An interview with Dance Movement Psychotherapist and Mental Wellness Consultant, Irene Anggreeni

1. Tell us about your journey! What led you to this point?  


I am an ex-engineer turned dance movement psychotherapist and mental wellness consultant. And as a depression survivor, I’m passionate about mental health advocacy and helping fellow advocates to amplify their impact.


My journey initially started as perhaps a typical story of a career migrant. I come from a small town Kudus in Central Java, Indonesia. At 22, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and having briefly worked as a software engineer, I got a scholarship to continue my master’s studies in Sweden. Afterwards, as a non-EU citizen I was able to stay through a string of employments in academia and engineering in the Netherlands. Among others, I did and completed a PhD in design engineering during this period of my life.


Underneath that determination I seemingly had my life in order, though, I was struggling with high-functioning depression. Which, in my case, layered with culture shock, loneliness, and imposter syndrome, eventually developed into a clinical depression. It was spring 2012, I recently turned 30. That’s when I realized how super tough it is, being an ex-pat and dealing with mental health challenges. I never felt so alone in my life.


Years of therapy followed. Where I finally allowed myself the space to unpack invisible family trauma, to grieve for my wounds, and to be gentle with myself. Before then, I was always pushing myself and not allowing myself to feel. During my recovery, I finally had an understanding of why I never felt at home anywhere.


I could say that my whole journey has been about the exploration of that sense of home and the rebuilding of my home within. It brought me to live and learn mindfulness with the Zen Buddhist monastics at the Plum Village in France. Then I trained in Vipassana meditation, which is done in a tradition of rigorous 10-day routine in complete silence. 


I also discovered the healing power of dance therapy. I felt there was just so much to express and reflect on, but I didn’t have the words for it. Through movement and creative expression, things started to click into place for me. I became more aware of my own story and had the tools to move through them. It’s no wonder, that dance therapy eventually became my calling. I decided to study again and earned my master’s degree in dance therapy in 2017.


Today, I am a clinical dance therapist and mental wellness consultant. I specialize in helping my fellow depression survivors revive their mojo and navigate life beyond therapy. 


Mental health after-care for high-achievers is perhaps a term that you could remember easily. When I mention ‘high-achievers’, I’m absolutely including entrepreneurs. The mental health crisis is rife in entrepreneurship, with *nearly one half suffering from at least one mental health condition in their lifetime. These are driven and smart people, who want to change the world for the better and make a positive impact. 

Where is that safe space for them, to get things off their chest? To be vulnerable with their true feelings, and receive the right support? Without being judged or, worse, penalized. 


While the stigma is getting weaker, and people are more open to seeking help, it still often is firefighting instead of preventive.


Going to therapy or coaching certainly helps give a sense of relief and unravel the problem. The real “work” however, takes place outside the room. That means the right awareness, practical skills, and also ongoing support are necessary for this person to re-establish their balance and advocate for their wellbeing. Sometimes, it also means a hands-on strategy to change what’s within possibility, for instance in their lifestyle, environment, or relationships.


I’m championing lasting inner transformation. Not a quick fix or a ‘bandaid’ solution that may work only short-term. 


To work on such a deeper level, I prepare my clients to diligently work on self-love, compassion, and also letting go of the overly analytical mind. Each person will craft his or her own path in this. That’s why my approach is very personalised and integrates the mind and body, creative expression, and mindfulness practice. Get out of the head, and into the body. We all need that, myself included. In that interconnection of our body-mind, we discover our innate wisdom, intuition, and the truth about ourselves.



2. What has been your biggest achievement?  


Personally, my own healing has been my biggest achievement in life. And this healing journey still continues. 


Due to growing up in an emotionally unstable family, since childhood, I was fearing abandonment, worried I’d end up alone, and constantly feeling low about myself.

It dragged on for so long and finally blew up into a big crisis – clinical depression – when I was 30.


With support from important teachers, professionals and friends, I was able to help myself to develop more inner peace, understanding, and empowerment. 


By healing myself, I’m taking care of others. Because now, I am more conscious about not transmitting this sort of negativity.


Looking back at my journey, I am grateful for the big milestones in my life. 

When I was younger, I thought academic and career accomplishment was everything. Best student awards, scholarships abroad, completing a PhD – I’m the first in my family to have a doctoral degree. 


Depression shook my world and thankfully, also brought me a new, healthier perspective about life. It has opened a unique path that I never would have imagined.


Upon recovery, I retrained to become a mental health therapist and launched my wellbeing coaching and consultancy practice. Along the way, I became an international bestselling author.


Deep inside, I feel my biggest achievement is that I open myself to the richness that feeds my soul.


Setting out on my unique path, becoming my own hero.

Rediscovering my spirituality and interconnectedness with everything.

Luana Ribeira

Luana Ribeira is a best selling author, international speaker and host of business Innovators Radio.