Up The Garden Path…

A very good friend of mine is having a big “clear out”. She tells me that they are already on their third skip.

One of the benefits for me of her clear out was receiving a few days ago a little book entitled “Up the Garden Path”. It’s an anthology or verses about home and garden, and it’s delightful.

Having a clear out is a bold step to take. It brings up memories of past experiences, relationships, activities etc. It’s part of “closing the circle” – sending gifts to delight others, or perhaps returning things to rightful owners, or making space by directing stuff towards charity shops, sales, and skips.

It’s also about preparing for a new start, the next stage of life’s journey, and doing that free of the encumbrances of the past.

Therapy and training both include the processes of clearing out. It can be a big task, so it’s good to have a plan.

And a clear out needs a plan of action, a starting point, an order, a strategy and an end goal.

In therapy, clients don’t always come with a specific plan, but a vague end goal. The work is about finding the appropriate individual path through to the end.

Training needs a long-term plan and an online course may be the first step – a short term goal which is part of a much bigger strategy and a new career.

And for the journey through the clear out, the therapy, the training, “up the garden path” can be an essential part of the process. Recognising and acknowledging those past moments is an important part of moving on.

Up the garden path is hardly ever a trip to nowhere. Every part of the journey is important.

Whatever the situation, “up the garden path” is really only literally true if, like me, you have to take all your rubbish down the long track at the allotment site – but even that provides the opportunity of chatting to neighbours and finding new ideas, cuttings and help.

Going up the garden path is a means to get to the next place in life. Staying on it is not an option. So wherever the garden path is taking you, make your journey a good one.

Get Real

The Chrysalis online counselling and life coaching courses include exercises reflecting on personal values and beliefs, and on identifying situations potentially difficult to work with.

They are big questions. But there are no trick questions.

It’s very individual – there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer. Well, apart from, in my opinion, the answer that states you will always be professional and put your own values, beliefs and experiences away and will be able to work with everyone……always……

As a tutor, I always encourage students to “get real”. You won’t “lose marks” for recognising that there are specific situations that you would be uncomfortable with. In fact, you are more likely to receive recognition for a good level of self awareness and insight.

It’s also about being realistic and recognising that in the real world you won’t get on with every client.

I often encourage students to think about someone in their personal life they find really difficult to get on with. And then imagine the client in front of you holding those same beliefs, characteristics, mannerisms etc…..you get the picture!   It can be a “light bulb” moment in recognising that it’s ok to be human, and that it’s an essential element in the work.

I remember a training session many years ago where we were required as a group to engage in role play about a client in court with a partner in divorce and custody proceedings.

Wham!

There was no way I could engage with that client or be objective at any level in that activity at that point in my life.

So I became one of a number of observers. Obviously it was a different experience, but no less valid and an important stage for me in recognising that “get real” moment of my own.

So get real, and be confident in being real and human. It won’t do you or your clients any good to be anything else.

Dramatic Effect

It all started when a line manager in one of my freelance contract settings said something to me immediately I arrived for work one morning, almost before I even got through the door.

It sounded just like something my mother would say, and the conversation unravelled quickly. Before I had even started to respond to her, she continued, and we both moved through the roles of persecutor, victim and rescuer in different measures.

Eventually I made contact again with the adult part of me. “You know, you sound even more like my mother than my mother ever sounded – and that’s not good for you and it’s not good for me. Shall we start again?”

So we started again.

The drama triangle was in full action that day!! And it can all happen in the blink of an eye.

Over the years I have nurtured my own “internal” supervisor, and was able eventually to recover that situation for both of us, but it still didn’t stop it from happening! I think in the course of our daily relationships and conversations, it’s almost inevitable. We are, after all, only human! But it’s how we deal with it that’s important.

If it happened between you as a therapist or coach and your client in session, how would you deal with it?

Please don’t tell me that it would never happen with you because you always put yourself to one side. That’s idealistic and unrealistic. Be honest. It happens to the best and most experienced of us. It may not be glaringly obvious, rather a much more subtle exchange which will leave us wondering “what happened there?”

Putting our own stuff to one side in a session with a client does not mean we also abandon our levels of personal awareness and processes. But the more we cultivate our inner supervisor, the more we are attuned to our own processes. The more honest we are with ourselves and in supervision, the more those instances will become rich elements of the therapeutic process on all sides.

Don’t be a drama queen (or king) – live with it. Engage with it. And learn from it

The Joy Of Everyday

I remember starting out as a trainee therapist feeling that there needed to be something powerful and inspirational in every single therapy session. Very quickly I learned that life isn’t quite like that. There were times in sessions with clients where it often felt like nothing was really happening. And there were certainly times in my own therapy sessions where I left feeling very underwhelmed.

But over the years, I learned that that part of the process, the “everyday” part can be one of the most significant parts of the process.

Just as there is an ebb and flow in life, so there is an ebb and flow in the therapeutic process. Some great insight is realised; a significant point is reached; and then everything slows down to the meandering pace of the everyday.

Sometimes I’ve struggled in therapy as a client, wanting to get through the pain of that moment and feel the release and the achievement of sorting something out.

Sometimes I’ve struggled in therapy as a therapist, wanting the client to get on with it and engage with the process of “letting go”, or reach that “light bulb” moment in order to come through the other side.

But if we allow that process to happen and engage with the flow, it allows for a time of consolidation, integration and a chance to draw breath before the next deeper part of the process begins.

It all takes time. And therapy takes time.

The process is individual for each client. Forcing things on and rushing things through doesn’t work. The therapeutic process will happen, if we allow it, for ourselves and for the client.

The everyday sessions are just as important as the inspirational sessions. Both are part of the whole picture.

Without those everyday sessions, the inspirational just wouldn’t have time to grow and emerge. And the inspirational sessions need the everyday for balance and integration.

Those everyday sessions are both preparation for and recovery from the inspirational sessions.

Remember too, that your everyday session may just well be someone else’s inspiration session!

So, get to know the joy of the everyday and enjoy the whole picture.

One Thing at a Time

The other day I caught myself trying to watch the last few frames in an exciting snooker match, and at the same time, making sauce for lasagne, feeding the cat, filling the washing machine and messaging family in Abu Dhabi.

Of course, there came a point where I had to stop to make sure the cat didn’t get fed the lasagne sauce, or the cat food end up in my lasagne…or even the cat in the washer…just in order to see the final frame of snooker and make sure my text message wasn’t complete gobbledegook!

It got me thinking about that space within therapy where the focus is entirely on one thing – the client

I need to put aside my mental “to do” lists.

The focus is on what the client is saying – and not saying. The body language and non-verbal communication. The feelings expressed and held tightly in.   The tears, the frowns, the smiles, the fidgeting. The silence.

As therapists, when we enter that therapy space, we need to leave our own “stuff” outside the door, in order to make room for the client’s “stuff”.

It’s not always easy. One single hour will tell you that.

And of course your mind will wander. Mine has. The important thing is recognising that and being able to reflect both in session and in supervision, on the reasons, the impact and the process of that both for yourself and for your client.

It’s about being present in the moment with the client. One thing at a time – the present. The “now” of reality; the dynamics of the client-therapist relationship and what it mirrors from the client’s reality; the ability to stay with what is …….and explore it in that moment.

There is great skill in multi-tasking in today’s world. There is equally great skill in focussing on one thing at a time.

It takes time to learn the skills for both.

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