Jitters: The Night Before

Having the jitters before the big day is normal, expected, an indication of the importance of what is to be tried. 13th of November was going to be gigantic because I was about to start providing a low cost counselling group experience for Black Men in S.E. London.

*Solstice Shuffle
With the days here in the northern hemisphere becoming shorter and shorter, and with that colder too, rather than retreat and hide. I want to fight back the dark with warmth and light. My colleague and I are to start something I feel will be big. Important. Game Changing. We have talked and laughed and listened and prepared.

It’s time.
So the jitters, and jitter bugging are a nervous type of energy. Highlighting an excitement and a wondering of what is going to be. New. Novel. Nuanced. Black focused group therapy for men.

Why?
Because why not! The reasons aren’t as important as the reasons that some are asking them. What reasons arise in your minds eye as to the reasons as to why, there could be need of an introductory course for therapy for Black Men?

Support
Speaking with my supervisor a few months ago I asked, do you think this idea of mine is racist? He took his time and invited me to think about my reasoning, my question, the need. I did and said No, I do not feel that the group is a racist idea. The want is to support an under-served social and ethnic group access skilled support at a low cost. Some psycho-education will happen and the aim will be to support members grow towards a healthy sense of themselves and their position in the world.

A memoir, an insight to living whilst Black

Lack
I recognise that men generally are less inclined to express themselves and be vulnerable with others. That takes time. It’s a strength that women largely are gifted with. Men tend to suppress their softer side for fear of being manipulated or hurt or worse humiliated. The concern is that under pressure, that hiding, turns those suppressed feelings into something toxic and harmful. We know of the term toxic masculinity.

Triplicate
Being toxic as a Black Man is like a triple bind.

1. Not speaking about ones vulnerability and pain causes us (humans) to seek other ways to find release. Some of these ways can lead to long term health factors that affect Black Men in particular and those connected to them acutely.

2. Becoming toxic, distrustful, upset and angry causes others usually friends, partners and family to flee, reduce contact, disconnect from or just avoid and hide.

Professional dislike
The trusted are often met with the same vitriol and disruptive rage as Drs, nurses, psychologists, probation officers, teachers, police personnel, employers and work colleagues. With the disruption some meet their needs through miss-telling of truths. Making the environment of the affected worse. Thus serving to – ratchet up their paranoia or distrust. Leading to more self isolation and projected anger at others.

Hitting Out
The third and final bind is when the lid blows off!

These moments tips the scales violently over.
The contents carefully balanced are shattered scattered and lost. The family, job, friends, savings, house, children, partner, colleagues, all ruined.

The man at the centre of the storm can then fall foul of pre existing stereotypes. He – unable to cope with the pressures of life. A Man Not really. A Man deemed crazy. Unable to climb and look after himself or anyone else for that matter. A drain on resources, draining energy, becoming to onlookers: menacing. Unworthy…

The Straw
Mental health services are generally not accessed before the police are called in. Usually it is this point that help is found and quickly. Society seems ready to pounce as the risk level becomes uncontained by members of the general public.

Detention
The implosion leads then to an enforced section and the man’s civil liberties of self-governance, self respect, self determination sanctioned and taken from him for between 48hours up to two weeks. Legally! Sometimes it can be for far longer. For this man it is a story he may have avoided. If there was a way to have found a space to discharge through speaking about his allostatic loads with (an)other(s).

A stong looking exterior often hides the vulnerability and the pain. Lets talk www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com
Let’s Talk now.
Photo by Giulia Pugliese on Unsplash

Perhaps
My jitters are about the chance to create a new story. For the one above. For that lonely man who shuffles along the street, sometimes talking or singing to himself. Looking unwell. Acting in a slightly bereft, unkempt way.

Rise
The idea of creating something new as a psychological model is both powerful and exciting. People engaging in therapeutic communities and therapeutic work is a different outcome to the bleak one I have witnessed as a Londoner, as a person working in prison, as a consciously aware Black Man that wants to listen for a different ending. Sometimes a situation has to reach rock bottom before it gets better.

Sometimes

Resources
Code Switch – This Racism Is Killing Me on The Inside
The Stoop – Angry Black Woman
BAATN – Beyond Silence

Comments are welcome.

Beautiful Purpose

Ikigai – Purpose of Being

Ikigai

Is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.

The word derives from:
iki, meaning life, and
kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.
From what is.techtarget.com

Tools
Wanting to heal and providing a number of tools, resources and ideas that support others to heal too I believe is my path, my passion and my pastime. A therapist no longer. I am doing something more. It’s surprising this level of experience because I had no idea that I would arrive at a point like Jonathon Livingstone Seagull: Above the clouds, looking for others to soar up here too.

Psychotherapy as Art
I was supposed to be an artist or an architect, at the very least an Interior Designer. But life did what life does best – took me where it needed me to go. From London to Peterborough, Leicester, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North London, South London. Hamilton Ontario?

Walk and Talk Therapy, Autumn creeps in the mist
Walking and Talking in a London Park. Psychotherapy meets Artistry

Mr Ben
A host of jobs I have played an active role in, that has included; a McDonalds employee, a night packer at Walkers Crisps Leicester, working in a nightclub as a bar person – University experience Leicester, packer and sorter for freeman’s catalogs Peterborough, office mover and delivery person for English Heritage and Manpower staff agency – London, a barista and store assistant manager at Seattle Coffee company, a youth worker/manager for the place in Woolwich.

Speeding Up
It was here as a youth worker, that life began to accelerate and I began to notice the power of influence within conversations I was having with young people and what the effect of being supported could do.

I continued supporting young people at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Wandsworth which lead me to being a school sports co-ordinator at Harris Girls Academy East Dulwich, I completed an introductory course to counselling at Morley College in this time.

Becoming a learning mentor at a boys school Salesian College, a few years later, helped to solidify what I had learned -Talking Helps! Then I completed a Masters in Counselling from University of Greenwich.

Paint
A placement at a Drs surgery in Camberwell and a placement at a prison lead me to working with people in forensic settings. I have written before about becoming an artist that works with the human canvas of life. The reality is artistry has led on to something more.

Labelled Healer
It is further along this path of discovery that I am headed, I notice points of interest and signs that the journey is about to quicken and change once more. Magi, healer, shaman, doctor, it seems like the next potential door through which I am to pass.

A man in prison approached me and asked
“What do you do, then?”
I replied “I am a counsellor.”
He said “You look more like a doctor.”
I laughed and offered “Is that’s a good thing?”
He said “It could be, I need a doctor.”
“Ah” I said…

Sidelined
The idea I am learning to accept is that interpretation of an idea, of a person’s life choices can be vast. So much can be included or completely left out.

Those who are labelled unhinged or mad are often marginalised. The fact that some people can see things that may not appear in our version of reality earns them a severe and enduring mental health label. Perhaps the Magi, Healer, Suffi, Shaman would be more appreciative. Able to show more understanding towards the ‘psychotic’ the ‘schizophrenic’ or the personality disordered. Perhaps there is more to be perceived of our reality.

6 Weeks: Get Ready for 2020

More
My Ikigai is wanting to support the many to be well whatever that may mean. These blogs and links, tweets, linkedIn posts, Instagram shares, Pinterest pictures, Facebook posts are to support the many heal. My 6 week course for Black Man is soon to begin at the Wellness Hub in Lee Lewisham England. A 6 week online course for the same target group is currently in production too.  

It’s Time

Resources
2 Black Guys with Good Credit Don’t Hate, Negotiate
Oprah Winfrey and Malcolm Gladwell Super Soul Sunday
The Dope Black Podcast
Code Switch Our Homeland Raising Kings
The Nod Fearing the Black Body

Men of the Diaspora: It’s Time

On 13th of November 2019 a colleague and I will begin a group therapy experience for Black Men. The group will be run as an introduction to therapy and group psychotherapeutic support.

Inspire Them
The idea came from a former client who is featured in a testimonial. He was a client who in the span of 2 short seasons of work transformed his outlook on life. He mentioned the idea last year (2018). An introduction to therapy for Black Men or Men of the African Diaspora crystallized. In April 2019 when I went to The Man Talk in Brixton, I was moved to begin something that men who perceive of talking therapy as not for them – could be introduced to the idea of therapeutic support.

Sharing Vulnerability
At The Man Talk, seeing a group of men talking about issues they have lived through including: suicide, prison, depression, bereavement, life plans overturned and offering support to others, was amazing. The event brought the need for specialised low cost support to me in an impactful way. So impactful that I wanted to start something too.

Authority
Working with case discussion groups and process groups at Universities across London beginning at University of Greenwich (Sept 2015), presenting at UEL to students on their psychology programmes I paid attention to the amazing power of group work.

Unkown Knowns
I use the word power with intention as I feel there is an unknown element that affects working with groups. The bereavement group I currently support at one of the prisons I work at in Kent, is a perfect example of the wonder and amazing effect group work has on individuals and the group overall.
The group becomes it’s own entity. Factors from outside the group space interact with members and push and pull what is shared in directions that are unknowable.

Summer Captured in Fall Colours

Wellness
Reading the work of Irvin Yalom and his experiences of group work especially in Loves Executioner offer the reader a clear understanding of what group therapy does.

Call To Act
If interested to know more about the group please contact either myself or Sheila Samuels who will be co-counselling the space with me. The group begins on the 13th of November 2019 at the Wellness Hub, 7 Burnt Ash Hill London. SE12 0AA

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

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