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What is your goal in starting The Studio at Explore What’s Next?

My goal is to have an emotionally safe place where people who feel vulnerable may come and learn how to take care of themselves. It’s about self-care and self-love. It’s a place that gives people permission to do that for themselves – a gently nudging place. We’ll be helping people get out of their comfort zones but in a nurturing way. It’s meant to enhance the work that people do in self-discovery, and help them to bring their bodies along with them.

What inspired you to start The Studio?

My own experience! I was first diagnosed with chronic illness when I was about 25 years old. The treatment that I was taking had very severe side-effects, and they debilitated me. Then in my 30s, I was diagnosed with a second chronic illness. Learning how to live with these illnesses meant learning how to self-care in a very radical way. I learned that it wasn’t enough just to give a person psychotherapy, especially when the mind/body connection is so important for a person’s overall wellbeing.

The Studio @ Explore What’s Next is really a dream fulfilled because I always wanted to create a space where people could get that kind of care.

elvira aletta phd

Why is this Wellness Center project important to you?

It’s important to me because I’ve wanted to help people be accepting of themselves where they are. Helping people do that means more than helping people with how they think and how they feel emotionally. We have a relationship with our bodies, and our bodies inform how we feel emotionally – and how we feel emotionally informs our bodies.

About 15-20 years ago, a colleague of mine contacted me about coming to her practice to speak about chronic illness. I wrote a book on this topic, called 7 Rules for Living Well With Chronic Illness [available on Amazon, and coming out in print later this year!] so that made me qualified to present this talk. At my colleague’s practice on Long Island, she had opened a studio that offered yoga, massage therapy, and the like. I thought that was so awesome! So we learned from each other, and my ideas began to flow.

The project is also important to me because I’ve asked myself this question all throughout my practice: “Where would I want to go to get a service that I would feel good about and make me feel valued?” So I created Explore What’s Next because of that. If I needed therapy, I would go there. I want to go to someplace where, I can not only see a therapist, but I could also add on a yoga class. Or take a meditation class. I want to share these gifts with as many people as I can.

What are some of the services you are going to be offering in The Studio at Explore What’s Next?

We’re combining 3 basic areas at The Studio @ Explore What’s Next:

The first one is Movement: moving our bodies in a mindful way. We are emphasizing different kinds of yoga, especially mindful yoga, like Vinyasa Flow. We are doing functional movement, which is more about building strength and can help people feel more confident in their movement. We’ll then have different kinds of classes within these main areas – like yoga for kids, prenatal yoga for expectant mothers, etc. The goal is for most of our yoga and functional movement classes to be trauma-informed. Here in Buffalo, we have a fantastic research center for that has done truly pioneering work in trauma-informed care. We know how important it is for the therapists to be sensitive to the fact that clients have hidden trauma in their past – and there are ways to allow them to express that without re-traumatizing them. We want to be especially mindful about that when dealing with something that involves touch – like correcting a yoga position. Because The Studio @ Explore What’s Next is a part of the Explore What’s Next therapy service, we offer a unique therapeutic approach to yoga that caters to the client’s specific needs. That not only sets us apart from other yoga studios, but it sets us apart from other therapy practices as well.

The next area is Massage and Reflexology: these are ways to help clients relax through muscle manipulation. These are evidence-based practices that can help to release acids that are built-up in the muscles when we are stressed.

The third category is Wellness Workshops. These workshops will be on a variety of topics – such as maintaining your sexuality while living with a chronic illness, or teaching parents about being a good team for their infant, or helping someone who is questioning their gender identity. Each of these classes will be led by experienced speakers – such as professors, doctors, and the like – usually within the community. As we expand, I’d love to have some classes be led by other well-renowned professionals outside the community – like acclaimed authors and speakers.

Within this category, we’ll have meditation. We provide a place where people can learn about what meditation is, and then participate in group classes. We’ll also have essential oils workshops – one of our therapists at Explore What’s Next is very knowledgeable and experienced in the field of essential oils. This is a scientific-based practice, and we’ll be teaching people how to use the oils responsibly. These are all educational events, but our main focus is that we want people to feel really safe here.

Who will be teaching these workshops and classes?

A lot of these classes will be taught by the people who work at Explore What’s Next – so clinical psychologists, nurse practitioners, social workers… I’m also reaching out to people in the community who are experts in different areas – like sexuality, sleep hygiene, and a myriad of different topics. I look forward to the day that I’ll be able to bring in guest from all over the nation – like authors and professors who will be able to come and give talks on different subjects.

Will all of these workshops be based on scientific fact?

Yes! It’s very important to me as a P.h.D. clinician-scientist. When I got my P.h.D. in Clinical Psychology, there was an emphasis on research and study as well as being able to interact with patients. Now, being a clinical psychologist for over 30 years, I continue to take that approach. It’s just part of my DNA to insist that all of the services we offer at Explore What’s Next are evidence-based and have been researched appropriately and responsibly. The scientific method has a real place in making sure we are delivering something to people that actually fulfills the promise of helping them heal and feel better. Part of the Explore What’s Next brand is that we only have evidence-based, scientifically researched programs under our roof. You can count on that.

Those teaching the classes and leading the workshops will also be very conscientious in making sure their practices are evidence-based. When the safety and care of our clients is our primary concern, we’re not going to cut corners. 

What are some of the benefits of having these services offered in-house?

Continuity of care is another thing that has been scientifically proven. Continuity of care refers to the warm hand-offs that happen from one caregiver to another. This encourages the client’s compliance (compliance is when they actually do what we recommend for them). So when most therapists suggest a yoga class to one a client and refer them to an outside studio, they might follow through… but it would be more likely that they follow through if their therapist can simply walk them down the hall and introduce them to space and instructor. The same goes for every service that we offer. This really separates us from other studios. Because our clients already feel safe in the space and trust us, they are more inclined to participate in the activities that we prescribe for them. That way, they are less worried about going out and trying new things and being vulnerable in new environments. It makes a huge difference.

How has your clientele responded so far?

Everyone’s been really enthusiastic! I’ve already had clients come up to me after a yoga class or workshop and say, “I’ve been thinking about starting therapy, who would you recommend?” I’ve had so many clients and colleagues say “I can’t wait to see what you do with this!” And so far, not one person has said, “this is a really terrible idea”.

Who are these classes and workshops open to?

We’re very inclusive! Some classes are specific to certain groups – like the Bringing Baby Home class is meant to be for couples to maintain good relationships while working through the transition of bringing home a new baby, but all different types of couples are welcome. This specific class is taught by Nicole Brown, who has a Master’s Degree in social work, as well as a special post-graduate certification in postpartum stress and anxiety disorders. The Bringing Baby Home class is based on a specialized curriculum from the Gottman Institute that Nicole has been offering at Explore What’s Next for some time. So for this particular class, we’re going to have a very specific kind of people attending.

As far as other classes go, I ask that people pre-register. They can call us and speak with our friendly faculty and make sure that the class they want to sign up for is the perfect fit for them. We treat psychotherapy the same way. We want to make absolutely sure that everyone’s needs are taken care of in the best possible way, and we will do everything we can to help everyone find exactly what they need.

Is there any particular class you’re especially excited about?

Gosh, I’m excited about all of them! Of all the classes that we’ve offered so far, I’ve taken just about all of them – and I plan to do that until it’s no longer physically possible for me to do so! The yoga classes are surprising in how challenging they can be – even within a gentle Vinyasa Flow. Going into Warrior Pose, I’ll find that I’m sweating! Sometimes even more than if I had gone out for a jog! The meditation class is also very grounding.

The best thing about a good class is that it teaches you something you can take home with you. And that’s exactly how I feel about all the classes I’ve been to so far at The Studio @ Explore What’s Next.

Dr. Aletta is very passionate and excited about all the new things coming to The Studio @ Explore What’s Next. Her vision of a safe space that educates people about their physical and mental health is coming together beautifully. As her vision and practice continue to grow, the people of Buffalo should be incredibly grateful for the work Dr. Aletta has put into helping them on their journey to wellness.