Debra Michels' Education, Trainings and Experience

B.A., in philosophy, cum laude, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA (near Philadelphia) 

One year living in a Quaker community named Pendle Hill in Wallingford, Pennsylvania

Studied Martin Buber (I-Thou ways of living in dialogue with people, rather than treating others like objects) with Maurice Friedman, Ph.D. and his wife, Eugenia Friedman, M.A., who had studied with Martin Buber and his wife in Jerusalem, Israel.  Also studied Hasidic tales about Jewish mysticism, and the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke and others.

M.A. in Human Development, Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA

            Master’s thesis on the helpfulness of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and other disciplines of Yoga to help us to “witness” or meditate upon feelings of anger and alienation from God, and to be able to calmly examine feelings of loss, mistrust, disillusionment, betrayal, or abandonment.  There was a review of scriptural treatments, or explanations, of why we suffer.  Western scriptures change and grow.  Early on, they claim that suffering is the result of having sinned, whereas in the Book of Job, they say it isn't always the result of having sinned, but that instead, at least some of the time, suffering can be merely a test of our faith.  Also, western scriptures say that sometimes, people can suffer attacks from darker forces precisely because we are moving towards God and trying to better ourselves.  I also examined Eastern scriptures concerning their ideas about karma and reincarnation.  Finally, I examined the use of prayer in Jewish and Christian traditions, and in 12 step groups, to help us lift up issues or dark areas to a Higher Power and receive solace, guidance, and healing

8-week training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at Stress Reduction Center
founded by Jonathan Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. at University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA  

From their website:  “MBSR over the past 35 years has shown consistent, reliable and reproducible major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical and psychological diagnoses.  It has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an evidence-based program through the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP).  Mindfulness is an active area of scientific research with new studies on MBSR being shared on a regular basis.”

200-hour RYT training with Amy Wheeler, Ph.D. based on Swami Sri Krishnamacharya in India

Prime of Life Yoga with Larry Payne, Ph.D., a 40-hour program, also based on Swami Sri Krishnamacharya’s teachings. 

Swami Krishnamacharya’s approach stresses caring for the individual body of the student, making yoga into a form of therapy, not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

 Training in prayer ministry:

  • 1 year chaplaincy training, 5 years praying with patients in Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
  • Levels 1, 2 & 3 in prayer ministry training by Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville, Florida – founded by Francis and Judith MacNutt
  • Stephen Minister at St. Monica’s Church in Santa Monica, California – training plus 1 year of experience


From Mark Pettus, M.D., Associate Program Director, Department of Medicine, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA:
“Debra… is exuberant in her willingness and desire to serve others.  Her perspective is one of gratitude in her ability to share her knowledge, skills, and experiences so freely and sincerely.  Empathic expression and humility are a natural and effortless extension of her values…  It is clear to me that Debra’s purpose in life is to grow, to serve, and to extend as much compassion and healing energy as humanly possible.  She welcomes the challenge of opportunity.  She embraces possibility.  She will clearly be an asset to any individual or organization she serves.” 

From Kathleen Gideon, ATR, LMHC, head of the Partial Hospitalization Unit, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA
“She [Debra] has worked both in groups and with individuals teaching yoga and relaxation skills.  Her emphasis has been to teach an awareness and sensitivity to the body that one can take off the yoga mat and use to maintain calm and creativity throughout the day.  Over the years, she has demonstrated caring and commitment…  She has been flexible and innovative in her work with those who have a wide variety of physical and emotional disorders…  Debbie is a person with strong commitment to her field and would be an asset to any program.”

From Kavindra Jacobs, Step Up on Second Street, Santa Monica, CA
“Debra combines formal training with a spontaneous, interactive approach…  She encourages people to listen first and foremost to their own bodies, thereby improving their ability to care for themselves…  [She] gives people a chance to cultivate loving-kindness and acceptance of themselves, exactly as they are… They learn to breathe into difficult areas of body, mind and emotion instead of using fight-flight mechanisms to deal with stress…  Debra has had a profound impact on our members.  Our members constantly talk about the lasting benefits of her class.”

Amy W. – Cedarpines Park, CA:  “Debra understands the true meaning of yoga.  She has 40+ years of experience helping herself and others to find their connection to a higher-power.  She will take you to the true meaning of yoga – union.” 

 Anton P. – Crestline CA:  “Spiritual and open, Debbie shines through when others are in a fog.”

Michelle A. – Yorba Linda, CA:  “Debbie is a truly amazing soul.  Her grace and calming voice lead her students to a perfect place to experience the Divine.  I love, love, love her teachings.”

K.B. – Orange County, CA:  “Debbie’s calm voice and gentle practice leads you to a calmer mind.”

Lisa K. – Sacramento, CA:  “Debbie brings such a calm nature to her classes.  She is incredibly spiritual and inspires that “connection with self” to her students.”

Larry Payne, Ph.D. - Marina del Rey, CA:  "Debra Michels is a gifted teacher and kind being.  I highly recommend her work."