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A Message from Theo Fleury and Kim Barthel

Hi Friends and Colleagues,

Here is some info about another event we are hosting together, this time in Barrie! Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested in joining us on May 1st.

All the best,

Kim and Theo

Theo Fleury and Kim Barthel would like to welcome you to their life-changing event, “Conversations with a Rattlesnake”.

Join Theo as he divulges intimate details of his private life in a forum co-hosted with Kim. Observe and interact with Theo and Kim, who he calls “the Wayne Gretzky of Therapy,” as they facilitate a conversation on healing. By attending this up-close and personal one-day event, you will gain insight into conquering trauma.

First, listen to Theo as he shares his astonishing life experiences and recounts his personal journey of healing from trauma and addiction. His story will inspire a diverse crowd, including anyone overcoming their own trauma as well as parents, teachers, coaches, therapists, and health practitioners, whether they are faithful hockey fans or not.
After Theo’s story, learn about the reasons for our behaviour and how our brains work, as Kim provides an in-depth explanation of early childhood attachment and addiction. Kim explains how understanding groundbreaking scientific and psychological research can lead to eliminating the unnecessary and damaging shame that so often surrounds all of us in varying degrees.

Following Theo and Kim’s individual presentations is a thought-provoking, therapeutic discussion between them both. During this conversation, Kim asks Theo intimate questions that provide the audience with the opportunity for illuminating self-awareness. Theo’s life experiences and Kim’s information and interpretations all combine to provide a unique look into the healing process. Their interaction highlights the critical need for trusting and safe relationships along the healing journey.

Often noted as the highlight of the day is the last session, when participants are invited to join the conversation directly with Theo and Kim through a Q and A session. You may ask questions relating to either Theo’s journey, recovery in general, or share your own healing experiences. Confidentiality, respect, and mutual support is whole-heartedly encouraged throughout.

This event will take place once again on May 1th, 2014 in Barrie, Ontario at the Georgian Theatre.

Please feel welcome to join this event. Together we really are all stronger.

“Conversations with a Rattlesnake” will be sponsored by, and be a fundraiser for the New Path Foundation. New Path is a multi-service, fully accredited, children’s mental health agency serving children, youth and families through a wide range of mental health and youth justice programs, as well as adults through partner abuse services. New Path focuses on making a difference in the lives of those they serve helping to create a better future for individuals and the communities they live in. Register at The Georgian Theatre.

Please feel free to pass on this invitation to anyone who you think might be interested in this experience.

Follow this link to purchase tickets:

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Compassion for Offenders

Tough topic.  Some cultures still take the literal position that “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is absolutely justifiable.  Of all the people on earth, offenders (people who hurt people) are the ones most likely to be wished dead, or worse.  In jails, we’ve all heard stories how child-molesters often end up murdered by fellow in-mates.  And as a parent, if my daughter were the recipient of unspeakable abuse, I can’t say with certainty that I would be able to put into practice what I’m about to write about.  But, I hope I’d have the courage to try, for my own peace of mind.

Whether it’s a school yard bully or a repeat sexual predator, the thought I’m forwarding is that trying to develop a sense of compassion for the offender is helpful to the survivor and those who support them.  Making the attempt to see the situation from the offender’s position is more likely to help the survivor than is carrying the burden of hatred in their body and spirit.  Looking to understand the reason for their offender’s behaviour, understanding the illness behind it, and reminding ourselves that it’s hurt people who hurt people, can lighten the load.

I have immense respect for those who have been hurt and are trying, when it must be immeasurably difficult, to rise above their experience.

The idea of feeling compassion for offenders is not intended to make anyone believe the offender’s actions are acceptable. What’s wrong is wrong regardless of any rationalizations of what caused it, and it’s correct to protect yourself and others from it ever happening again.  In fact, if the abuse is on-going, it’s extremely tough / next to impossible to feel any compassion at all.  Compassion for the offender is easier to contemplate, as a concept for healing, when there are already solid boundaries in place, when the abuse is not being repeated and when the survivor is feeling safe.

What is compassion and why is it helpful for us to feel it?  It is feeling empathy towards someone else’s pain.  No action is required, just making the intention that the other person’s suffering be reduced.  It helps a survivor to feel it towards their offender because it takes them out of the state of anger which is poisonous to themselves, and it helps their suffering become more grounded.

Whose examples can we follow?  Nelson Mandela powerfully describes his time in jail while demonstrating compassion towards his captors in “Long Walk to Freedom”. Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian who was held captive for 15 arduous months in Somalia, gracefully and courageously echoes this sentiment, in “House in the Sky”.  In her words, immensely challenging as it is to do, “choosing compassion is the way to experience freedom”.  Theo Fleury was extremely angry for many years at the perpetrator of his childhood abuse…and today, for the same reasons as the others, he’s more grounded, insightful and consciously choosing the path of compassion.  All these survivors are basically saying the same thing in different ways.  And there are many others on this same page, people who have been in positions to suffer greatly and yet who are guiding lights for others to follow in reducing further pain.

One could look to what all these people have in common and theorize that there is a spiritual (not necessarily religious) component to their feelings of compassion towards all others.  Could it be that when you have a sense of being connected to something greater than yourself (a ‘God of your own understanding’) that this concept of feeling compassion to all, even to offenders, seems a bit easier to adopt?

If you are not moving towards compassion, the opposite and some would say more naturally reactive direction would be to feel hatred.  What does hatred serve?  If, like physical pain felt by nerve endings, it is part of a defense mechanism to let your brain/heart know to change your current situation- then good.  Anger would then be useful to keep you safer, and it is good to listen to it.  If you’re already in a safe-enough place and the trauma is not in danger of being repeated, however, then the hatred/anger will only serve to make yourself ill.

Reminder- It is not always the trauma event itself that makes you the most hurt.  It’s often how people (including yourself) respond to the abuse that contributes to your difficulty (or relative ease) with your personal healing.

In a nutshell, how does feeling compassion for your offender help you to feel better?  Once you see it’s the other’s issues and pain, it encourages the thought that the abuse was not your fault and you instantly have more energy to forgive and love yourself.  And that’s really the goal in healing.  The bonus is that if your intention for them to feel less pain comes to be, they’d be less likely to hurt another.


  • Is your trauma/abuse truly in the past or ongoing in any way?  If it’s ongoing, find safety, whatever that means to you.
  • Have you been able to connect with, acknowledge and process your pain?  This part hurts, but this important step allows yourself to grow and be stronger, and increases the likelihood that this kind of experience will not be repeated.
  • Do you know the background of your abuser?  If not, try to piece it together.  If you do, see where their own pain/illness comes from and explore in your mind how hurt people hurt people, and how this is not really about you.
  • Convince yourself that your own heart is worthy of tons of love, and be open to receiving it.
  • If there’s not an abundance of love you can be surrounded with in your present whereabouts and social situation, or just to expand what you have, find any way to be of genuine service to others without expectations of reward.  I read in a trusted blog that helping is healing, and that makes a lot of sense.


Upcoming event in Calgary:  On March 14th Theo Fleury and Kim Barthel are co-hosting a forum on healing, called “Conversations with a Rattlesnake”.  I understand that discussions on topics like this one might come up; if not, people in the audience will be encouraged to raise them or whatever else re/ healing is on their minds.  As Kim’s husband, I’ve seen Theo and Kim’s work together genuinely help people to understand themselves better and regardless of their condition, to feel more hope.  Every time the events have done more than that though; the interactive format brings inspirational people to share, and from those connections it’s encouraging to see Theo and Kim learning every step of the way as well.  Our journey as humans in supporting one another is never over, but this forum is one great opportunity along the way.  I look forward to the 14th.  We’re all in this together.

-       Bob Spensley

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Theo Fleury Announces Second Book and Calgary Forum

(Calgary 2/19/14) – From NHL star, to best-selling author and inspirational speaker, Fleury takes to the stage in this unique forum. A rare opportunity to witness his personal story with the “Wayne Gretzky of Therapy,” Kim Barthel.

On the ice, Theo Fleury is known as Number 14, the battle-hardened Calgary Flames champion who won gold for Canada at the Olympics. Off the ice, Fleury is an equally inspirational figure, openly sharing his experiences of abuse and addiction, and his rocky path towards personal transformation. In reclaiming his life, Fleury enlisted the help of world renowned teacher and therapist, Kim Barthel. As Fleury calls her the “Wayne Gretzky of Therapy,” Barthel has worked closely with Fleury following the release of his first book, “Playing with Fire.” This event marks the announcement of a second book, co-authored with Barthel, “As the Story Goes – Conversations with a Rattlesnake.”

Fleury and Barthel bring their personal conversations, usually shared behind closed doors, to this forum, at a one-day event called Conversations with a Rattlesnake.

When? Friday, March 14, 2014 (8:30 am–4:00 pm)

Where? The Westin Calgary, 320 4th Avenue SW

Fleury and Barthel join forces to engage the audience in a powerful and eye-opening experience. This is a unique opportunity to hear Fleury’s fearlessly honest account of his tumultuous life story, along with Barthel’s expert insight into how he is shedding the pain of his past and breaking free from trauma. Attendees will witness Fleury and Barthel engage in a direct dialogue that delves into the nature of addictions, relationships, and healing, while also having the opportunity to participate in the conversation themselves through an interactive question-and-answer session.

“Kim and Theo put words to the unspeakable and provide insight to the incomprehensible, all while inspiring the human spirit to heal. I have never witnessed an audience of professionals and non-professionals so moved and captivated.” Dr. Don Castaldi, Psy.D.

“Extremely powerful…I wish every social worker in my field could have attended…” Pat McCue, Ministry of Children and Family Development

*For more information on this event please visit:

*For media inquiries please contact: or tel: 778 899 0340

*“Random Act of Kindness” Opportunity– We are encouraging community and business leaders to donate tickets to members of the community who need to attend this forum. We will be highlighting ticket sponsors at media appearances (recipients of tickets are kept confidential).

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Helping is Healing

By Kim Barthel, Occupational Therapist

Did you know that you can make your brain work better and become healthier by helping others?  When you experience anxiety, depression or stress, helping others not only makes you feel good, but also changes the structure of your DNA. DNA is the code within your cells that makes you who you are and unique from everybody else. Every time a cell divides and makes a new cell (which is happening all day long) the DNA is exposed to all the chemicals inside your body.  When the replicating strands of DNA are chronically exposed to stress and anxiety chemicals, the DNA gets worn down.  This wear and tear makes it harder for you to cope with life’s challenges and increases your body’s potential to develop disease.  When you engage in helping, however, feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin float around in your bloodstream. These chemicals turn on all the parts of your DNA that help you to become resilient, healthier and better able to cope with stress.  Although it might seem like doing nice things for others is only altruistic, ultimately we are also helping ourselves greatly in the process.

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