It’s All in the Hands

With summer at it’s height and the evening’s beginning to draw in, I noted my willingness to bake shoot into overdrive. I was asked by a colleague what got me into baking and said “Baking helps me manage anxiety”. Baking helps to stall the thoughts that build about the improbable future by occupying time and ones hands and ones mind with the act of making something – edible gold.

A Probation Favourite

Potato and Dill Bread

Distraction

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I baked my first savoury bread as a result of not knowing how to begin writing my dissertation for my masters in counselling. In a way baking helped to calm my nerves about the mammoth task ahead of me. Writing a significant piece about my early life and relationship with my mother was an unwelcome challenge. Baking bread helped to transform anxiety and stress into doing something productive and creative.

Transition

My first ever bread was a banana bread which lead on to an attempt at making an Irish Soda bread. The step from the banana bread to the Irish Soda was not too great. Unlike studying at an undergrad level with Interior Design and then studying at a masters level with Therapeutic Counselling. The transition from Banana Bread to Irish Soda was straightforward. With the Irish Soda, I didn’t need to invest in any equipment like a bread mixer or training, practice and time were the only requirements.

Development

Bread baking has taken me to attempt sour dough’s, brioche’s, fruit loaves and pastries including croissants and pain aux chocolate. This is not an advert for suggesting a try at the Great British Bake off. Baking relieves me of pent up energy and emotion and relaxes me immensely. GBBO is entirely enjoyable to watch, to be a participant? Not for me. I could see the vision of the master bake ending up in a bin much like a previous contestant were things to go wrong. Baking remains a joy, a simple pleasure. The product of which can cause a rush of excitement and some envy.

The Baking CV

I have brought baked goods into most of the places I have worked:
2004-2007 Salesian College mostly cakes and an Irish Soda Bread
2009 – 2012 Drs Surgery near Camberwell cakes.
2010 -2014 Belmarsh Prison I pushed myself a little and attempted cakes and more complex breads including a quick rye bread.
2014 The University of Kent where I was a student mentor – Breads and cakes. This is where I honed the skill of making the sourdough. A book bought for Christmas that year the handmade loaf by Dan Lepard inspired me.

Smiles

In the 3 years I have worked alongside probation I have brought many breads and baked goods in to offices at Greenwich, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Southwark. The bread is usually accompanied by cheeses, grapes, butter and jam or a soft spread. My belief is, those that work in the public domain genuinely are unsung heroes and are in need of congratulating and validation by those they serve and look after (Society). My offerings were a small testament to an idea: ‘Gift others with something pleasant that would be hard for them to return’. The breads cakes and other items I brought in, usually vanished in a short space of time and put a smile on most people’s faces. For me giving and causing for a short while joy, was priceless.

Edutainment

Mentioning the GBBO above, stirs my thinking about what Channel 4 will offer us this season? Last year’s departure from BBC1 to Channel 4 did not deter my admiration for the participants or enjoyment of watching the show. It still ticks most of the boxes for good entertainment. A sour faced judge, a fair judge, and 2 comedians bringing levity when things inevitably go wrong. The mini edutainment sections are also in CH4’s edition too. Netflix has all 7 seasons and all episodes. Let the entertainment begin!

2 Artisan Breads

Sundried Tomato, Onion and Cheese Loaf alongside a Caraway and Raisin Bread.

Appreciation

I baked for my team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners recently – 3 Dan Lepard Recipes: a classic banana bread, a yoghurt and chive bread, an onion and cheese baguette that has an MO addition of sundried tomatoes. Renamed  as ‘Pizza Bread’ by a colleague at Together. My anxiety about my moving on from Together enabled me to craft 2 wonderful loaves and a cake as a goodbye to a brilliant team. As a group the NPS team have worked diligently and passionately in probation offices across London. Overcoming a number of unforeseen challenges, obstacles and developments within the service. The bread was to say thank you and that their efforts have been greatly appreciated by me, Together, Probation and the service users they have supported.

Memories fade like the aroma of a freshly baked bread, I would like to hold on to these memories for a while longer…

Loving U…

U

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly Album was featured in another blog. U stands out as my 2nd favoured track due to its layered complexity. U offers a montage to the story telling that adds to the songs beauty. An outstanding artist knows: it is not what the artist depicts, it is what the viewer brings with them, that adds to the pieces’ power and importance.

Kendrick’s Reflexivity

U invites me to recognise myself in this song. My experience of losing someone I held dear. A friend, a fellow artist, a dancer singer actor, lay therapist. 7 years ago my friend died. Jamui Adebiyi I met at university. He was a fellow attendant at ACS and possessed a wicked sense of humour and a wisdom that seemed other worldly. We both enjoyed the artistry of hip hop and most of 1992’s American Hip Hop. Grime, Trap and Drill were 2 decades away.

Winning and Losing

In June the idea of hip hop as therapy was birthed as a result of a conversation. The below is a perfect example of a therapeutic outcome. I have been ashamed of my anger at the loss of Ade. Celia taught me that in reality there was no more that I could do, or could have done. The pain I feel, have felt is a reality of what I miss – a friend I had discussed the finer qualities of life: to laugh with,  Philosophize amongst and hold a number of disagreements against and not win. An example of our arguments was who was a better artist. Biggie or 2Pac. For me Biggie Smalls was king in his 2Pac was an idol and an important example of  Hip Hop’s relevance and success.

Synchronicity

The hook states that loving you is complicated. I really enjoy that Kendrick’s voice cracks and breaks, perfectly mirrored by Kamasi Washington’s horn. From here I was drawn in to the play between the musicality and the poetry.

{Screams}

[Hook: Kendrick Lamar]

Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated

Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Questions unanswerable

But why? What reasons are there for love to be complicated? Is love complicated? There may well be times where love is. Love as complication may be dependent on the person we love and how they then live. Or is it the us who does not manage with love well: complicating it’s experience? I think of the people I have supported at probation. I think of a play I watched in January: The Absence of Silence. Which featured a cast of women exploring experiences of domestic violence. Love is indeed complex and confusing and conflictual.

[Verse 1: Kendrick Lamar]

Love as complicated Art

Love like Jazz is both beautiful and complicated

I place blame on you still, place shame on you still
Feel like you ain’t shit, feel like you don’t feel
Confidence in yourself, breakin’ on marble floors
Watchin’ anonymous strangers, tellin’ me that I’m yours
But you ain’t shit, I’m convinced your tolerance nothin’ special
What can I blame you for? Nigga, I can name several
Situations, I’ll start with your little sister bakin’
A baby inside, just a teenager, where your patience?
Where was your antennas?

Where was the influence you speak of?
You preached in front of 100,000 but never reached her
I fuckin’ tell you, you fuckin’ failure—you ain’t no leader!
I never liked you, forever despise you—I don’t need you!
The world don’t need you, don’t let them deceive you
Numbers lie too, fuck your pride too, that’s for dedication
Thought money would change you
Made you more complacent
I fuckin’ hate you, I hope you embrace it
I swear—

Gaps

Was this person a teacher, preacher, priest? Was he a parent, come brother a community activitst a leader? It appears that he was something that upset and fell short of his own aims. And this gap was intolerable and anger making…

Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated
Loving you is complicated, loving you is complicated

[Bridge: Kendrick Lamar]

Lovin’ you, lovin’ you, not lovin’ you, 100° proof
(I can feel your vibe and recognize that you’re ashamed of me
Yes, I hate you, too)

[Break: Jessica Vielmas]
(Loving you ain’t really complicated)
House keeping, house keeping
(What I got to do to get to you?)
Abre la puerta! ¡Abre la puerta tengo que limpiar el cuarto!
(To you)
¡Es que no hay mucho tiempo tengo que limpiar el cuarto!
(Loving you ain’t really complicated)
¡Disculpe!
(What I got to do to get to you?)
(To you)

An unopened door

This intro to Verse 2 is chilling and begins the emotional response from Kendrick reflecting on what was left… For me this verse is the heart of the song. The understanding is a visceral account of missing a love that is complicated. I enjoy that Kendrick is wildly emotional, his voice captures the raw emotion of the sentiment of loss. I thank the words, the expression, it gives chance for feelings trapped to move, to gain flight and lift…

Porcupine a love that offers pain

Loving you is Complicated

[Verse 2]

You the reason why mama and them leavin’
No, you ain’t shit, you say you love them
I know you don’t mean it
I know you’re irresponsible, selfish, in denial, can’t help it
Your trials and tribulations a burden, everyone felt it
Everyone heard it, multiple shots, corners cryin’ out
You was deserted, where was your antennas again?
Where was your presence?
Where was your support that you pretend?
You ain’t no brother, you ain’t no disciple
You ain’t no friend
A friend never leave Compton for profit
Or leave his best friend, little brother
You promised you’d watch him before they shot him
Where was your antennas?
On the road, bottles and bitches
You FaceTimed him one time, that’s unforgiving
You even FaceTimed instead of a hospital visit
Guess you thought he would recover well
Third surgery, they couldn’t stop the bleeding for real
Then he died, God himself will say, “You fuckin’ failed”
You ain’t try

A Rock

Kendrick opens up on his disappointment here. It sits like a rock. A boulder undeniably blocking his release. Here is where the truth of a death that is a shock is understood and stands as epitaph. The want in Kendrick’s lament is raw. I wanted for Ade to be around still – selfishly. I still do. This is the hard part. Acceptance of what is. Embrace appears impossible of this discomforting idea. If release is what I seek I am to clasp my hands around it like a bow, inhale and draw the spikes of this porcupine in.

[Verse 3]

I know your secrets, nigga
Mood swings is frequent, nigga
I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons, nigga
I know you and a couple block boys ain’t been speakin’, nigga
Y’all damn near beefin’, I see it and you’re the reason, nigga
And if this bottle could talk–gulp–I cry myself to sleep
Bitch, everything is your fault
Faults breakin’ to pieces, earthquakes on every weekend
Because you shook as soon as you knew confinement was needed
I know your secrets, don’t let me tell them to the world
About that shit you thinkin’
And that time you–gulp–I’m ’bout to hurl
I’m fucked up, but I ain’t as fucked up as you
You just can’t get right, I think your heart made of bullet proof
Should’ve killed yo’ ass a long time ago
You should’ve feeled that black revolver blast a long time ago
And if those mirrors could talk it’d say, “You gotta go”
And if I told your secrets
The world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness

[Produced by Taz Arnold & Whoarei; Additional production by Soundwave]

Doubts

I am aware that this is a story enabling appeasement. I know that U represents the account of losing someone that meant the world. Perhaps that U was the self in pursuit of life’s trappings. Here Kendrick has caught and taught me. Celia’s words are recalled however the strong emotional tug of loss and regret block the safe removal of sad feelings and thoughts of what more I could have done to support Ade. I could have, I should have, provided chance for him to be heard. Perhaps offer refuge from the storm. My mind returns to saving – how could I have rescued my friend from ending his turmoil safely, life enduringly, healthily?

1 – 2 – 3 – let go

Hard acceptance: it was not my role to stop Ade. The answer, losing someone you love to death is undeniably difficult. Loving you is complicated. Losing someone you love to suicide is like an unexplainable phenomena that remains for a long time in the herafter… I accept the porcupine and the pain of hugging the spiny nature of this.

Perhaps by drawing in the unexplainable, healing can begin – after.

Hip Hop as therapy

https://youtu.be/Hu4Pz9PjolI An Interview with Kendrick

Why Therapy, Why Me?

Angel Falls and Therapy Choosing me

Therapy Why Me? Angel Falls

The realisation of why I became a counsellor I had thought for a long time was because of a delayed and complicated grief of my mother’s passing in 1993.

Reading the TIP guide for trauma Informed Practice training, I attended recently delivered by Eva Roussou, I recognised a fundamental interest that drew me to provide healing encounters and environments with clients. The TIP guide illustrates that trauma can be Intergenerational and Historical. When I think about my family, my sisters and I, and then the countries my parents originated from – Guyana and Ghana I am unable to think past their colonial pasts.

Recolonization

An Historical Past

The Colonial Building Guyana

Both being immigrants and relocating to the UK in the early 60s, they possibly both experienced a number of personal hardships including finding accommodation, finding work, becoming British Citizens, maintaining familial links both in their new host nation and overseas. Adapting to a new culture, adjusting to different ways of seeing themselves and others like them and 1960s England, engaging with environmental hostilities and relearning that their knowledge and education from their homelands may not have prepared them for all they were to encounter in High Wycombe and then London.

Guinness Seeping

I never met both of my maternal grandparents or my grandfather on my fathers side of the family. What I am vaguely aware of from both parents was that Inter-generational trauma and Historical trauma seeped into their raising of me and my sisters. Physical punishment as well as emotional distance was a part of their parenting styles.

Ghana's Kwame Nkruma Mausoleum Park

Ghana’s 1st President National Park

Throughout the TIP training a nagging awareness kept pulling me back to a number of experiences where non trauma informed reactions from parent to child were observed. Ripping furniture, dropping bottles of Guinness as I failed to jump a wall – smashing the bottles and cutting both hands, sliding down newly carpeted stairs were all met with physical punishments. This being the 1970s, Childline was a deterrent bound to the future. This being raised on a North London housing estate with other immigrant families. Not entirely an unfamiliarity, using corporal punishment as a way to discipline children. Historical trauma? Colonial histories?

Opaque past

TIP invited me to think about the experiences that both parents may have had with their parents and then back to the idea of Historical trauma. Was what I and my sisters lived with a result of my Great Grandparents experience of the trauma they had encountered: families being torn apart, physical abuse, neglect, kidnapping, unexplained disappearances, negation of human qualities or feelings, disease, death, addictions? How do I make sense of these half imagined but sensed intuitions and then make use of them to support self and then others?

Fierce

Listening to www.baatn.or.uk podcast on family constellations was illuminating and solution forming. I recognise that my journey is about setting things right for my children – underscoring the then and the now. Remembering that I and they are living in a different time. James Oliver invites us to be mindful that we are going to make mistakes as parents. The aim for me: impart a willingness to my 2 children, to move on and up with all the necessary parts from their collected histories. As a parent I am to be compassionate, resilient, patient and with an unending and unconditional love that supports their growth ability interdependence and independence fiercely.

Alchemy

Why Me Why Therapy - Providing knowledge to feed generations

Supporting communities to fish

As a therapist I am to continue adventuring the boundaries of counselling to support others.

Remaining creatively inquisitive and humorously engaged with the alchemy of change.

Three Benches

Late Autumn

A November morn: Three Benches

A number of conversations about walk and talk therapy have happened recently that have inspired thought about working in nature. An under grad student wrote a compelling review of eco psychology citing the work of Kamitsis and Simmonds 2017. Stating that working in nature can be either a passive or active form of therapy. I enjoyed reading their work as it gave me insight to what I had unconsciously started to experience as a #WalknTalk enthusiast over 5 years ago.

Thin places

In 2014 I met with the originator of Nature Based Therapy and started to recognise that a community of therapists and practitioners were moving their practice from the confines of a room to outside environs. Speaking with Duncan E. Stafford last year was another great conversation as he began venturing into nature using walk and talk as a method of engaging clients. A recent conversation with a therapist interested in using either a garden or a local park Marie-Line Charler brought out what I have begun to recognise as a strength of using Eco psychology/eco therapy as a means to support others the work and the environment – working outdoors is like being close to the thin places

My last conversation with Lynn Findlay further propelled the conversation about therapy in nature. Lynn is a runner and posed a question about pace on twitter that had me intrigued.

@FosterCareLynn My literature research shows plenty [of] studies/research & many #therapists who offer #walkandtalk therapy but little on running. When theory/ethics/contracting are factored isn’t the variable just movement [and] speed? Curious? @hazehill @therapyspaceuk @walktalkinderby @TherapyForfieh

A sunrise framed by trees

Perfect Balance of Light, Trees and Grass. Three Benches

Running Therapy

I was taken by the idea of speed and the added health benefits of running and accessing therapy that Lynn posed. I know of one other therapist that runs and engages with therapy @pullentherapy. Speaking with Lynn was enlivening because of the number of ideas that were brought to light. Such as conducting a research project on the benefits of using running as part of a therapeutic process, whether changing speeds during the exchange would deepen the therapeutic work, and what walk and talk therapy is like for me and my clients.

Goal Less

The student mentioned earlier, made reference to Davis and Atkins 2004 writing, providing insight to the work being about rekindling a connection between a person and nature in a goal-less manner accessing spirituality with the desired outcome of improving mental health. A few weeks ago I had an experience with a walk and talk client that fell into a goal less oriented therapeutic experience. I have been supporting B with walk and talk therapy for a few years, the work has steadily progressed to work using associations.

I checked in with B at a point 10 minutes in to the walk and brought to mind the ending of our previous meeting. With this client in particular, synergy has appeared in our work, either with random encounters with other park users or seeing children’s chalk drawings that frame what we have just been speaking about as we approach. Recently whilst walking across a field B was discussing abandonment and a sole black shoe was discovered.

Dog Chase

On the week in question 3 dogs had been engaged in a game of chase that my client had been bemused by. On nearing the end of the walk a Graffiti Dub had been signed off with Chasing Dogs as the artist. I mentioned this and we both shook our heads and marveled at yet another co-incidence that had happened during our walk. I hold an internal reverent smile with B – last year (2017) a woman had approached and asked ‘Are You God?’ When occurrences like a dog chase and then this being mentioned in an errant piece of graffiti… I am left wondering…

Associations of a wet bench

Bench near hill: a feature of association.

Group Walk

In the past 5 years I have walked and talked with groups and individuals and invited a group of MSc students to spend 20 minutes walking and talking at the end of term. The students had asked for a walk and talk experience. The first year students shared that they were surprised about how quickly the 20 mins had passed, some noticed more about the environment, others focused more on what was being shared. The two groups of men, shared that the experience felt natural and offered solutions that they did not know were there.

In Hiding

Using a non-directive way of accessing therapy can help the person using it to employ creativity which supports identification of a way forward. There may be something in walking forward that helps the conversation and mind to bring about different ideas that seem accessible that before walking and talking may have remained hidden.

2nd Bench

A surprise encounter finding a new area in a park

I said at the end of term to students that walking was our only way of transportation for thousands of years. This could be a good reason why so many find walking and talking a simple and natural way of engaging with therapy.

New Associations – Serendipity

The enjoyment of walk and talk therapy are the moments of serendipity that happen when we are open to exploring in an honest unplanned way. Amazing things occur when the work opens up to creativity and play. With B, 3 paths lead on to 3 benches. Along each one of these paths a different associative idea existed for B. With each of the benches we found more associations that could be positioned .

The first bench represented a collection of recent experiences that were to be removed and forgotten.
The second bench appeared to be a newer experience that was to remain and be nurtured over time.
The third bench became a future representation of ideas for B that showed potential.

Walk and Talk therapy within an enclosed gardern

A fitting end to an insightful walk and talk.

Same Coin

Throughout all of the conversations with both therapists and with B, there was a sense of excitement. The unknown can either scare us or excite us. My counselling supervisor has shared that fear and excitement are 2 sides of the same coin. Working outdoors whether we run, climb, walk, play basketball, canoe or paddle board  being near thin spaces brings the idea of change to the foreground with immediacy. Walk and talk therapy has been like a living canvas for me.

Every walk differs, every talk new. The enjoyment is within the act of co-creation…

Poetry – Psychology

Street Art - Poetry

Poetry as street art

Stopping

Having seen Innua Ellams perform, there seemed little reason for a continuance from my poetry book. His flow, poise, diction, ability to instil images in the mind of an audience I found defiant, brilliant and silencing. This was back in 2006. The idea of walking away from performance poetry never to return: easy. Watching Suli Breaks perform for an event for the Terrence Higgins Trust in 2015 reopened a door I had permanently shut. Speaking with Suli after he performed ‘Why I Hate School but Love Education’ reawakened a sleeping ember.

There has been a growing sense that the writing I offer has a significant piece of me missing. It feels like an eternity ago, that I used to stand, sometimes shimmy, on stage and offer my version of poetry to audiences in Shoreditch or near Spitalfields Market. Finding the experience of flow whilst teaching in April was a welcome experience. A friend commented once that the below was some of my ‘best writing’.

Perhaps…

After the conference

So I asked her how she got that scar on her chin…
She blushed then answered…
My mind had already raced ahead and targeted the place and,
Time the incident had occurred, and then

I noticed it in a work group, work shop, work thing, at a
Conference just off Oxford Street
It wasn’t big. Just a
Thin line. A divot of definition. Running off centre off
Of the chin to just below the bottom lip.

I had wondered how it came to be there, this scar.
Imagining a cat fight in poor light, searching to take aim,
Then fire. The line was construed as if a ruler and
Knife or other sharp object had come together to divide.
It must have bled.

Trying not to stare. It didn’t stand out much. No more
So than her brown shoulder length hair, or rich brown
Eyes. Framed in blue white sclera’s. Her pupils were
Large as she interacted with the group. Graceful arm
Sweeps as she elucidated her points

Imagining blood, seeping from the cut, slowly, loosely
Dripping, freely and with that free hand wiping gracefully
Wiping away the wound marked in red.

Ashamed? I could guess not. Aghast probably – unlike
The expected monthly. This red was of Pain not birth but
Death. I continued to stare. Aware of the mesmerising
Allure of this faint forgotten sliced vein.

She turned her head and I could tell it was only skin
Deep. Near fainted as she caught me. Gazing. Intimately
At her chin, out of the corner of her eyes. I shamefacedly
Averted my gaze – towards the mint green carpeted floor.
Resumed idle talk with a neighbour. Then turned to the
Door. As if expectant of a SURPRISE visitor.

The mark still called (Michael) my eyes back to
That point on her face, just above her chin and
Just below her bottom lip.

Only this time gazing through her noticing
Everything and her chin, the brown cords jacket,
The black blue jeans, the dark toe scuffed ankle
Boot shoe things. Sitting cross legged – Right over Left.

But above all, the mark, skin deep, kept calling,
And again my eyes went back to wandering

…”I had fallen through a plate of glass” she said
And re-enacted the scene, whilst sitting, then
Blushed

I chose that moment to gush an apology then
Said “Excuse me” and left the scene. She
Leaning on her right knee…
Holding her chin.

Wondering…

2004

At the time of writing ‘After the Conference’, I had never thought of involving myself with psychology or even forensic psychotherapy. The clues of what I do now are hinted at within the poem. Imagining scenes that have the potential to be as real for me as falling through a plate of glass was for her.

When supporting service users or clients as a counsellor, the role can be about holding  visions of hope. And possible alternatives that uplift, cleanse, heal.

Supporting another way to view the world that holds more potential than before.

The recognition for myself is that use of poetry back then, assisted a blending of realities – words as paint. Finding another way beyond an interior design career. Of course my poetry would be different to Innua Elams and Suli Breaks, it has taken a while to recognise and appreciate this.

The entry to the world of prose, poetry rhyme and meter, began before Hip Hop and has lead me to multiverses of psychology and…

Gambit exhibiting his power

Teachers Gambit

Unmoored1

In May I ended my final year with both year one and year two integrative counselling students at the University of Greenwich. I have taught at the University of Greenwich for 3 years as a visiting lecturer. The final teaching lessons with both year 1 and year 2 were surprising and left me feeling un-moored.

What Next

Ending with both year 1 and year 2, conversations involved what would come next??? With year 1 the conversations involved what they had survived and what the next year would bring.  The Counselling and Psychology departments are to move from Avery Hill to the Dreadnought building in Greenwich village, London UK. The change of location represents a physical re-ordering to the experience of teaching and learning. Changes to the orientation of the scheduled lessons and new group members will add an additional layer of nuance to the students day.

High seas 1

Relief

The new cohort of students (2018  – 2019) will not be any wiser of these changes. The 2 groups of students I taught on their last day were relieved to have passed through the gate of the unknown and were weary from the internal struggles the course had helped unearth. I enjoyed the teaching. The opportunity to share what knowledge I have with minds receptive to new ideas – ideas that at times were vastly different to their own. The excitement of moving from unknowing to knowing more, is more than worthy of the days nights and weeks spent marking students work. I will no longer be a part of the excitement, the changes, the conflicts, the time tabling confusions, rooms being locked, difficulties with technology – I am going to miss all of this!

Soft Departures

For year 2, I was to discuss formation of their counselling identity. The presentation began with a student stating that they would not be returning for year 3. A number of students expressed surprise and disappointment as well as tender comments about the student leaving the course this year spattered amongst the room. The student will leave with a level VII (7) diploma and a confidence about how they are going to engage with counselling and psychotherapy.

It’s Personal

For those that were to continue onto year 3, there were ideas as to what was to happen for them. A few students identified that the dissertation piece had been a challenge to be moderated on. The point of the exercise was to gather an understanding of their counselling approach. As an integrative course the need to understand the ‘how and why’ of using a particular theory is important for the therapist and for the client to know.

The Journey

Sharing my counselling journey from 2012 when I completed the same course, with year 2 students was a special moment. Describing the numerous points of growth change and adaptation of how I viewed and interact with the world. Sharing experiences that developed awareness of competence and confidence, helped the arrival where it feels natural to share ideas with a group of 20-30 people as if speaking to a group of friends.

Newbie

I have shared a number of times about the experiential group of that first year. The group surprised and impressed me. There was a dynamic rich freshness, a vibrancy of their experience that fueled the group’s discussions. It may have been my newness to the whole teaching experience that has framed them as a pivotal memory.

In year two I worked with my first all women experiential group, I had chance to relearn what I thought I knew from the previous year. A welcome surprise. I had chance to reflect on growing up within an all-female household. Growing into adulthood I came to appreciate a non-male dominated space – this experiential group mirrored that.

Lecturing

In this my third year I was offered the chance to lecture on the undergrad psychology and counselling course, teach a year one case discussion group, facilitate a year one all women experiential group, and teach the year two case discussion. I have gained a huge amount of knowledge about direction and imparting some of my book learning to trainee counsellors. Fortunately they were receptive to some of the ideas and some of the critiques I offered.

rough seas 2

Irv’s wisdom

Having had the opportunity in April to interview the enigmatic Irvin Yalom for the Counsellors Café – he shared the finer subtleties of working with process groups, he advised that to support a group learn and become it’s own entity, you have to be willing to risk being real, be present and be a part of the process. Be where they are at. Be honest, congruent, vulnerable… I came close…

Illusions

In my 2nd year of teaching (2016 – 2017) a number of opportunities to share interesting ideas seemed to arrive at the end our experiential groups – I went with it and shared. On my last day of this years visiting lecturing, I shared with the year one case discussion group a book. ‘The structure of Magic” and I invited seven of the group members to read a number of the opening paragraphs. The first chapter discusses the idea of magic. Magicians, Princesses and Princes populate a land and a boy is to understand his place amongst it all. The ideas that counsellors follow in the tradition of Freud, we perhaps are also Magicians creating illusions.

Provoke

Those that we work with use the magic to create new stories and illusions of their own making. The year 1 students were challenged by the idea and I deliberately meant to be provocative. Another idea that also challenged them, was my earlier offering of therapists, counsellors, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts being Judge, Jury and executioners.

Invitation

The loss felt, as I move on from the experience of teaching and learning was, the ideas propagated within the minds of students will be watered by other gardeners now.

The un-mooring invites the idea of finding new ports, trade knowledge acquired on high seas, amongst audiences new. The sense of risk and triumph much like the rise and fall of tidal swells offers, chance to arrive there once again…

This One’s for You…

Tactical Empathy

After an engaged conversation with Luke Roberts he shared that he had gained a number of interesting ideas from Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference. One area that Luke felt could have been explained better was the idea of Tactical Empathy. Luke Roberts the MD of Resolve consultants supports organisations including prison institutions to work on conflict resolution and restorative approaches that support positive outcomes for individuals and the organisation overall.

Conflict and Negotiation

As a hostage negotiator Chris offers a number of useful tactics that he was able to use throughout his career. The tactics he employed secured the release of people held hostage by negotiating from a point of reducing distance between hostage taker and those negotiating. A reduction happens as a result of gaining an understanding of the wants of the hostage takers. Then those wanting the safe release of those imprisoned can literally see what parts of the jigsaw can be moved around. I imagine that conflict resolution is a similar experience supporting individuals/groups to arrive at a solution where more is gained as a result of attempting to work through a solution that both sides are content with.

Empathy

Empathy is formed from a willingness to understand, emotionally experience and recognise for self what the other is experiencing or has lived through. From a counselling perspective empathy is a fundamental point for the therapeutic work to grow from.

Tactics

The experience of using skills and techniques to arrive at an advantageous position. As a former basketball player/coach tactics and plays were used to work out an advantage for an offensive or a defensive situation. These tactics were used to earn my team a number of favourable outcomes that included; scoring, gaining turn overs, having players on the opposing team foul out, playing full or half court presses, interrupting a charge with a timeout. These techniques and tactics were used to win the game.

Tactical Empathy

Tactical empathy happens to be an inspired way of thinking when working with others. I base my understanding on our human responses to reciprocity. If someone were to; offer a colleague a compliment, support on a project, make a cup of tea and or buy them a cup of coffee. A loop is opened. Usually the response from that colleague is when next an opportunity presents the beneficiary from an exchange will generally aim to reciprocate. Closing the loop. The loop of gain and loss being opened and then closed can support healthy trusting relationships amongst individuals and teams.

In the case of a hostage taking situation or in conflict resolution – the attempt whilst negotiating is to listen using empathy. One is listening not just to the words but also the emotion of the other in the negotiation. There will be difficult parts to the discussion where the person being tactically empathic will use their ability to hear the words and recognise the emotions of what the person who is sharing their aims and wants.

Reciprocity

Often a moment during discussion arrives because we are hearing the emotion of the other person. Responding to the emotion and by naming them could develop statements like;

‘I hear that you are talking about X, am I right in saying that you are feeling Y too?’

The other person in the conversation once they believe that understanding and trust has been built will likely offer an insight where reciprocity could be built. It is here that the collaboration or clear request can be asked of them.

They may say something like ‘I feel that you really understand where I am coming from, how can we work this out?’

The aim here has been achieved. They are showing a willingness to not only listen to an idea of yours but also the idea of collaboration has been receptively achieved. Generally the idea of gifting another opens a door to successfully resolve a conflict or negotiate a solution that works for more than just one. Fist

The gift of time cannot be understated here – as well as a laser like focus to achieving a solution for both parties. Using tactical empathy and supporting another until they are able to reciprocate is the outcome that generates solutions that feel as though the win is collaborative creative and beneficial for all involved.

Links

2 Guys on Your Head podcast discuss reciprocity http://kut.org/post/psychology-reciprocity

Never Split the Difference – Chris Voss

The Structure of Magic – Richard Bandler and John Grinder. A book that looks to support growth in an understanding of the use of language.