During her own journey to wellness as a student and adjunct faculty member at Bastyr University, Deborah Zucker, ND, discovered the tools to teach others how to similarly care for themselves.
Since earning her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree in 2008, she turned that focus into a thriving practice offering individual Skype mentoring and many virtual and retreat-based group programs. Now the methodology that she uses with her clients has evolved into the book The Vitality Map: A Guide to Deep Health, Joyful Self-Care, and Resilient Well-Being.
“I see myself as a guide and mentor who is helping people learn how to truly love, nourish and skillfully care for themselves,” Dr. Zucker says. “I wrote this book as a self-guided learning and healing process for people to engage with deeply; each chapter contains inquiry questions, experiential practices, guided meditations, action steps, and more.”
Dr. Zucker first found Bastyr while struggling with fatigue in her mid-20s. “I had been doing everything I thought I should be doing to take care of myself,” she says, “but somehow my life had spun out of control and I found myself unable to do much beyond lay in bed all day.”
Growing up in the Midwest, she hadn’t been exposed to naturopathic medicine or other complementary treatments. When her illness first began she had gone to a series of conventional doctors, yet the diagnoses she received didn’t seem to explain the depth of the fatigue she was experiencing
But because Dr. Zucker was living near Eugene, Oregon, at the time, she started learning about natural treatments and eventually made her way to Bastyr University’s campus in Kenmore, Washington.
At first she considered studying in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, but she says she felt drawn to the naturopathic medicine program.
“It was kind of a leap of faith,” Dr. Zucker says. “I knew very little about naturopathic medicine at the time, yet it just felt right.”
Before she began studying at Bastyr University, Dr. Zucker was an experiential and outdoor educator, with visions of founding her own alternative high school one day.
“All of my plans for my life came to a screeching halt as I started my own healing journey,” she says. However, she soon realized that her passion for teaching was naturally weaving its way into her new calling.
“For me, studying naturopathic medicine was never about becoming a primary care physician,” Dr. Zucker says. “It was really about how I could learn the skills and awareness to support people in their healing path through more of an educational style of working with them.”
Because she was still on her own healing journey during her studies at Bastyr, she was simultaneously learning different treatments and experimenting with how her own body reacted to them. “I wanted to gain greater discernment about what it is that really nourishes and supports our vitality at a deep level,” Dr. Zucker says.
“I tried everything out myself through not just the eyes of someone becoming a doctor, but as a patient, client, and someone in need of support. I learned so much about the subtleties of what healing is all about in this way, way beyond the standard curriculum.
“In a way, I felt that studying to become a naturopathic doctor was as much about my own healing as what I could offer others,” Dr. Zucker says. “Everything I was learning in my own journey I wanted to share with other people.”
With her new book, Dr. Zucker hopes to share her foundational tools with even more people.
“I’m helping people learn the basic life skills that most of us were never taught,” she says. “It’s a foundational awareness of how we can care for ourselves with discernment, with love, and with a sense of empowerment.”
Although Dr. Zucker didn’t set out to write a book, she realized she had the makings of one after she’d created a detailed outline for a talk.
“I had this ‘aha moment’ when I realized that it was actually an outline for a book,” she says. “As soon as I had this epiphany, the writing, editing and publishing essentially took over my life for two years.”
The approach laid out in her book outlines her own healing journey combined with what she has learned over the years with her private clients and group programs, offering 9 Keys to Deep Vitality:
“I want to help people explore the deeper connection they have with their own health and vitality,” Dr. Zucker says. “I support people in transforming their most fundamental relationship to their own self-care, what’s underneath all of it: symptoms, diets, exercises, supplements, protocols.
“These are things that are never really taught when we’re growing up, and even in the field of medicine there’s a gap in recognizing these basic foundational skills of how to become our own best health guide.”
Although Dr. Zucker strives to help individuals heal with The Vitality Map, she also hopes to see a larger effect.
“The bigger vision for me is that as more people learn how to care for themselves in these ways, it’s going to ripple out and allow them to show up more fully and support more people in the world,” she says.
"I really see us right now as a human family in an epidemic of stress, burnout, depression and exhaustion. And we are in an intense time in history where our world is desperately in need of people who have the energy to show up and help to guide the trajectory of our collective future.
“We each need to be able to support and nourish our own vitality to be here fully for what’s being demanded of us as a human family.”
Dr. Zucker hopes her book can help people get back to the basics and connect with what it’s really like to be alive and awake in their bodies and lives.
“I go quite deep with people, helping them to disentangle from the self-sabotaging and avoidance patterns, the ways in which they may be making choices that suppress their innate vitality,” she says. “And, I’m deeply passionate about weaving the power of community into our healing.
“No ingredient is more powerful and essential than developing relationships that will support you in your health journey. You can’t do it alone. We all need each other.”
The Vitality Map: A Guide to Deep Health, Joyful Self-Care, and Resilient Well-Being is available in-store and online at the Bastyr Bookstore. Dr. Zucker also will give a free author talk and book signing from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. The book will be available for in-store purchase at the Bastyr Dispensary.
To go even deeper with Dr. Zucker, join her for the two-day course The Vitality Map: 9 Keys to Deep Health, Joyful Self-Care, & Resilient Well-Being offered Oct. 15-16, 2016, through Bastyr's Office Of Certificate, Community and Continuing Education.