Last weeks post Vicarious Trauma – Revisited, invited me to remember a suppressed memory. The memory was filed in a box that is seldom reached for. There aren’t many files in this box. It’s in a room that is locked shut. Big thick padlocks and chain.
Labelled: Confusion and Pain Lie here.
1st Job I remember an evening shift at McDonalds. Full of the usual fare. Me in the back room. Working my 7.5. Supporting the close down. Collapsing the boxes, re stocking shelves, getting changed and leaving Cathedral Square – Peterborough to make my 4 mile cycle ride home. Mum was alive then, 90/91. We all still live in New Werrington. I have either had a full week at College and am on a late shift mid week or am on an evening shift on a Saturday night. No main dramas. Some late night revellers asking for extra chips or a free burger.
Crime The ride home was uneventful until the rain came. I am midway home. I have no lights on my bike. I am cycling reasonably fast. Traffic on the roads – light – mostly heading in to the city centre. I have crossed the dual carriageway over the footbridge leaving Dogsthorpe into Paston ridings. I am thinking of how the nights events were funny and silly. I have a hamburger hum about me. The grease fat seems to cloak me even though I didn’t fry food that night.
Sighted I round the last bend before the slight downward hill from Gunthorpe into Werrington. I pass a police cruiser lazily heading away from Werrington. Reaching the footpath that takes me to the water linkway and on to my home, I chance a glance behind me and notice the police car ominously turn and head in my direction.
I don’t stop to think. It is cold. It is wet out. I want to be home. The police car picks up pace and blue lights begin swooping. The police car mounts the curb awkwardly and speeds across the grassy verge. I note the headlamps sweep in my direction. If I can just pedal hard I can make the distance to the bollards before they can catch me.
I don’t want to speak with anyone, especially to these officers. Not then or ever.
Chase The police car revs and I sense them close the distance between me and them, in a short space of time. They drive over long grass. Not using the footpath. Attempting to short cut. I am not stopping. Neither are they!
If I can just get to the wooden posts infront of the bridge before they ram me off the bike I’ll be free. The car skids to a halt infront of the bollards. I sail through. I imagine I hear one of the officer’s curse. I am away. I have made it!
My trusty bike has aided my escape.
Reflex I am elated and bewildered. They could not be chasing me to tell me about lights on my bike. What if I had fallen? What then? What if they had caught me? What then?
I had no reason to stop. The police had no good reason to chase. But chase they did. And flee I went. Away.
Much like a dog after it’s chew toy, ball, stick thing. Thrown aloft. Thrown far and fast. Dog’s chase out of instinct.
It is possible the police chased me for much the same reason. Sighting a Black boy on a bike at a time when most young people were heading in to the city centre not away from it. The picture to them may have appeared wrong, strange, suspicious? There may well have been cause to chase and make enquiries.
From the moment they turned, the chase was on!
And this race, I was not under the circumstances – about to lose!
Two, One The panic. The fear and confusion were unlike much else I had met before. There was the Stephen chase: aged 7. I’ll come to that experience later. The exhilaration of getting away this time was amazing.
I had been fortunate. Unlike so many others, sisters, brothers both here and there…
Vicariously Watching films like ‘Just Mercy’, ‘Fruitvale Station’, ‘Do The Right Thing’ ‘If ‘Beale Steet Could Talk’ all have Black Men in unjustly familiar situations. These films appear to be in the abstract, distant, objective.
Not for me! As an empath, I am sensitized to feel each blow, every hate filled undignified look as though I suffered it. With these films I am often incensed and saddened. Their characters depict men pitted against circumstances beyond their control. That potentially either lead to their deaths or serving unjustified sentences.
Mark Duggan, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland – happen to bring the trauma of death and unlawful killing viscerally primed.
Leaving me Looking for Explanation, spinning, Attempting to Find balance. Remaining askew.
A few weeks ago I wrote a short piece in relation to an experience with Vicarious Trauma and gave a personal account of an experience relating to George Floyd’s killing and the Rodney King attack.
Make Plain What was not explained was what vicarious trauma is. I will do here.
The experience for me then in 1996 was to see a man who I recognised as myself being beaten by 4 police officers. The reason for the attack appeared unjustified, unreasonable and extreme.
I saw myself as Rodney King. Being mistreated, handled in unlawful and in a grossly cruel way. The incident brought to my mind feelings of panic, feelings of loss and abandonment, sorrow, anger, bewilderment, confusion. Ideas that the world is unfair and dangerous. These earlier impressions have left me vigilant, aware, cautious.
Vicarious As a counsellor/Psychotherapist/Coach/Supervisor the role is to support those who are interested in accessing guidance. Often clients bring painful experiences. At times their traumatic experiences maraud around the space we share, as if re-awakened like a Genie from a lamp.
‘Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured’
For many people the experience of knowing a negative event intimately as a person who has had that experience happen to them, or witnessed a negative event happen to another could leave that person suffering from vicarious trauma.
Circular Any further events that resemble or are a reminder could result in the witness becoming triggered/affected by what they have been reminded of.
My link is George Floyd – Rodney King – my being chased by the police aged 17 – me being chased by Stephen on my estate aged 7. The panic/fear response is still with me.
An odd moment arrived recently when reviewing the past few weeks of protests, stating the now ubiquitous ‘Black Lives Matter’. The movement, for me, blended with the ending scenes from the movie Kung-Fu Panda 3. The idea is somewhat out there, and will probably not land safely. If you have not seen the movie or are unfamiliar with the KFP franchise the idea will land ever more askew!
Unity In the final scenes of Kung-Fu Panda 3, a village of pandas step forward after defeating a marauding wolf pack and put out there paws to save the hero, Po.
Demonstrating The scene clearly demonstrates the now common idea that in unity, a great wrong can be put right. That a Black and White hero can defeat a Demi God! Inviting a village/world to heal long held wounds and restore itself to a bright and limitless future. The idea has long been held. The story has also been told since human beings have walked the earth.
Together we stand. Divided we fall!
Touch With Po (Hero) in the spirit world, feeling the hands/paws reaching out and lifting him up. Po gains the strength to be able to put up a good fight and defeat the misguided power seeking Kai. Does this concept sound familiar? World leaders current and past be warned…
Switch Kai interestingly resembles a buffalo with dreads and his baritone voice denotes a person of African-American heritage. Possibly increasing the diversity representation in the DreamWorks cannon of films and simultaneously complicating my relationship with the synergy of good and bad, black and white, up and down dyad.
Support There is mass celebration and delight amongst the villagers, once Po returns. Evil has yet again been defeated by Po aided by the furious 5 and the Panda village. To save the One, The Many must unite.
Evolve The moment of blending for me, is the recognition of the callous murder of George Floyd and the laying of hands for Po in KFP3.
For me, evolution can be experienced amongst us (the human being). A global recognition of the myth of White Superiority has begun.
And in protest against the systemic factors insisting that White Supremacy is the natural order of how the world is always to be.
What has been experienced by the many, has been one of finding Unity. At least for a moment in history. Seeking justice for George Floyd after the pandemic is also about finding a way to restore – make what has been centuries of old wrongs – right for and with Black people at the helm. Globally.
The TaoHaiku Without opposite Warm, Cold, Up, Down, the journey, Possibly never
The Luddite and The Technological Savant discusssupporting Black Lives Matter
Meeting Kim online was a serendipitous moment. She has a prolific Instagram posting regimen with sayings, providing instant support to over 900 followers. I wanted to interview her as she appears to have her fingers very much on the pulse of what the nation is looking for – A smart experienced therapist who can be available in a range of formats to provide those seeking help with immediate relief and guided support.
Full disclosure, Kim has also recruited a team of therapists to provide 4 hours (up to 6) of free counselling for Black people in the UK. I am one of the counsellors recruited.
I wanted to know what inspired Kim to develop the concept of providing free counselling for Black People and then put the idea to the public for Kaemotherapy to be crowd funded? A quick calculation informed me that the provision will deliver over 40 hours of Free counselling and counselling workshop experience for Black people in the UK. Which I think/believe is incredible!
MO: Hello Kim, thank you for agreeing to doing this interview. Kim: Thanks for having me.
MO: So we have known of each other for a little over 2 months. Mainly commenting and referencing each other’s Instagram posts through the CoViD19 experience and I wanted to know a little bit more about you. We have spoken a few times whilst you were finalising the plans for the 40 hours of Free counselling. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Kim: I live in South London, studied in Nottingham. I’m a Person-Centred Psychotherapist, Body and Trauma specialist, I help people move forward from trauma they have experienced. And support individuals to understand the intricate relationship between mind and body.
I have experience of working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and supporting BAME clients through racial trauma. I’m passionate about…
Fighting racial inequality and supporting black communities with their mental health. I have a private practice but I’m fully booked at the moment.
Like Michael mentioned I’ve been offering online counselling and raising funds for that. It’s so we can support black individuals impacted by recent events and the exposure of racial wounds with the BLM movement. Check out my page 🙂 @Therapy_with_kim
MO: Your instagram is fire. The posts lift me every time I see one, I am not sure if it’s the smile, the words, the image of the plant or the combination. What brought you to want to provide counselling? Kim: Aww wow thank you so much. It’s interesting because I realised once I started to produce my own content rather than reposting other peoples stuff I got more followers and feedback. I think it’s about people understanding my values as a practitioner and getting to know me a little more. Also, I strangely muse on things at night when I can’t sleep, that’s when the best content comes to me.
MO: How long have you been practicing as a counsellor? Kim: I’ve been practicing for 5 years now.
MO: How do you go about counselling? What approach do you take? You might have to explain that for someone who is not too aware of the many different styles of counselling. Kim: My foundation is the person centred approach.
Fundamentally, person centred theory asserts that tensions between our external and internal worlds create psychological distress.
How that manifests in my practice is focusing on the autonomy & choices of the calient and helping them to develop their voice (message, desires, needs), delving deep into their subjective experience this may often include cultural and social contexts.
For example, if family culture or a country of origin plays a part in their self image and to what extent they want that for themselves.
I’ve also recently integrated some body work, meditation and body scans to support regulating my clients’ nervous system. This works well with anxious clients and clients moving forward from traumatic events which have let them numb or hypervigilant.
MO: You laughed at the word luddite when I was asking for technical support a few weeks ago, and you mentioned you studied at Brunel, what course did you study there? Kim: Yes because it reminded me of my industrial revolution module in my second year of university. The rebellious workers adverse to industry advances smashing up machinery, scared they’d lose their jobs. I studied undergrad History and love it. My passion for my community was fuelled further when I studied the slave trade.
MO: Why this approach (Person Centred) and not one of the many other styles of counselling? Kim: I just love and it fits with who I am and the values I hold as a person. Empowerment (voice choice) and redefining oneself to be flexible with lived experiences, has been part of my journey but I also have seen how its supported clients from different backgrounds and with various mental health issues. I did a bit of Gestalt training and I sometimes utilise attachment theory as part of assessments.
MO: I know this is going to sound like I am interviewing you on Instagrams’ behalf, but what has lead to you putting the work in to display your services on Instagram, not twitter or facebook? Kim: For the separation from my private space I have loads of friends on Facebook and I’m not that familiar with Twitter. I recently got a twitter account though, add me @therapywithkae
MO: With your most recent campaign, providing free counselling and workshops for Black people what has been the response from the community? Kim: The response has been amazing I’m so happy. I just wanted to help in some way as I was so angry with what was happening (still is). Loads have people have supported financially and all the counselling slots were taken up in a matter of days. Goes to show how needed it was at this time.
MO: How did you go about selecting the therapists on your poster? Kim: They were colleagues I studied with and therapists I’d made connections with since returning to London. They are all culturally competent, passionate about the cause and from different backgrounds.
MO: What do you hope will be the outcome for the community? Kim: For Black people to seek out and utilise the resources they have out there. Mental health awareness and support to be embedded in our families. For the ‘Work harder’ ethic to connect to emotional and psychological well-being as well as finance, academia and other definitions of success.
MO: Are there any plans for a similar initiative to be repeated again? Kim: Yes definitely!
MO: How has advertising free counselling supported your business? Kim: Perhaps you could answer that one Michael? MO: I would have to say that I am being contacted a lot more as a result of my link to the Kaemotherapy offer. So thank you for that.
MO: Lastly you mentioned that you are soon to launch a podcast, can I ask what it will be about? Kim: I have been featured in 2 podcasts recently which were a lot of fun to be a part of. I want to develop one and have a few ideas for a podcast. As with most things in life tt’s just a matter of having the time to develop them. I know that currently podcasts are a great way to promote an idea, and set yourself and your business as an industry expert. I am interested in doing that. Definitely.
MO: Thank you Kim. I look forward to listening to these and what you later produce for a podcast. Now to turn the tables and ask, do you have any questions for me? Kim: I do have a few. What made you want to be counsellor?
MO: That is a great question. I wanted to be an artist/architect/interior designer. At the age of 20 I lost my mother to cancer and that had a big impact on my original plans. A few years were lost trying to make sense of life and then became a youth worker, basketball coach and then a learning mentor.
These roles all seemed to naturally fall into psychotherapy and support at an adolescent level. I studied my first introductory course to counselling at Morley College and then jumped ahead of myself to do a Masters at University of Greenwich. That turned me into an integrative counsellor
Kim: What would your advice be for people wanting to do counselling especially men? MO: Do a bit of research about the course you are thinking of beginning. What are the parts of the course that most appeal? Ask a range of counsellors, or former students of that course about their experience.
Find a mentor to support your learning journey. BAATN offer a great mentoring programme of support for students of therapy. I would also advise for anyone interested in joining this path to become a counsellor/psychotherapist, to begin resolving their affairs of home, job and of the heart as best they can.
The course is going to pull some hard truths out of you. Having a solid home team is going to be at times the best thing to have spent time investing into. Counselling courses can be life changing in both necessary and dramatic/dynamic ways.
For men I would advise to be aware that counselling and psychotherapy is a profession that many women have made a great career in Esther Perrel stands out as an example of a global success. Being on a course potentially could be the first time that a male may encounter being in a minority.
Welcome the learning. Try to listen more. Aim at understanding – Always. The Patriachy exists and we have played a role in it’s continuance. The question for me is what are we men going to do to revolutionise and deconstruct the imbalance? I grew up with 3 sisters and realised that life whilst hard, had potentially more unfairness for them.
Kim: How have you found the workshops so far? MO: The 1st one was wonderful. I will complete the 2nd this evening on the 9th of July and the 3rd and 4th on the 16th and 23rd of July.
They are all free and look at Mental Health in the 21st Century. The workshops as you are aware as you attended the first week, are interactive and less about me talking at attendees and more with attendees.
I have found them useful and interesting to be a part of a learning experience. Many topics are discussed in just over an hour and I send to participants the presentation slides with useful follow up materials to support a person with their onward journey.
The following weeks discuss: Goals and Reducing Distractions, Reviewing Progress and Implementing new growth strategies.
Kim: What made you want to participate in the free counselling project? MO: The death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the vicious attack on Rodney King 20 years prior deeply affected how I viewed the world in which I lived.
When you shared your idea of crowd funding free sessions for Black people with me, I think my answer YES was said almost like I was saying yes to myself 20 years ago.
Vicarious Trauma is a difficult thing to recognise or make right when an event viscerally takes over a persons wellbeing. Knowing that you would be helping Black Women and Men recover through 1 – 1 support and with workshops, looked like a courageous and affirming project to be a part of. I am glad that I have. I have met some wonderful people through the programme, who all seem ready to begin their therapeutic journey.
Kim: What can we expect from the next free sessions/why should they join?
MO: The workshop Mental Health in the 21st Century began as a conversation had with you a number of weeks ago. The workshops will cover How to manage the deluge of information we are struggling under from a vast array of sources. How to reduce imposter syndrome and what steps to take to continue the work to change habits.
How to Focus and get shit done instead of eternally thinking and thinking and thinking about doing things and not getting them done, which causes a degree of fatigue and leads to impatience and frustration and then a sense of defeat that leads to dis-ease.
The other workshop topics look at Focus, Goals, and Reducing, reviewing Implementing. The aim of the workshops as you know as an attendee are to support fresher ideas and improve ways to live in a World that is moving and changing at an incredible speed.
The workshops are a culmination of thoughts I have had, fascinating discoveries I have gained from podcasts and articles I have listened to or read and a range of life experiences that I simply cannot keep to myself.
I’m like that child in the class room, arms pumping the air, waving frantically at the teacher or TA to call on them, bursting with ideas to tell the class or at least mildly entertain them with. Something that that kid knows, potentially is helpful but the class just aren’t ready to hear yet.
Over the last few months/years I have been asked a few times by graduates of counselling and or psychology courses and by other interested parties about the next steps to become either a coach or a counsellor.
Over the next few days/weeks I’ll share a number of ideas to advance ones helping career.
1. Investigate what a counsellor and a coach does. 2. If one or the other appeal to you find courses that you want to do next 3. Ask a number of counsellors/coaches about how they are finding their work and how their course was
7. Find a mentor who can support and offer insight through the learning process. BAATN provide a fantastic mentoring service for students. 8. Identify specific areas of interest i.e. Trauma, attachment, relationships, mood management, bereavement, anxiety, depression, Intergenerational concerns, the list is near endless.
9. Learn from others Brené Brown, Tony Robbins, Jim Kwik, Eugene Ellis, Rotimi Akinsete are good examples of how far one can go. 10. Read and listen to a few relative podcasts Tim Ferris has a good number, Science of Success is good as is Philosophy Bites, Kwik Brain, and a ton of others.
Resources Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility Interview featuring Dr Dwight Turner baatn.org.uk Eugene Ellis and Arike discuss Creating Partnerships with Training Organisations