Lena Dicken- Saltwater Sessions
Can you tell us little about what you do and where you live?
I’m a psychologist in private practice and the founder and director of Saltwater Sessions, a therapeutic program which combines surfing, mindfulness, and positive reappraisal. I live in Santa Monica, CA.
When did you know that you wanted to start/found on your own?
I didn’t start out thinking I wanted to start a company and it actually all happened pretty organically. During my graduate training I interned at a low cost community addiction treatment center in Santa Monica. The clinical director found out I was a surfer and asked me to create a therapeutic surfing program. I decided to channel the ways surfing had helped me into a program that could be used to help others. Along with creating the curriculum for the program I concurrently decided to write a manual based dissertation which was a requirement for my doctoral program. I completed the manual and piloted the program, and I got a great response. My clinical director, dissertation chair, and mentor all encouraged me to keep running the program after I completed my internship, and eventually it just made sense to turn it into a business.
Why do you think words like Balance and Happy are trending right now?
I think most of us are brought up to think about what we want to be when we grow up and how to succeed financially. Not many of us are asked to think about how to maintain a work life balance, or how to maintain friendships and important relationships as we get older. I think in today’s modern world of social media and round the clock e-mails it’s more important than ever to find a sense of balance and to find ways to unplug.
What approach do you have for your business and what do you hope the impact it has on people?
I hope Saltwater Sessions helps people become more comfortable with being outside their comfort zones. I also hope it helps them become more aware of their internal dialogue.
How has your life changed, since you started surfing and how did it turn again when you launched your business?
Something clicked the first time I went surfing. It was as if I had found the thing my life had been missing up until that point. I had always loved the water, but surfing just had this special blend of strength, natural beauty, and the indescribable feeling of riding a wave. When I launched my business it didn’t change all that much, but the journey of an entire
What do you wish, you would have known earlier when you launched your business?Oh gosh, about a million different things! I had no prior business or marketing experience and everything that went into starting the business felt like it was on a pretty steep learning curve. Luckily my husband is a designer and helped a lot with the branding aspect. I figured things out as I went and over time it has gotten easier.
What have been the most rewarding and the most challenging moments since you started the business?
The most rewarding part is seeing our participants having breakthroughs, both on the waves and in the way they relate to themselves. Seeing someone have an aha moment about how hard they are on themselves, or how much they unnecessarily compare themselves to others is incredibly rewarding. The most challenging part is the hustle. We’re all so inundated with content and information at all times, it can be challenging to continually come up with new ways to stand out.
You started this program in an addiction center and knew it was open to the public, who is your primary clientele and can everybody attend it?
The program began at one treatment center, then branched out to other centers in the LA area. Once we had a few pieces of press I started getting a lot of inquiries about how people could sign up who weren’t in treatment. I realized if I had started the idea from scratch it would have been open to everybody, so about a year ago we opened it up to the public. Currently we have programs running year round in Los Angeles. We’re also in the process of setting up an east coast program for fall of 2019, and we’ll continue to do retreats in warm water destinations like Hawaii and Central America.
Can you tell us what you are doing throughout the Saltwater Sessions course?
During sessions we spend equal time on our surfboards and on the sand. We discuss challenges we’re facing, and how we relate to them. We go surf, and we take stock of all the feelings and emotions that come up in the water, then we process them back on the sand. Most of us think our fears are unique to us and that everyone else has it all together. This couldn’t be farther than the truth, and the group processing part of the program helps us understand this and not feel so alone. Through shared challenge, our participants also go through a bonding experience which helps us connect with others.
What do nature and surfing mean to you?
I love this question! Nature and surfing are my lifeblood. Living in a bustling city like Los Angeles can be pretty overwhelming at times with all the cars, traffic, and people. Being able to escape for a morning of hiking or surfing keeps me grounded and helps me feel connected to what’s really important.
Why do you love what you do?
I love what I do because I get to combine my passions of being outdoors in nature, surfing, and helping people grow and find more self compassion and kindness towards themselves.
In your work and program you mention the confrontation of Frustration and Failure - how can people mindfully benefit from your program?
Children don’t mind failing at new things, but by the time we’re adults, most of us avoid doing things we know we’re not good at. Feelings of frustration and failure are expected to come up in our program. Surfing is extremely challenging, and by processing the feelings that come up - the failure, the discomfort, the comparison, we explore our reactions to it. In the process we often come to realize at our core we’re all just worried about being rejected, and ultimately, just wanted to be loved and accepted by others.
Where do you recharge and how did you find your community?
I recharge in nature or during trips. I love stepping away from the city and going somewhere new. I found my community mostly through school, internships, work, and friends of friends. I’ve always surrounded myself with a pretty eclectic group of people and my life in LA is no different.
You currently live in Los Angeles, California- what are your favorite spots and why?
I love surfing in Malibu. It’s beautiful and really feels like you’re escaping the city. Same with Topanga, there are tons of great hikes and the whole area has a very green small town feel. West Hollywood has some great stores for shopping for home goods. I also love exploring downtown and the east side because it feels like I’m in a completely different city.