By Siw Heede
Life hasn’t always been easy for Johnna Jonasson, but a traumatic childhood didn’t deter her from having an impressive career within healthcare management. Rather, it propelled her to create a brand-new vision for what it means to serve and help people who experience physical and emotional challenges.
President and co-founder of Music4Health, Johnna hopes by sharing her story to convey what it means to live through adversity, live with resilience and live by hope. It is a story that teaches others getting better is a lifelong pursuit that is so worth it in the end.
Music4Health was created in 2017 by Johnna and music therapist Kelli Schofield with the purpose of teaching K-12 students about resilience, self-regulation and coping skills through music. Skills that have been shown to reduce rates of depression, violence and chronic diseases. “Until you’re in crisis, until there is discomfort, nobody wants to do anything. Our (method) is to be preventive. To teach kids these coping skills early,” she explained.
In the few years since then the vision has expanded into all healing arts for all ages. The services Music4Health offers include functional medicine, self-expression, self-care and innovative mental health supports. Their goal is to create a physical center close to downtown Redlands and eventually establish a large facility that will include equine assisted therapy on land outside of Redlands, California.
In the nineties Johnna worked as a consultant for a medical group in Colorado where Paul Schofield, the CEO, introduced her to his wife. “You will have nothing in common with my wife, she is a stay-at-home mom and a piano teacher, but I feel like the two of you need to meet each other,” is how she recalls his words. With this introduction, Johnna went to dinner at their house changing the trajectory of both of their lives. “We ended up talking until 4 in the morning on the floor of their music room,” she laughed.
The two stayed friends for years during which Kelli Schofield went back to school to become a music therapist. “She was talking about how we put too many ambulances at the bottom of cliffs, and I was like, Kelli, I think this is why Paul wanted us to meet,” said Johnna. This led Johnna to explain an idea she had of integrated wellness, which resulted in the two of them creating Music4Health twenty years after their first meeting.
Johnna’s own childhood in Redlands was filled with trauma which manifested itself physically and mentally for the decades that followed. “It was absolutely f*ing hell,” is the way she described the amount of physical and emotional abuse resulting in developmental trauma for her. She grew up as the youngest of five half siblings that shared the same abuse.
Her first call for help came in high school when she told a teacher about the abuse. “My mom came to the school and they met. He then told me that I should be ashamed of telling lies against my mother and I just remember being beaten really badly after that,” she said. She thought, “That people don’t know she’s a master manipulator.” This experience made her realize that in society things are broken and “we don’t have what we need”. Not only for herself but her mom as well, who was a victim of unprocessed trauma in her childhood and beyond. This realization led to a lifelong search for help.
Right out of high school Johnna married and moved to Ohio to create the first of many levels of safety in her life. “His parents ended up being the best thing for me. His mom took me under her wing, as well as his stepdad, and they really nurtured me,” she said. The marriage only lasted a few years though. Her husband always had an excuse for not working, while she worked two jobs and took nursing classes. Finally, a violent incident made Johnna return to Southern California.
Throughout her twenties, Johnna went to therapy but kept dealing with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts while going through another unsuccessful marriage. Coming into her mid-thirties, Johnna was still in denial about parts of the abuse she experienced growing up including sexual abuse by her stepfather from when she was 11 to 14. That is when she was introduced to the work of Dr. Dan Siegel and his book The Neurobiology of ‘We’ and began treatment with a colleague of his for two years. She also began attending meditation classes through InsightLA and listening to podcast meditation teachings by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. All of this made her feel strong, healthy and confident. She lived in L.A., was happily married, and had adopted a baby girl.
Until then she was working up to 16 hours a day, her life was her career. Through meditation and self-care she taught herself more balance and a different sense of safety. “I remember all my employees were like ‘Johnna, you are changing’ and I really did change. I was like ‘take time for yourself’,” she described of that time.
This marriage did not last either and re-connecting with a childhood friend pulled her back to where her life began. Johnna returned to Redlands in her mid-forties only a few years ago, where she was plagued with excruciating migraines resulting in horrible flashbacks and paralysis. She was having a nervous breakdown: the mental health problems had resurfaced.
While still practicing meditation, she encountered the treatment of neurofeedback and the work of Dr. David Kaiser as well as an intuitive guide who helped her awaken to her spiritual side. This combination became the lifeline she had waited for her whole life. She credits this healing and her partner Robert Heinze for giving her the courage to expand Music4Health beyond the children’s programs.
At the same time, she learned about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. She took the test from the original study and was scored with the highest ACE score possible. This confirmed to her that what she experienced growing up had been incredibly traumatizing, it is something people do not survive. Yet, here she was thriving.
Johnna has worked as an operations executive for healthcare organizations and has traveled the world as a healthcare technology consultant. She has attended nursing classes in Ohio to gain medical experience and later business management classes at UCLA.
Even though her childhood in Redlands was far from idyllic, she is happy to have returned three decades later. “Everything has been meant to be and I am really compelled to build this center here. I need to be doing this work in the community I live in. I feel almost called to do it here,” she smiled.
Through her work experience she’s found that “the work gets done if you take care of the people.” Her vision is for health care workers and employees alike to have a place to go for healing. “They often get burned out; they don’t take care of themselves. That’s the other component of the center of being a safe place and self-care. A place where those in caring professions can come and process in a communal setting,” she explained.
According to Johnna, today’s healthcare system is not created to ask, listen and respond, but rather works in a hierarchical role of doctor and patient. People will have to visit many different places to achieve healing, and that is what Johnna wants to change.
Today she is finally free from medication and free from a lifetime of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The healing resources that worked for her took her decades to find. She wants services like these to be found in one place, readily available for people coming to the future center.
So far, the new center will be working together with the Wellhausen Institute, Morningstar Neurofeedback, Kaiser NeuroMap Institute, Yogamour, Harmony Chiropractic, Equus Medendi, different self-care providers, artisans and innovative mental health professionals. “A lot of the people collaborating on this have their own business but then they want to have a presence at the center, because the center brings the community together. It’s not an either-or, it’s an and,” she said of the collaborative team approach they are aiming to provide.
The basis for the center’s services is somatic experiencing in a trauma-informed culture. “We want to give people a safe space, to experience different healing modalities. So much of the trauma that we hold is in oumur body and that energy has to be released,” she said. There will be different artisan outlets and makers space exactly for that purpose.
“The biggest thing about being a trauma-informed center is that all of the policies and practices and all of the employees that work there are infused with a trauma-informed approach that is rooted in safety, transparency, peer support, mutuality, empowerment, cultural, historical and gender issues,” Johnna explained during talks about ACEs and trauma-informed approaches. “A trauma-informed approach is not a checklist or a set of questions we ask. It is an on-going living process of integrating these six principles in everything we do and say – all our policies and practices. It is a way of being that requires constant attention, organizational development and process improvement. Its core is loving presence and awareness that each person wants the same things, even if what they project is something different. A trauma-informed approach is the cultivation of connection from inside each of us to the outside world”, she emphasized.
The center is looking to especially embrace diversity and inclusivity. “All are welcome. All religions and non-religious believers are welcome. Everyone is welcome,” she emphasized, “We want this to be very inclusive with the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community.” Currently, they are looking for leaders to collaborate within that area. Inclusivity will be implemented in different ways, for example through truth telling circles and writing workshops.
Johnna is frustrated with the difficulty she had in finding a combination of healing practices that worked. “If you have knowledge, share it. Try to help end suffering. It was just really frustrating to find the things that helped,” Johnna pleaded. She vowed that Music4Health will do exactly that and be a force for shared knowledge in one place.
Today she is free to be herself. She is in a loving relationship with Robert Heinze with whom she shares three kids and two dogs. “With him I can be a butterfly. I can just grow,” she smiled, truly feeling safe for the first time in her life.
“My inspiration has always been this deep knowing and connection with the divine – whatever you want to call it. I’m comfortable calling it God. I have always felt compelled to ease suffering. There is nothing else I can do,” wrote Johnna after the interview.
Music4Health’s new Center for Well-being will not only encompass collaborative team care for clients, but also lead instruction classes for students wanting to work in the innovative mental health support system as well as people seeking healing on their own by attending classes, receiving services or using the makers space through membership options.
Music4Health’s mission: To build resilience, unity and well-being.
Music4Health’s areas of practice: mindfulness, healthy nutrition, supportive relationships, physical exercise, mental health and sleep hygiene.