When her then 12-year-old daughter began going through the physical and personality changes of puberty, Susanne Liebich of Concord worried about increasing exposure to the media and other outside influences on her daughter’s self-care, health, learning and safety.
Seven years ago, Liebich – a therapeutic dance and Pilates instructor and choreographer – created the GirlPower! wellness program for adolescent girls focusing on holistic health and movement. With the tagline “Be who you are,” the program teaches girls 10 to 14 years old resiliency against insecurities about weight, body image, beauty and social acceptance.
Participants have fun expressing themselves while building self-confidence, learning to make healthy choices and making new friends within a noncompetitive, nurturing setting. The program includes honest discussion, journaling and creating visual art, mind-body exercises and integrative therapies, guest experts such as a Reiki master and nutritionist, community service and organic lunches and snacks.
According to Liebich, the mix of relaxed activities enables girls to gain new skills while discovering their unique interests and strengths with no pressure to perform.
“I want to provide girls with a ‘safe cocoon’ to meet new friends outside the typical social cliques at school and more competitive activities,” Liebich said. “Within a supportive environment, it’s easy for each girl to shine individually, and yet still feel part of the community. GirlPower! is about providing girls with the chance to be their unique selves and discover a path that resonates with them.”
Harvard resident Phoebe von Conta, who turns 14 years old on March 21, is looking forward to participating in her fourth GirlPower! session this summer. She initially signed up despite worrying she wouldn’t be good at yoga and dancing, but quickly learned that it’s enough for participants to just be themselves. In fact, the new relaxation skills have helped her become less shy and cope more effectively with stressful situations at school that previously caused stomach aches.
“I still go back to the strategies I learned when I feel nervous,” said the eighth grader at Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens. “Those lessons have become part of me. They’re helping me grow up.”
Phoebe’s mother, Sarah von Conta, said she has noticed that her daughter has gained confidence in her values and overall inner strength.
“GirlPower! is a partnership that gives girls more tools to find their voice,” she said, “and find their way.”
GirlPower! will run from April 22-25, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Emerson Integrative Health and Wellness Center located at 310 Baker Avenue in Concord at a cost of $440. Five-day programs (with the theme “Be Who You Are: Exploring Coming of Age Through a Cultural Lens”) will take place from July 7-11 and July 21-25, each at a cost of $550. To register, call (978) 287-3777 or visit www.emersonhealthyliving.org. For more information, e-mail Susanne@dancingwellness.com.
Emerson Hospital is a multi-site health system headquartered in Concord, Mass., with additional facilities in Sudbury, Groton and Westford. The 179-bed hospital provides advanced medical services to more than 300,000 individuals in 25 towns. To learn more, visit www.emersonhospital.org.