to Split and worked very intensively with them. Was it difficult or confusing to link your style of work until then with the new experiences acquired from the training? (Can you specifically describe the differences in these individual stages: first starting from 2011, and then at the time of the training?).
Actually, I didn’t have any problems including what I had learned and experienced during training into my work with children. However, the processes that I had gone through during training were often very uncomfortable – difficult. This was when I felt I needed (and wanted) to change my style and manner of work, and, at the beginning, this was  very confusing for me. As a physiotherapist, I had learned to work more mechanically (although neurology-oriented physiotherapists worked less mechanically than others). AT work is something completely different. I was constantly confronted with achieving the least possible by “doing”. Whenever I learned something in this process and when I managed to free myself of my old ways of doing things, I included this in my activities.
Aranka: Did you have a conflict when you worked with a child: to work with AT or with the psyche?
No, you have to look at that from another perspective. AT is something that is understood, and a broader principle which encompasses everything  that I do. Of course, I am still a psychotherapist, regardless of what I do, or what methods I use, but AT gives it a completely new framework and a completely different quality. AT is something that acts as a foundation that helps me do whatever in an easier way than before. 

7. In your third year of training, you started professional training in “Bewegungevolution” with Martina Kunstwald from Bremen. What inspired you to do that? How did this influence your work with children?
I had heard a lot earlier about Martina from you (Aranka), and I knew that, sooner or later, I wanted to learn this process. I can thank you that I was able to complete this training. (I – Aranka – also simultaneously attended this higher training with Martina Kunstwald and I could, if needed, translate for Andreja). In the same way as my “discovery” of AT, this work really thrilled me. Although the evolution of movement uses AT tools, in some areas it goes even deeper into the history of a person, or child, and this was a fantastic discovery and something that enriched me. Working with Martina revealed a completely new dimension for me in treating babies and children.

8. What for you were the most important experiences and changes during training? What was difficult for you? In contrast, what was natural, simple, easy for you?
The most important experience and change for me was that everything within us is one whole. Everything is linked to everything else, and, actually, one: body, thought, feelings. From wherever we start, we get to a whole.

What was uncomfortable for me was that these processes are not always synchronised, and they could not be processed at all levels. For example, I had the feeling that my body was opening up and changing, but I did not feel I could cope with the accompanying emotions. And it was very difficult to integrate all this. Sometimes I wanted this training to provide continuous psychological assistance! 

9. You have been in Croatia again for a year now. How are you doing in your work, and what experiences have you gained?
I find it beautiful to be able to continuously follow children. Now great changes are appearing in children in all aspects: coordination, attention, sensory acuteness; all this is changing faster and for the better. One girl, who is now 6 years old, and with whom I have been working for 4 years, started to walk by herself. This fills me with great joy when I can work with such intensity and see the way that we grow together.

10. Do you work exclusively with the Alexander Technique, or are you also using other methods?
As I said before, although the AT method is exclusive, I also apply other methods, but they are modified by the presence of AT so I cannot say that these are really “other methods”.

11. How do you promote your work in Croatia? Do you have the impression that it is difficult to establish the Alexander Technique in an environment which does not yet have experience of this type of work? How do your students hear about you? Do you advertise yourself?
Many things have developed through the courses we have organised together at least once a year. All the teachers that were here: you, Hedda Mickausch and Ellen Moss, as well as the “greats”, Giora Pinkas and Richard Brennen, have made a great contribution.

My impression is that it is not difficult to establish AT here. People, including children, who come with big problems, feel that AT is really helping them, and enables them to access something natural and self-evident.

Aranka: Yes, but these are children who have already been with you. How do new students know about you?
Exclusively by recommendations from students with whom I’m already working. The Alexander Technique itself is the best advertisement.

Aranka: Wow! This must be from some book!

12. How often do your students come to you? Once a week? How long do they stay with you on average?
Usually once a week for 60 minutes. With more difficult cases I work several times a week at the very beginning, in a similar way to the one Alexander practised: 6 weeks – one hour a day. I think this is fantastic to begin with.

Aranka: Is it adults that come to you so often?
Yes, this is what I do with adults.

Aranka: With what kind of problems do they turn to you?
The last student I worked with was diagnosed with polyneuropathy. This involves a progressive degeneration of the peripheral nerves. She is 60 years old and suffers from a fast-progressing illness. When she came to me, she practically could not walk. After 6 weeks of work, she had no difficulties and she could walk perfectly normally. Naturally, her illness did not disappear, her sensory perception is still weak, and her extremities are stiff, but much, much less than before. Now she can lead a normal life.

Aranka: And now she comes once a week?
Yes, once a week.

Aranka: What is it like for your students to come so frequently? Do they accept this? Here in Germany I often see that it is difficult for people, for them to come in the beginning even only twice a week.
I work with people who really have big problems. Their very livelihood is at risk if they suddenly can’t walk or if they have difficulties related to their coordination. They are in such a state that they are prepared to invest in themselves.

Aranka: What other serious diagnoses people you work with have?
Multiple sclerosis, brain tumours, hemiparesis (weakness of one side of the body).

Aranka: Do you have such good results with AT in all these cases?
This is very individual. The illness does not disappear in these people, it is still there. However, what happens is that they can function better, and this enormously improves the quality of their lives.

13. Do you miss work and exchanging experiences with your colleagues from the class and with other Alexander Technique teachers?
Yes, I miss this very much. I console myself with the fact that another two colleagues from Croatia are doing AT training, and I believe that other AT colleagues from around the world will find their place in Croatia, because Croatia is really a uniquely beautiful country!

14. Where do you go from here? What are your plans, wishes, ideas and visions for the future?
I would like to establish an AT centre where children and adults with different setbacks and problems can learn how to extend what they can do with the help of AT.

15. What would your message be to your younger colleagues?
You have to have the courage to reach out to people – whatever problems these people bring with them – and try to find the individual wherever this person is, and explore new possibilities together. The Alexander Technique is a wonderful vocation, and it can be applied to anyone. Every person can profit from this, starting from babies right through to elderly people.

16. And the last question: what is the most important and most precious thing that you gained from the Alexander Technique?

Thank you for the interview, Andreja!



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