No Longer A Therapist

I consider what my role as counsellor/psychotherapist is, after 10 years of practice. Change is present and I am simply bearing witness.

What am I?
A Shaman. A mental health practitioner. A support. An educator. An enthusiast. A Creative.

Tune this
The dial has swung on this thing called therapy don’t you think? Treatment for mental illness is no longer clinging to an outer boundary of the:

‘Never!’
‘No!’
‘You will have to drag me outta here to see a therapist.’
‘Sedate me first, please?’
‘Do I look like I’m crazy to you. Well? Do I?’
‘If you think I need therapy, why don’t you just lock me up?’

Accessing support has become more socially acceptable. Changing the perception to another resource for those requiring support. Those with the means to pay for it do. Signing the contract and attending to treatment with studious intent.

Therapy can be a choice. Enter from stage left: IAPT providing access and enabling a great many more people to access the support so few previously sought.

Taking Flight from Counselling to… http://www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com

Choose Wellness
Now therapy sits alongside health as a must for those in emotional, physical or psychological pain. Many have come forward sharing their change. Championing their therapy and the counsellors/ psychologists/ psychotherapists that walked with them through their dark spaces.

Half Life
Enough time has passed for the shame of a half lived life to be released and relieved. I thank those like Paul McGregor who champions the cause of C.A.L.M. Talking therapy is a way through blocks and barriers, as is homeopathy, hypnotherapy, walk n talk therapy, coaching, osteopathy, dance, sport, gym and dietary support.

Staying
Some of the approaches mentioned above I have been able to use. I realise that the change for me is as a result of what people have asked of therapy.

Be in the room with me. Don’t leave like those others did (Dad, Girlfriend, Mum, Boyfriend, Work, Gran and Grandfather, evn my Friends!).

“Help me understand my story. Make sense of these experiences with me.” With the experience I have, I am able to interpret and meet some of what is asked. The call is pressing. The call is also immediate.

The call is a now (exclamation mark) not, a later. And this is where therapy meets coaching meets mentoring entrepreneurship and consultancy.

Orbit
This is where I find myself. I am not sure there is a final word for where I am finding myself. A therapist? Of course. Yes. A mentor? Yes. A coach? Yes. A counselling supervisor? Yes.

I feel that consultancy is what is pooling for me currently.

Pulling me in like a form of magnetism.

A New Approach to Support
http://www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com

Therapy Sloth
The time we are living in now is almost of immediate gratification. If it cannot be had within moments of the request – abject fear, loss, failure, ignorance and paucity ensue. Or a sense close to. I ask and within microseconds, no longer minutes, goodle or facetram or instagaboggle will provide.

What then of therapy? The old model was to be a blank screen allowing the client to project their fears and desires onto. With newer versions of therapy the therapist stayed in the room and aimed to be a vehicle that supported the clients change.

Perhaps the model is to change once more. The next adaptation is to be in the room and be an active agent, an instigator of change that is significant and meaningful for the client being supported. The work could find a breakthrough in one sitting, 3 or 23.

Transitioning
Change has no signature.
No off, on, or now, time stamp.

Change happens as a result of the relationship between the supporter and *supportee. It is the twang of tension. The confusion of misapprehension it is the stuff of the in between. I stopped being a therapist the moment when I applied psychobabble to the vast complex life I am living in. Take a look at Haunted as an example or The Alienist blog featuring in Patterns: A beautiful way of thinking.

Ending With
I am here for those who assertively, dramatically and seriously want something amazing to happen. Change is available for those who want it! More importantly it exists for those who ask for it and continue asking until that change arrives.

I work with those who are ready and waiting for the next turn on their wheel.

I am a…

Soothsayer
Father
Husband
Friend
Artist
Brother
Uncle
Lay philosopher
Writer
Counsellor
Coach
Mentor
Psychotherapist
Supervisor
Baker

The Call
I am a consultant transforming the art of conversation. Now, if you would like to work with me and that project, idea, challenge or concern drop me a line or visit www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com.

Resource
The Art of Getting Things Done GTD

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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.

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

The 1st Man Talk

7 men on stage all talking about their individual experiences of life loss and mental illness.
The men included
Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician Dulwich Dons,
Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone,
Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach,
Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor
and Leon ‘Sweets’ Lewis @SweetsLewis

When I found out about the event, thank you Eddie, I was at first intrigued. I knew little of the people who were going to be speaking at The Man Talk. But this did not derail my interest.

Finding a queue outside Brixton Ritzy mostly with men from the Diaspora standing, waiting, talking amongst themselves, greeting each other, shaking hands, fist bumping, head nodding and laughing was a welcome sight to behold. I usually see something similar of this relaxed nature at one of the prisons I support as the men travel to or from their activities to their wings.

Here though there were no prison officers. Patrolling, expectant, ready, making small talk with themselves or with some of the men housed at this prison. The scene was light and celebratory not couched for things to go off or tense.

I looked on and waited. Hoping to get a seat soon. My 6’2” frame groaning for respite leaning on my adjustable cane, we stood and waited for close to an hour. Eventually the doors were loosed and patiently the assembled group of men ambled with reverie into the cinema.

I found a seat near to the end of a row. Most had come with friends or people they knew. If Ade was still here I would have gone with him. The evening began with a welcome and a brief greeting with people sat beside me, in front and behind that added to the sense of camaraderie amongst the audience. The Man Talk began with Leon Sweets Lewis introducing what we the audience were in store for. His informal beginning allowed the assembled panelists to introduce themselves and their reasons for why they felt The Man Talk was important.

Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Spoke about the soon arrival of his first child, being sent to prison for a period and wanting to get to a train platform… Terrol became more impassioned the more he spoke about his mission that almost never was. The train platform experience was a moment that he came close to bringing his life to a premature end.

Inside Brixton Ritzy at the Man Talk

Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Talked about not finding his purpose and being lost and close to being broken. Finding his path with personal training and getting fit and supporting others to do the same.

Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician, Dulwich Dons talked about his known and unknown personal stories, encountering loss, finding himself between a number of different worlds that include Music Football and his community. Wanting both to succeed and support family and friends.

Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone held nothing back. Paul introduced himself with the story of losing his father to suicide. A pin drop moment for me. It brought the audience and me to the edge of our seats. From Paul’s conversation the TALK became REAL and the objective of why we all were sat, listening and witnessing was made evident. The Campaign Against Living Miserably  

Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach, the elder statesman of the room shared aspects of his story. He is a voice coach, singing mentor and has supported numerous X-FACTOR contestants to perform well. Xavier discussed becoming a life coach after sharing his insights with friends and putting his skills coaching singers and performers to shine. XTLC was launched as a new concept for him from that point going forward. Xavier also shared about the death of his mother which completely caused him to shut down and function. When he returned home he cried for his sense of loss. Xavier mentioned that his loss was profound because of his connection with her.

Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor story was different. He began by sharing with the crowd that he was a Ghanian and his dream of becoming an American citizen was upended by 2 things. 1st his financial organisation changing their hiring policy of foreign nationals and America’s new immigration policy. The dream he had built up in his mind was over and he had to rethink his goals and dream fast.

I felt inspired by what I witnessed at The Man Talk and want to start a Men of the Diaspora therapy group. The feeling is that something positive that tackles toxic masculinity has started. Potentially men talking about shame pain being hurt and loving is essential for how men process and see themselves. With a fresh perspective and with new imaginings. Not with the tropes of old that states that men are 2 dimensional, simple, unemotional monoliths inflexible immature and bullish.

All panelists were humorous, honest and humble.

All of the men on stage presented a good argument, a representation for men to talk, listen and to be seen in similar ways with others. The Man Talk was a window into vulnerability and honesty. What would that be like for family and friends to experience? To See?

The 2nd talk is scheduled for June 19th and I am not able to attend. What I am confident about are a number of outcomes.

There will be other ‘The Man Talks’ and the ripples will affect how men relate to themselves, and the communities they move amongst.

Other groups will begin holding other men focused talking experiences.

Some already do.

Something important has begun and I am excited by what more is to follow.
Resource
Dope Black Dads Podcast https://soundcloud.com/dopeblackdads/episode-4-co-parenting

I am interested in knowing what you all think about my blogs/writing, when you can, can you complete this survey monkey questionnaire https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.

Therapy in Prison

Held up

Recently I worked with a client in a prison who appeared caught up in the story of how he has been continually mistreated by the Prisons he has resided in.

Expecting

When I re-framed a specific experience, his experience, he growled in acknowledgement of how he had been moving through his sentence. Not progressing. Stuck. Little involvement with probation or a sentence plan. He was tense and expectant of more bad shit to be passed to him.

A Why

It came after a long tirade of him counting up all the negative experiences that he has had. And why shouldn’t he? Life had dealt an undesirable hand. The idea of abandonment and not being heard were high on his watch list. “That shit is never going to happen to me again” he had said.

Sunshine

But they had. Even more shit had happened and he had reacted and then, he was left still holding a sad and ugly can of discontent. It stank! When he recognised the ailment he had been carrying it looked like the clouds covering his psyche broke and a beautiful smile graced his face. The joys of therapy are these moments. They happen when a person is willing to hear themselves put down the mask and step beyond. Out from under the cloud. The gloom had hidden him and his needs. The cloud had also given protection. Why would anyone want to leave?

Perspective

For this client the experience was seeing how tired he was from carrying the sloshing pail of woe and anger and resentment and pain. When he was able to put it down and walk a distance from it, he could see that in actuality he had been holding himself back. That the pain was all his and that the prison, probation or other professionals could not take it from him. All that a professional could do was help him recognise that by putting it down he could see himself anew.

Links

For a few moments it felt like an onslaught that I was being invited to witness and be party to. My careful reframe offered him chance to pause and acknowledge how dreadful those moments had been and where he could drop the bucket off. Ah now this is therapy.

Waves

The work is about creating chance for clients to look thrice and weigh up choices: carry around the ugly for another week, month, year or choose to drop bad for good and pick up something worthwhile, wholesome, worthy, healthy and ride on a crest for as long as it is possible. Picking up belief and self-esteem and confidence and humility and self-worth along the way.

Press Play

I will not be in this man’s life when he returns to his community. I get a sense however, that a shift of seismic proportions occurred and am happy to have been a part.

Choices

Making a decision to stay in a place of discomfort because it is familiar is common. We believe that choosing something unfamiliar but probably better is a simple choice to make and it lies squarely in the unknown.

4 Levels

Known Knowns – Water is Wet
Known Unknowns – That’s hot, how hot? That’s cold how cold…?
Unknown Knowns – Not knowing what is vaguely known Cantonese, Sub Saharan Africa, Quantum Mechanics, Effective Altruism
Unknown Unknowns – Total unawareness

Where would you place the greatest field of learning and of fear?
The Unknown Brain TED Talks

Psychopathy: Test

Apex

There are moments one dreams of experiencing that I had in October 2018. I had the chance of delivering a lecture to a group of forensic psychology students at the University of East London. The subject was mental Illness and crime. This was the 3rd time of me delivering this lecture and it all came together like the perfect picture. I was given a breakdown of possible protagonists and activists amongst the students. The promise that the group were usually quiet, by the course director Ms Kougiali, was thankfully unmet.

Review Data

EZ Poxy Shimmer

Shimmer

Perhaps it was my brief introduction and experience but the group of roughly 40 students did not let up with comments and questions about the lecture I delivered. They stated as one that some of the material was; too broad, that the stats needed refining in relation to ages, classification of mental illness, the gender of data groups and where the data sources had come from.

Urm note to Michael try harder please!

Winning

I found that I loved the engaging-challenging-rewarding interaction! The buzz of the room felt hard won and not wholly mine – more ours. I have had a number of teaching and lecturing experiences over the past few years starting at University of Greenwich, then as a VL at UEL and recently teaching at a college just outside of London on a level 1 counselling skills course.

Listening

Abstraction Art

Abstract Interpretation

All teaching experiences draw something different from me, there is the all-knowing sage that I aim to be, the old enough yet down enough sharer of counselling mythology, the witty soothsayer sharing what needs to be said for those who have ears to hear. October the 24th was like the perfect blend.

Balance

My style of lecturing is part performance poetry, comedy, debate class, philosophy and counselling pedagogy/theory for balance. My last class with year 2 students at University of Greenwich in May, much of the above was the experience. Teaching/Lecturing appeared to flow effortlessly. It sort of came together as a perfect storm with students sharing, my presentation slides, personal anecdotes of counselling and life experiences all rolled out and accessed by all. That lecture for Greenwich was on What Next? Offering ideas of potential routes beyond year 2.

Forensic Populations

What I enjoyed most about the work with UEL students was that they challenged me and I them! The challenge thrown about the lecture room was the idea of mental illness and psychopathy. Ultimately the idea realised was that many involved in the criminal justice system in the UK if tested and or diagnosed, many may have untreated learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, have experienced trauma, suffer with PTSD symptoms and have a personality disorder, as well as a dual diagnosis of substance misuse or alcohol addiction.

We All Psychopaths

Seeing Dutch Windmills

Blue Abstraction

Everyone in the lecture theatre if they took a psychopathy test would score something between a low to a high psychopathy score, making us all psychopaths to lesser or greater degrees. That includes you dear reader!

The reflective quality of this realisation hit in the 2nd hour after a number of students offered their opinions on the recent film on Netflix 22nd of July. The film about the impact Anders Breivik had on Norway stirred up some controversial ideas and debate in relation to mental illness and acts of self-preservation.

A student shared that we all have the potential to commit acts of violence that were either based on our beliefs or state of un-wellness. I volunteered to complete a psychopathy test listed here the Levenson Psyschopathy self test. Which takes roughly 5-10 minutes to complete https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. I scored a 2.9. The scores from this test I see more as an indicator for me, rather than a confirmed diagnosis. I mentioned that I would share my results with the class if interested. I now do so with you too.

Invite

I wonder what your psychopathy test scores are and what they say about you?

The thing I enjoy most about writing about multi-layered experiences is what others find through reading these posts and then share. If there are other psychopathy tests that are an improvement on the one listed here please share below. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.

Further Reading

The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/a…the…psychopathy/555335/

The Independent
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/the-difference-between-a-psychopath-and-a-sociopath-10422016.html

Snap Judgement Science and the Psychopath
https://www.npr.org/2015/07/10/421625310/the-scientist-and-the-psychopath

Criminal Podcast The Money Tree
https://thisiscriminal.com/episode-51-money-tree-8-23-2016/