Cailyn Sonderup


“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir


I am an Occupational Therapist with a Masters in Positive Psychology. I now have the privilege of running weekly groups at RustenVrede, of supervising Occupational Therapy students in the mental health field, and have started an organisation that promotes “Positive Education” and mindfulness within Western Cape schools.


BSc Occupational Therapy (University of the Witwatersrand), Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (University of the North-West), MiSP practitioner (Mindfulness in Schools Project) (UK).



Before joining RustenVrede, I studied at Wits University, and qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2012. I have spent over five years working in hospitals, schools and community settings.

While working within neurodevelopmental and sensory integration frameworks, I developed a passionate curiosity regarding the role of perceptual processes that underlie self-regulation, self-soothing and constructive coping in the face of stress and anxiety.

This inspired me to complete my Masters in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of the North-West. My thesis explored effective Positive Psychology interventions, namely those rooted in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, with the aim of alleviating stress and anxiety-related symptoms in middle childhood. Constructive coping, sensory processing, self-regulation and mindfulness are four key areas underlying my Occupational Therapy work with children. Merging frameworks within the field of Occupational Therapy (bottom-top regulation) and those within Psychology (largely cortical-down regulation) is, in my opinion, critical in order to create sustainable and effective interventions targeting well-being.

During individual and group therapy, I introduce children, teens and adults to mindfulness and self-regulation in an easy-to-understand and playful way. Such skills are rapidly becoming an integral part of supporting and enhancing learning, emotional intelligence and overall well-being.



Aside from being an average but enthusiastic tennis player, golfer and Zumba dancer, my primary interest is reading! You can often find me in a coffee shop with my latest Positive Psychology read. Espressos, however, have to compete with the great outdoors when it comes to making me feel truly awake, grounded and rejuvenated.

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn” (Vernon Howard). This quote took on new meaning for me after the 2017 fires in Cape Town, when I discovered more about the relationship between our uniquely South African fynbos and the effects of fire. Although it can be devastating, it also enables fynbos to complete its life cycle and reseed. Out of the ashes, new life begins.

Similarly, the fires of reality can make life unclear, messy and sometimes painful. One pertinent question Positive Psychology asks is: How can we flourish, especially under fire? Psychologist Dr Kelly Flanagan states aptly: “We’re looking for beauty in the mess. We’re looking for opportunities to redeem the pain. And we’re always looking for just enough grace to find meaning, love and belonging. I believe in the power of community, mindfulness and gratitude, grace, the power of story, and the discovery of purpose.”

May we all be granted grace, love, and the resilience and persistence of fynbos to continue to flourish and rise above our circumstances, even in the hardest of times. As Nelson Mandela said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”