An Origin Story

Musings on Therapy
I can remember the moment that counselling, psychology, psychotherapy or psychopathology became the most important career choice I ever made. I was 33, this was in the summer of 2007.

Balance
3 years before I met Laos I worked at Harris academy school for girls in East Dulwich. I had begun an introductory course of counselling at Morley college. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was a great example of Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls, I was later able to appreciate. Ian was able to combine wisdom and grace with humor and presence.

SSCO
I was the school’s Specialist Sports Co-ordinator providing group and individual sports and pastoral care support. I also coached basketball in the morning as a Breakfast Basketball initiative. Within 2 seasons the programme helped beginners take 3rd place in London’s Central Venue League Basketball tournaments. A crowning moment for the team, the school and for me their coach.

Clarity
The crystalisation moment mentioned above was realised at an individual mentoring appointment with a student of the school. My own a ha moment. Goodbyes carry an emotionally laden content that is difficult to contain and manage. A yr9 pupil was relocating to a different school for the next academic year.

By me asking if she was going to be alright she replied:

“I’m gonna have to be aren’t I.?” Her South London brogue attempting to deflect the suppressed emotions of loss and attachment to her school and friends. The tears were kept inside but we both acknowledged their presence with a nod and pleasant ending phrases.
“It’s been good working with you.” I said
“I hope that the course works out for you.” She offered
“I think you can see that it has this effect on people.” I said
“Oh, right, yeah, Mr Opoku. You might be on to something.” Shaking her head
“Shall we end it [the appointment] here then?” I said
“Yeah I think now would be a good time to stop, or I really might start…” She insisted
“Okay then…”
“Good bye then and… thanks…”
And with that she got up and left.

Something…
I have since gone on to complete a Masters in Therapeutic Counselling, courses in Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy and a course at Westmeria College to become a counselling supervisor. The latest training has been to complete Eye Movement De-sensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) that is reconfiguring, reconceptualising what I thought I knew about counselling and psychotherapeutic support.

The Climb
The interest in supporting others has not yet reached it’s zenith. The craft, this high art has become a greater thing than looking to care for just 1. By helping another the environment around them and the person doing the helping is immeasurably changed. I look back at the moment with the yr 9 student and said yes let’s have a conversation, which lead to many more conversations at that school and took me out of Harris Academy to other change spaces including: A boys secondary school, 7 Probation offices, supervisees, a team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners, 6 prisons and 6 counsellors in Kent and clients in a range of settings including prisons..

I fell in love with the idea of living my purpose: the Artist repackaged. All day and everyday. ‘This Artists Way’ thing is more than most other things I have been before. Parenting can never be bested. However thinking creatively about Psychoanalysis is what I have been climbing towards. Climbing beyond a challenged past. The journey has been difficult and not for the faint of heart. I have crossed ravines and archipelagos never before seen by me, or that I ever knew existed. I have fallen and wondered about not getting back up. Events have brought me to my knees and I have asked for support in being raised back up on to my feet.

Gifts
This path that I chose has not been a bed of roses getting where I have. The challenges are seemingly insurmountable and I have failed many times. However the successes far outweigh the losses. The smiles, the thank you’s, the nods, the hand shakes all make the art worth it. There is still much to learn and to achieve.

Attempting to support service users that appear blocked and fearful of change. Supporting other professionals to grow outside of set protocols and policies to think creatively and act courageously, to support people in their communities. A drug or alcohol misuse dependency should not determine whether that person could or should get access to good psycho-social support and yet currently it does.

As a friend said in 2016 the person should want change, not the set of difficulties they have to continue. I offer that mental health services could be just as solution focused. Offering a label free, diagnosis opposed care centres treating a person with needs – compassionately. Diagnosis can be limiting. Diagnosis can also be explanatory. It is the person that experiences the difficulty that is to be helped.

Mental health support is about offering change along a continuum. Beginning at a super light spot that’s easier to assist a client experience change. Then graduating the person to access support that genuinely alters self-perception by fractions/degrees. The small changes aspect of psychological support is what I feel is most important. Great distances are walked by taking a single 1st step.

We raise we.
Not I or you.
Alone.
A simple singular exchange.

For me it is:
Collaboration,
Connection
Community.

Change
I have opted to include the resources in the body of work. Click the hyper links to take you to other pieces of insightful information. Let me know what you think of this and other pieces below and here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.

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Haunted

Unusually Interested

The Haunting of Hill House has captivated me for the 10 episodes of it’s debut showing. This blog will not be a review of the series you, my dedicated reader, will be relieved to know. I can share that I have been avidly engaged and sat with and partly been haunted by.

Magic

The show another Netflix coup of story telling mastery, I started watching out of general interest in pushing my boundaries into uncomfortable story lines and genres. Frightening fare is not usually something I spend my time sitting in front of. Hill House changed that. There is an intelligence to the story telling, a story hidden within the character plots and twists. All things initially feel off, out of kilter, spinning to their own tune. Then the spin appears to regulate like pieces in a watch keeping time…

Travelling

The idea of haunting hit me first as I attempted to write my dissertation to complete my counselling course – ‘A Son’s Journey’. It was Steele that stated that a ‘person’s life can be haunted by ghosts’ that began a discovery into a hidden past that my parents had unwittingly hid and held from me.

Theft

The quote that stood out and began the research with fervor was ‘ Steele (2003) p. 95 Put simply a woman who is still frequently haunted by ghosts from her past is, likely to create, however unwittingly, in her infants experience an ongoing sense of potential terror in the relationship. Hill House offers a layered approach to the idea by Steele. A number of families lives are changed as a result of their involvement with the building. Is the Building, The Family that move in, or the family that first lived there that are haunted?
The House it Moves is a great Moth Podcast episode about a possible haunting in a Parisien Apartment.

Unconscious understanding

The terror was the unknowing for me. Discovering and capturing a truth in ‘A Son’s Journey’ helped to gain understanding and put things into perspective for me about my family’s history. I can face the past, present and future with acceptance and a sense of release that conducting the research offered.

True Fiction

Hill House put a number of ideas to me that stood out. One was the idea of walls and doors holding something of importance for those that live in a building. The other was the idea of knowing the experience of nothingness as in death. A stand out scene arrived in the 9th episode where two of the remaining sisters are driving to Hill House and swerve off the road due to a surprise encounter. The younger sister shares a haunting insight. A stand out scene!

Locked – Release

The 2nd idea that meets the idea of ghosts and haunting is the idea of trying with great effort to keep things hidden behind walls and doors. Wanting to hide from aspects that are painful and shaming is human. The apparent truth to this is there is no way to hide important information or keep things supressed without cost. As a counsellor the idea intrigues me. For we do hide stuff and are often undone by secrets leaking. Better to be open to self and others.

Watching Hill House offers a stylized chance to lose ourselves in an uncomfortable realisation. Truth has a way of surprising and surfacing that is uncomfortable, uncertain and necessary at times. There is a sense that once the truth is out things can return to normal.

Perhaps normal was not the direction or destination of travel originally imagined…

Anticipation

Well cooked

Imagine a meal of sumptuous proportions cooked expertly by a recognised chef. Imagine that you are hungry, and interested in what you are about to consume.

Imagine the expectation, the table set. The dinner guests delighted and eager. The lighting perfect, the aromas wafting carrying in the anticipation of what delights are to follow.

Your dinner, the one worth waiting for! At the moment of delivery, at the height of expectations being met, the meal doesn’t arrive.

What?!

After all that anticipation?!

This is my experience, a therapists experience of the missed appointment or the client who does not arrive for their scheduled second appointment.

The preparation is only half of the story though. It is in the moments the appointments, the twists and turns of the therapeutic encounters to follow that were worth the anticipation.

These moments are where I find alchemy takes place. Little can happen before the client and therapist meet. In the appointments are when the therapist and client are both tested, triumph, fail and succeed continually.

But then the reasons for the client not attending are too numerous and complex to fully appreciate. Generally the reasons could be about fear. Fear about what change could mean. Remember The light bulb has got to want to change. But we are not to know.

That’s the hard part to the appointment missing client for a therapist. The not knowing. The guessing and the not getting to support that person who is struggling to experience something new. Like that meal mentioned at the top. The difficulty Not met and lieing unresolved.

Unknowing of when next to begin. Training in therapy invites therapists to be aware of resiliency in treatment with another. But the missing client has a very different weight to it. Training encompasses what to do in that 50 minute appointment which include:

Sit and ponder the last interaction and think about the work.
Make notes in the pad to take to supervision to reflect on what is going on for the therapist the client and their relationship.
Catch up on writing notes.
Review the notes with the non attending client and be mindful of patterns.

Very often there are few answers but many many questions. To do what with I wonder? To provide answers. To look at things differently. To arrive at choices that could alter the work or the practice with that client. 

It could also be a time to make a hot drink, have a conversation with a colleague/friend, do something creative and be mindful. This is about you and not them. What is a potentiality is the client returning.

This is when the labour made in those missed appointments comes into its own and the investment of time spent is met.

And Where Should We Begin

Podcast Explosion

Also known as – Deliciously Displayed Information 2
Writing the first overview of the many podcasts I was listening to back in 2017, and still am now, was a milestone experience. My aim was to share my enjoyment of listening to a number of unique and interesting shows that did a good job of entertaining educating thrilling and amazing me. What follows below are my latest podcast listens. Stretching my little understanding and knowledge that little bit further. If the quest for more information, honest reporting, and fun are in your neighbourhood of things you like to be with, look no further.

Enjoy…

About Race with Reni Edo Lodge

Like a number of people in the UK I read Reni Eddo Lodge’s book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ and found that her writing summarised my experience of being in white spaces and not wanting to contribute too much for fear of offending, upsetting, being labelled or facing ignorance. Getting on and staying quiet seemed to cause little disruption for others and at times myself. The Podcast over turns the dynamic of remaining quiet. Taking the conversation out beyond the intimate and separate and hidden but out to the world.

Broken Record with Malcolm Gladwell and Rick Rubin

I have been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s for over 10 years. His book David and Goliath opened my eyes to a myth that was beautifully retold. Broken Record deep dives into the music business. I had originally thought that the podcast was going to be about Hip Hop music and what I have been invited to listen to is Malcolm’s varied collection of music tastes. Hip Hop is a feature as is Country and Pop. As a therapist it is the stories of the musicians and of Rick Rubin’s Shangri La recording studio that captivates and draws me in to each episode.

Dan Carlin’s Hard Core History

I have been hearing about Dan Carlin’s Hard Core History for a few years, mostly from other Podcasts I have listened to including Revisionist History, The Tim Ferris Podcast, The Science of Success and Hidden Brain. All have offered an insight to what I would observe about telling a unedited retelling of historical events. With episodes lasting up to and sometimes over 3 Hours be prepared to get comfortable and be amazed as Dan and his team share their perspective of historical events like you would never hear anywhere like on Hard Core History. I am up to Blueprint for Armageddon VI and listen on my hour long commute’s to and from work. There’s something about the way Dan Goes In. He is excited about reliving these historical moments. Almost like he is reporting on them like he is there. I am a little upset on Dan’s behalf that Netflix has gone and copied his story of the beginning of WW1. I recognise now that Dan’s enthusiasm may have been caught by others… To his credit history has never looked so good!

Dope Black Dads

I credit my wife for introducing me to Dope Black Dads. I have been hearing about the mischievous 3 for a few months and have started following them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I listen because I am a Black Dad myself and they offer a point of reference for men, for women, for parents. The conversations between the three and their guests are insightful, humorous, educative. Discussing topics that are challenging with vulnerability and sensitivity they do and do so well. I can understand that from my perspective it is what the world needs now.

Everything is Alive

An imaginative journey where inanimate objects talk to an interviewer about their lives. Being used by us a d what their interpretations of humans are. Stand out episodes include Louis Can of Cola and Chioke Grain of sand. I have gained insight to random facts that the host – Ian Chillag goes on to interview specialists in the field about. There are moments when the randomness is surprising and hilarious, then there are moments that are as profound as anything heard on Philosophy Bites or Code Switch. Thank you Charlotte for the recommendation on this one!

Grief Cast with Cariad Lloyd

Grief and bereavement are unfortunate experiences that some of us have faced and whilst the subject matter can appear dark and comfortable. Cariad Lloyd spends time with comedians discussing the loss of significant people in the comedians life. David Baddiel’s interview was as tactful as it was exploratory like a therapy session in miniature. A brave show that delivers more than is expected.

How to Fail with Elizabeth Day

I thank Dorottya Szuk for introducing me to this podcast. The stand out episode for me has been with Mo Gawdat who discussed his learning from significant losses. Elizabeth Day talks with luminaries from a range of backgrounds and professions about how they have recovered after setbacks and taken the learning to apply in new projects and ventures. I find the show uplifting and surprising.

How to Own the Room with Viv Groskrop

The discovery was made by accident, with new and interesting on i-tunes. As a former visiting lecturer at University of Greenwich and at the University of East London I am keen to improve my speaking skills. The idea of standing in front of a room of people and speaking for 2-3 hours used to petrify me. Having lectured a number of times now I relish the opportunity to give insight about psychological matters to students. With How to Own the Room Viv interviews women that have experience of leading, speaking and presenting to audiences. Anne-Marie Imafidon, Meera Syal, and Mary Portas all had fantastic points that will help many to know the craft of speaking well in front of a room of people.

Kerning Cultures

Hebah Fisher an Egyptian-American presents a thoroughly researched and engaging podcast on the events people history and culture of countries in the Near East. Kerning Cultures puts a rich frame around the miss-told and miss sold experiences of people from this region of the world. Hebah in every episode explores, shares and invites the listener to hear about concepts and experiences that are often lost through the gaze of the westernized other. Kerning Cultures is a feast of learning about lives not largely different from our own but with a flavour that is Saffron in subtlety and complexity.

Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is possibly the funniest North American Podcast/writer/journalist around. These podcasts – reviewing miscarriages of justice, are maddeningly good. As they present little known facts about some of the worlds largest scandals. There is something about the enthusiasm Malcolm approaches each subject.

He goes hard at trying to understand the complexity of the laws and set ups that allow places to get away with unscrupulous acts of behaviour that would throw most in jail or seeking psychoanalysis. Episodes to look out for are The Lady Vanishes, The Big Man Can’t Shoot, Food Fight are great examples of Malcolm’s ability to dig in to places that are squeezed tight against illumination pulling at the truth of injustice, and setting the record straight.

The Allusionist

As a show the Allusionist continues to amaze and enthral me. Words appear to be at the root of the show’s beginning middle and end. Following a word’s use back to when it came into current lexicons and translations is part of the format. Helen Zaltzman is infectiously curious humoured and incredibly punctilious about getting words right, perfect in all the right spaces. Jeff Goins in his book Real Artists Don’t Starve said finding the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and a lightening bolt. Listen in if you like to investigate words their meanings and their multi usages.

The Receipts

I thank a radio 4 producer for introducing the receipts to me. Louise Kattenhorn I credit the receipts  to you. I have listened since January and have to say my life has been better informed, and lifted ever since. Another show I liked to listen to – Black Girls Talking went off air in 2017. I am still guessing as to the reasons why the show no longer is produced.

The Receipts now only on Audible is filling the space that Black Girls Talking left. Tolly T, Ghana’s Finest Audrey, and Mama Sita Milena Sanchez literally cut a fine audible hole for listeners to take a look through into a myriad of worlds insights and views. The women will have you shouting with them with their listeners dilemmas and then uproariously laughing with some of the audacious things that the presenters offer as advice.

This is Love with Phoebe Judge

If you have listened to Criminal you will know the voice of Phoebe Judge. Her expressive way of speaking invites me to wonder, often, as to what words she is going to say next.

The podcast is a tour de force on what we as human beings define and understand as love. Phoebe has interviewed a woman who swam with a lost baby whale until it found it’s mother. The superhuman feat took hours. The most recent series of This is Love, are in Italy meeting people who love cats, the ugly and art in Venice. I find the podcast uplifting. A feel good factor with no unfortunate pay off dirges. The only bad bit is the shows coming to their inevitable end! Noooooooo

Wanna Be

Wanna Be I was surprised to find after Melanin Millennials ended in 2018. Imri hosts a podcast where she interviews notable professionals about their career choices and experiences. Wanna be is a short show 30mins where guests share their story arc from points of personal discovery, and loss to heady heights. Sharing how they have achieved goals they set for themselves. Ultimately inspiring. 

Three Shots

If I am honest I have refrained from listing 3 shots higher on this list, however I would be doing a disservice to the talented conversationalists that headline these highly charged, entertaining and generally funny podcasts. Yes there are questionable ethics and topics that scrub the lines between right and good, leaving the listener to make up their own mind.

The three men, Keith Dube, Tazer F Black and Marv Abi are a trio that discuss a range of topics that are at once questionable as they are hilarious. I have found myself chuckling at the *ludicrosity of the conversations that have words mispronounced, hard lefts being turned mid conversation as Keith shares a funny story and the presenters reminiscing about encounters. There are some podcasts that dare, this podcasts dares greatly and possibly is unaware of how far they have danced across many lines.

END
I am on the lookout for a French, Italian, and Spanish podcast that lets me get lost with the pheonetics of these latin origin languages. My mum had a theory that the more time I spent being lost in a particular language the faster and better I would learn that language. If any of you have a particular podcast that I have not mentioned before and feel that it should be amongst this list please include it for me to listen to in the comments below.

With thanks I appreciate you reading these words.

If any of the above you do listen to, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.