Our Physiotherapy Spotlight this month focuses on Sonja Bray, one of the pelvic health leaders in Alberta who has practiced pelvic health for the past 22 years. Sonja is retiring this month, and we wish her all the best in her retirement. As a global pelvic health community, we thank her for her years of service in mentoring and training pelvic health therapists in Alberta. I have heard of Sonja for over a decade but never had the chance to meet her. Happy Retirement from Pelvic Health Solutions.
Advice From An Expert: Sonja Bray Retires After 41 Years!
Written by Michelle Day, MPT, BScEd, CAFCI
Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, Assistant Instructor Pelvic Health Solutions
I am honoured to introduce Sonja Bray, BSc.PT, from Calgary, Alberta. She has been practicing orthopaedic physiotherapy for 41 years and pelvic health physiotherapy for 22 years. She took her first pelvic health course from Claudia Brown and never looked back! She found that the pelvic floor was the “missing link” in so many musculoskeletal problems and that treating the pelvic floor could make a life changing difference for patients with urinary incontinence and other issues affecting women, as well as preventing problems from even occurring. She also developed the Peri-Natal Program to address prevention and provide care throughout the pregnancy and post-partum periods in a woman’s life.
Sonja states that when she began her pelvic health physiotherapy practice in 1993, very few women and doctors spoke about UI, prolapse, dyspareunia, etc. because it was taboo. She recognized that it is a very personal problem for women and she was able to make a difference in their lives beginning with education. She was determined to spread the word about pelvic health physiotherapy and improve access for patients. She began speaking to family doctors, specialists, fitness trainers, and women about their pelvic floor and the treatment available. She helped to make the pelvic floor less “taboo” in Alberta!
Besides her successful practice in the clinic, Sonja also found her calling as a mentor to other physiotherapists who were called to treat pelvic problems. She was able to promote expert care and provide clinical practice to many aspiring pelvic health physiotherapists. She taught many physiotherapists that treatment should be based on the individual patient and their specific issues. She also emphasized that we must treat the source of the problem for each individual. She also learned to recognize what excited those that she mentored the most and promoted that component to fuel their interest.
Here are the top 5 things that Sonja believes insures success as a pelvic health physiotherapist:
- Develop a trusting relationship with your patient by taking the time to listen.
- Allow patients to express what they need to say without judgement.
- Never stop learning and teaching! There are so many courses available with new evidence and researched based information.
- Be passionate about what you do and have fun.
- Promote pelvic health physiotherapy in the way that fits you whether it is marketing to the public or professionals, developing programs, teaching/mentoring, writing handouts, doing research, etc.
Sonja is retiring this year from LifeMark Health Physiotherapy. Looking back, she is proud of receiving the 2011 CPA Distinguished Service Award. She was Chairperson of Education for the Women’s Health Division from 2003-2005 and organized “The Rise and Fall of the Pelvic Floor” featuring Pauline Chiarelli and Jo Laycock in Calgary. She is most proud of all of the women she has helped over the years and the physiotherapists she has mentored. She will never stop learning and is finding her new passion in Qi Gong, gardening, and travelling. Sonja hopes in the future that:
- Patients will have more availability to access quality pelvic health care.
- Physiotherapists will be able to focus more on prevention.
- Pelvic health courses will be introduced at the University level so students will pursue post graduate specialization.
- Therapists will continue with the specialization process to insure evidence based outcomes and expertise care.
Thank you, Sonja, for being one of the pioneers for pelvic health physiotherapy in Alberta, your commitment to your patients, and for all of the mentoring you provided! Wishing you all the best in your retirement!