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.

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Talking Therapy as Hip Hop

Power in Poetry

Music Therapy

My life partner CW happened to say a profound statement as we watched The Defiant Ones. She said ‘Rap is talking therapy.’ I was struck by the fundamental truth of her statement and tried not to confuse or complicate it.

Gutter Rainbows seeing the beauty in the everyday

Beauty in the everyday – Gutter Rainbows

Continuum

I wanted to write this blog as a bridge to offer a larger idea. Pulling current protagonists and icons of Hip Hop culture, and also pooling disparate experiences of music and psychology along onto a continuum. From the Podcast Code Switch, Jean and Shereen often ask ‘What song is giving you life?’ I thank them for the saying and the idea. My answer…

Analogy

To Pimp a Butterfly ends with a prophetic poem that depicts the human struggle in, Mortal Man. I grew emotional whilst listening. Possibly due to the idea shared above with thanks CW…

To: Kendrick Lamar – I witness your genius and the power in your words.

‘Damn
I wanted to read one last thing to you
It’s actually something a good friend had wrote describing my world
It says…

“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it

A Cocoon hiding potential

The Cocoon from To Pimp A Butterfly

Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak
And figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city
The caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas start to take roots
Such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations
That the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different
They are one and the same”

Metamorphasis

The beauty of the poem is the perception of a human reality seen through the changing experience of a creature that begins life in one form and earth bound and yet ends life in another and is benefitted by flight.

As analogy the three stages of growth brings to mind crime prison and freedom, infancy life and death. The analogy may arise due to the 8 years I have supported people involved with the criminal justice system in the UK.

Podcasts like Criminal, Ear Hustle, Burner Phone Podcast, books such as Are Prisons Obsolete, The Lucifer Effect, True Believer and documentaries such as the 13th, Teach Us All and Zeitgeist have increased my curiosity and want to develop solutions to the disparity between caterpillars and butterflies.Purple Butterfly

Interview List

There exists a long list of people I would love to interview on behalf of the Counsellors Cafe Magazine (TCCM)

3 Hip Hop Artists that top my list are Dr Dre, Kendrick Lamar and Logic. The former and the latter have been featured in 2 Netflix shows titled The Defiant Ones and Rapture. Both artists convey in rhyme and through living – the joy and pain of life and unparalleled successes.

Dr Dre’s experiences of betrayal loss and meteoric success has been artfully portrayed in the 4 part documentary The Defiant Ones. The hidden pain in his visage is as palpable as his iconic headphones and influence on the music scene.

Logic was an unknown for me, however his story is not only incredible and inspiring and captivating but also immediately recognisable. His idea of breaking psychological concepts down into songs that encapsulate a swathe of people across the US, clarifies his genius. The song 1-800 and the slogan EVERYBODY worn on hoodies, is about you me and everyone that we know. His message is beyond insightful. It takes us to sheer brilliance and has rightfully endeared him to millions.

Giving Life

To answer Shereen and Gene from above: a few years ago Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout was THE SONG! What the hell you talking about (IVERSON) put the feeling of the unlawful killing of African-Americans by the hands of law enforcement into a visual and auditory format that is powerful and justified. Right now the song giving me life is Robert Glasper’s Maiden Voyage/Everything in it’s right place that is giving me life.

Kendrick happens to be for me an outlier, a Nubian poet powerhouse who’s instep with the universe is perfectly poised. The poem above is from the album to Pimp a Butterfly. The aim would be for the interviews to enrich the known world with their visions, their story to support the many caterpillars encased in their cocoons to emerge…

That Thing You Seek.

Zen 1

I finally visited Zenubian on Hither Green Lane after many years living in Lee and had an experience that I had not thought I would ever encounter. Peace.

A slowly widening appreciation of a still, quiet, that seems hard to find in our busy 21st century lives.

I have been researching a counselling space, to begin working outside of my home office. I had contacted Zenubian in April to enquire about a counselling space, and was invited to see their therapy rooms. Later I had chance to look at some of the other venues that they have. Zenubian is a shop selling art, wall hangings and other intricate objects to decorate your home, your office, or a meeting venue with.

Blown Out

Have you heard of the term Burn-Out before? I believed it to be likened to a unicorn sighting, something I would not experience. I first heard the term used after becoming a learning mentor as a helping professional in 2004. The term burn-out is used as warning to those who stretch themselves beyond their limit and still attempt to bridge the gap impossible. It describes someone who has gone out like a flame on a match – leaving a used up embodiment of lost potential.

The Denial

I am not keen to say that I have burnt out, been singed – definitely. I am able to recognise that I have been doing too much. Lecturing, counselling, supervising, and working a full-time job. I have had some of these roles for over three years. I had not appreciated how physically, emotionally and mentally demanding they all are. I went from a human being to a human doing. I was unwilling to bear witness of the fact that I was pushing and pulling and stretching myself beyond my limits. I lay the denial at the feet of my illness. MS the 2011 diagnosis that continues to offer a number of distasteful morsels in haphazard and uncoordinated fashion. I have been unwilling to admit defeat or disability and have attempted to be an Uberman.

End Game

After watching the beautiful and heart wrenching film End Game a thought struck me. The thought arrived as a Dr who had lost both of his legs (below the knee) and an arm (above the elbow) after an accident said something for me that was life changing and life affirming. B. J. Miller MD “When I stopped comparing my new body to my old body… .”

In essence the who I became after the diagnosis was attempting to replace the who I thought I should be now. I have been chasing after him ever since – an illusion.

Energy

Walking into the communal space at Zenubian was strangely familiar, almost like walking around Georgetown Guyana in 2004 (a family reunion), or visiting Harlem in 1995 and hearing Dick Gregory speak, laughing along with men and women that looked like me at the community centre there, or attending BAATNs conferences and most recently watching the Black Panther movie.

The communal space at Zenubian was for me like a celebration, a collection a concentration of energy. The space had wooden floors, brick walls displaying wonderful art, a ceiling. However the vibe of the space offered something unique to me. The space offered peace, it settled me like not many other experiences have recently, that thing that I did not know I was looking for.

As an aside I have been working with a supervisor for 4 years, and he has been my largest supporter of my blending psychoanalysis, psychosynthesis and sensate experiences. As a result of his tutelage and generous supervision skills I have engaged with knowledge that is embodied, that has supported learning about life as both construct and illusion. Trusting more an innate awareness.

Peace is

I have struggled with the idea of peace for a long time. Some suggest that we must fight to attain peace. That it is the human condition to struggle and wrestle with ourselves and others. It appears that even inside oneself we are not at peace. The battles, the wars, the conflict that we encounter on a daily basis between ideas of right and wrong, the ideas of good and bad, even uncomfortable truths to a number of our human experiences have us not at peace.

Zen 2Walking in to the communal space at Zenubian was like a revelation. It was the thing that I had not sought. Chris Voss would class this the Black Swan of a negotiation. I had not recognised I had been negotiating with myself for as long as seven years!

For me the communal space at Zenubian was a place I could allow my spirit release – that felt peaceful, relaxing, comforting, and unusual – as it is for me so precious an experience. I get it now B. J.

There are moments in meditation when a sense of peace arises – where everything is as it ought to be. These moments are rare and yet what happens after the many hours, days, months and years of practice feels justified like repayment for the effort.

We arrive there. We come to, a place – at rest.

Home.

Do or Do Not

Impossible-Possible

Procrastination

I have been walking and talking with a client for 6 months and one of their main concerns is with procrastination. As modern human beings especially now with a large swathe of things to distract us (TV, Newspapers, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Pinterest, Messenger, Google Play, Netflix, Podcasts, Sport, TV on the Go, TV Now, LinkedIn plus countless more) and interrupt us, procrastination often arises as a theme within my counselling work.

As the client presented a number of different scenario’s that had them procrastinating – out of the blue I recalled a saying I had not heard in many years. ‘Do or do not do there is no try.’ The saying from Yoda made us both laugh and it could have been – the light Spring air and fresh budding trees in the park, but I was slightly taken aback by this uncanny recall and wisdom from a film I had watched many years ago.

Innate Wisdom

Many before me have stated that walking and talking in open air environments invigorates the senses and mind in ways that supports new neurological connections and psychological associations to form. I can remember the corner of the park we were walking through and the slight buzz when the important sensate reckoning was about to burst forth – “Do or Do Not Do…”

There was something about the discussion with this client which reminded me of conversations I have had with other clients, students, colleagues family members and friends about the concept of doing or not. I recognise dilemma and fear and the encounters that invite either failure loss and psychological pain of defeat. When trying we are making an attempt. I have clumsily described trying to pick something up with another walk and talk client. In essence the stick that I attempted to pick up remained lodged on the grass. The client saw what I was attempting to illustrate laughed and we walked on. Trying is an attempt to get something achieved. Doing is completing the task.

Two Choices

Perhaps there is chance to see that there are two choices that one can make whilst procrastination strikes, “do or not do” Yoda has said. The client who suggested that their procrastination was affecting their ability to get a certain task completed has choice. They debated about their effectiveness that was being prolonged and deflated as a result of the procrastination, it was also running their energy store to zero. We discussed a number of strategies that could be employed to support decision making and thought about timelines to support tasks being completed. By the end of the appointment an idea of progression had begun to form as well as the Yoda saying ‘Do or Do Not, there is no Try…’

Purposeful Procrastination

Rory Vaden has a book titled Procrastinate on Purpose that I am to read soon, as I would like to make better use of time to procrastinate with. Another concept I am getting used to is the idea of the Leaky Brain by Jeff Goins he of the ‘Real Artists Don’t Starve’ book.

Perhaps there is something more to being caught in thoughtful dilemmas.

https://youtu.be/BQ4yd2W50No

Is Counselling a Good Thing?

Argentine Tango

If it leads to dance… Possibly

‘As Counsellors and Mental Health professionals our role could be seen as Judge Jury and Executioner I shared with a group of Introduction to Counselling students at University of Greenwich in March’

The idea came as an afterthought to a slide which shared the below idea…

Psy-professional dominance

“…the psychiatrist, along with his psychiatrically orientated satellites, has now usurped the place once occupied by the social reformer and the administrator, if not indeed the judge…”

(Wotton,1959.pp.17)

Judge

The idea that we do not judge our clients for their actions, thoughts and circumstances of their lives is mostly I believe true. However as therapists we do make assessments and with that comes some degree of judgement.

How willing are we as therapists to engage with clients and the narratives they share of their lives’? By proxy we are judging! For me the idea is an uncomfortable reality, however it undoubtedly appears as a truism. The wise, and flexible in thought Irvin Yalom in his book ‘Loves Executioner’ shared views about 10 clients he worked with. Wherein lies sometimes excruciatingly honest judgement from him about clients. For example: Penny in the chapter The Wrong One Died was so affected by her past that elements of it were forgotten. Penny’s story stood out for me primarily because her ascent was incredible.

I did however make judgements, about her realisations and towards the end of her story the surprise was tear provoking, moving and surprising as she began to accept what therapy has been able to deliver. A truth well hidden (suppressed) – once seen (recognised) and the pain associated with it had chance to be released the experience offered Penny chance to grow!

As therapists we hold a non-judgemental line with our clients, that attempts to not judge choices of clients but circumstances that they are found within. To this end we judge vicariously choices made and the set of circumstances clients find themselves in. Penny is a great example of judgement by proxy.

The Jury

As Jury we sit, stand, walk and run with clients for hours, inviting them to make more informed choices about themselves. The deliberations seem never ending, the 2nd guessing, the moving ever backward, sideways, and forward before the breakthrough and release. We as therapists prepare the case, a case, our case, formulate the reasoning behind the whys of what lead circumstances to be as the client finds themselves embroiled within, and prepare, re prepare, and wait and hold and offer possible other ways of seeing a set of circumstances.

What we wait for is the lights to come on and the internal glow of re-framing, reclaiming and enlightenment. As an integrative therapist, these moments are worth the wait and the clients patience, as a testament to their resilience and outward growth. They are hard fought for – similarly in the jury’s quarters where arguments ensue, the fight and wrestle for a client is an internal and elemental battle. As therapists we enjoy the battle and the multiple defeats as I view that just further along, the small reprieves and then the striking of gold await. Leaving the jury’s quarters with a verdict whilst hard won, are so so precious.

The Final Act

Executioners execute and we do, for we let die old ideas a client holds of themselves, relationships, careers, family, money, their pasts, identity, food, love, self-esteem, weight, culture, age, sex, and country. We cease the battle once the client begins a journey anew – renewed.

Faith in self – restored, assuages the pain of growth. I have been fortunate enough to witness the act of resilience many times. This is the therapists chalice. This be the raison d’etre of why we do what we do. We resolve something with each struggle, every fight, every loss and every victory. As long as we remain true of ourselves, (congruent) to the work, to the process and to the client – we as a team ultimately win.

A brief tale of The Argentine Tangoist. I had a client a few years ago that I enjoyed working with. They were a trained psychotherapist and could share with me the approaches I was using to support them as we worked. I viewed the work like a daring dance! The dance was like none other that I had been involved with before. It was quick and slow and brief and intricate. I was lost to the spin at times as were they. The work with the Tangoist lasted just over 10 sessions and then as quickly as the work started it ended. Poof! Just like that over. It was chess of the highest order (I am a beginner) and I lost and won and was amazed by their skill. The sense of growth and loss has become a new narrative of mine. One that I have a grapefruit sensation – lingering. As executioner we too can be opened up to the unknown. Here too lies learning…

I have clients where the battle has raged for a while and then peace bursts forth once a realisation or a truth is found. Undeniably the light is perceived by the client – growing from obscurity to clarity and thus, battle weary but ready, strike new ground with renewed faith in their victory. After many years of searching as an artist, poet, basketball coach, youth worker, learning mentor: Counselling and Psychology found and claimed me.

There is something about this work I love – for it blends art with science and the unknown.

Callus on my Soul

Taking Control of MS

Callus on my Soul

The Comedian Dick Gregory

Last Month (May 2016) I received an excited WhatsApp message from a friend who lives and Works in Malaysia – TK.

The message was about an article discussing a revolutionary concept of reducing calorie intake to stop the progress of Multiple Sclerosis in mice. A day later I received another message from my sister EH with the same link to the article.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/05/28/multiple-sclerosis-could-be-reversed-with-calorie-restricted-die/

A Challenge

I read the article which highlighted that mice that had a similar auto immune illness to Multiple Sclerosis were placed on calorie controlled diets and after a number of months showed improvements with their immune systems. In my estimations a challenge had been offered and I willingly accepted: Could I reduce the amount of calories consumed through my week?

The article suggested that the control group of mice that had their meals reduced showed marked improvement. From the article:

‘Results showed that the fasting-mimicking diet reduced disease symptoms in all the mice and cured 20 per cent completely.’

‘They also saw a reduction in the inflammation-causing cytokines – proteins that order other cells to repair sites of trauma, infection or other pain.’

‘And they found that white blood “T cells,” responsible for immunity were boosted.’ Sarah Knapton

2 worthy choices

Since June 2011 I have lived with the knowledge that I have a disease that could get worse limiting my movement and overall ability to perform regular tasks. On receiving the diagnosis I decided two things.

  1. Regardless of the diagnosis I was going to live as well as I could
  1. If I found a way to slow or stop MS from worsening I would in the least do whatever was necessary to limit the effect of the relapsing remitting strain of Multiple Sclerosis I have.

Can MS be Managed With Diet?

I was introduced to a book titled Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally in December 2011. The idea that foods could be involved with managing my autoimmune response was a new and challenging one. The aim would be to assist the T cells that attacked my nerve cells and myelin membrane around my nerves to recognise the difference between foreign bodies and my cells.

The Paleo diet and other MS diets were tested. The longest time I stayed with these diets were for 6 months. I stopped the diets for a few reasons.

1  I felt terrible,

2  I witnessed no upside to the strict diet of no bread, no cheese, little – no red meats, no legumes or modern pulses, certain fruits were also off the menu and I lost a considerable amount of weight.

3  As a slim person, the thought of losing even more weight and being called Skeletor by one of my sisters CF, was enough to halt this experiment.

Experimentation With Diet – Cut

I had tried and failed to heal myself with diet. December 2012 – May 2013 was a useful length of time to try something new out. What I found funny was how fastidious a new diet enabled me to become. I often had friends ask if I could or would eat this or that food. In all honesty I had become a pain. Which was a problem for me. Being obtuse and by being awkward about what I was and was not eating I saw as not a good cause for friend’s and family’s discomfort. This dieting nonsense was not what I had signed up for. I brought the experiment to an end and ate what I wanted to, the disease progressed as it would have done had I not interrupted it’s ruining affect with the annoying diet.

Multiple Annoyances

My experience of the illness is mainly challenged by fatigue, brain fog, spasms in my legs and back, weaknesses in my hands and forearms, dizziness on standing and changing my heads direction when walking, stairs have become my nemesis. Tripping stumbling and falling have become a pre-occupation and a daily experience.

TV – Dashed Hopes

Earlier this year a TV show highlighted that if an MS sufferers immune system was rebooted there was a large chance their symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis could be halted or even reversed. The treatment costed the NHS between £25-£30,000 and is currently on an experimental basis for those that screen in to the study. If I had been asked, I would have jumped at the chance to be involved with the experimental procedure to live with a reduced or no continuing symptoms of the disease.

Another Way???

However, the reduced calorie diet was immediately accessible and I thought I could at least give it a try. On Monday’s Wednesday’s and Friday’s I do not eat until 12:00 pm. Effectively not breaking my fast for between 14-18 hours 3 days a week. Just like those mice! A few years ago I read ‘Callus on My Soul’ by Dick Gregory. (Picture Insert, above) The book, a Christmas Present – from Ananta (cousin), observed Dick Gregory’s life. The book inspired me to think differently about food consumption, protest and activism. Mr Gregory wrote about engaging in hunger strikes for various humanitarian causes. The book was like a wake up call for me. I was fortunate enough to see Mr Gregory speak at a community centre in Harlem in 2000. As a comedian he had the room in uproarious laughter.

I chose to engage on my first fast during the time of Ramadan in the winter of 2001. I successfully observed the 28/29 days of Ramadan and gained a new level of respect for those who are able to successfully give up various comforts for a higher ideal for a specific period of time. For the next 3 years I observed Ramadan and did not eat or drink during the fasting period. I gained strength from the knowledge that others all over the globe were also fasting.

What If?

I am to observe a 6 month fast to relieve the experience of Multiple Sclerosis. If it works and reduces the inflammation, brain fog, tripping and falling, spasms, and dizziness then the effort will be a worthy venture. If the experiment causes nothing more than a slightly better way of appreciating food and overall health then that will be an outcome I also can acknowledge as being a beneficial one.

As I enter my 6th week of the experiment I have noticed a few things that are not like the Paleo diet. I haven’t lost as much weight, I am continuing to eat what I want,  chocolate, bread, red meats, cheese, nuts, fruits, and everything that I would have eaten pre 2011 are joyfully consumed.

Noticing my energy levels remain high, especially during the fasting periods, and do not have me look for a pillow a quiet and dark place to catch a nap in – have been wonderful. The brain fog that had besieged me since before the diagnosis in 2011 has dissipated. It feels like I can think, and create at a high functional level. Before, it felt like I had to pull my thoughts through thick treacle to get any degree of coherence together and then be spoken.

I have noticed that I am tripping and falling less. The dizziness/vertigo and occasional spasming remains but I feel more hopeful about the illness and how I am tackling Multiple Sclerosis. My aim is to again complete 6 months of a calorie controlled diet and note the effects on my experience of Multiple Sclerosis during this period and into the New Year.

Whatever the outcome, I recognise that change is a sought after part of the experience, and I look forward to whatever that may be…

Wishing you well.

Waking up into a thought can be a refreshing experience. Recently my thoughts ran onto members of the  Experiential Group I had facilitated for 22 weeks. My thought was simply this: I wished them all well. I also wanted to thank all of the group members.

I have described in an earlier blog what the function the experiential group had and what my role was. What I have not given is a facilitators perspective on how the groups development was and why I wish the members that attended well.

1st Meeting September 2015

The first meeting of the group was interesting. They came into a room that was ill prepared for any therapeutic endeavour. Chairs and tables were hurriedly arranged in a heap towards the back of the room. I entered the room and found a seat and sat towards the front of the room. Members of the experiential group came in after me and found a chair and placed it in a loose formed elliptical shape and then took to their seats. Other members were already in the room and either stayed in their seats or chose the lesson change over time to stretch their legs and take time to wander into the corridor and chat with other students. They would return in time for the beginning of the next lesson and again take their seats.

Sitting at the ‘front’ of the group became my habit for at least 5 of the first meetings. I would later change my position in the room which caused slight ripples of discomfort amongst the group. Comments included “why has Michael changed where he used to sit?” Not providing an answer and allowing the group to give reason for the slight change presented them with a new reality of me their facilitator.

Changing something small

Being a mischievous person altering my seating position in the room and not sharing as to why I had moved from the front of the class to the side or sometimes the back of the room gave the students an opportunity to appreciate change within the therapeutic space. Initially I moved as I wanted to test the group. Would moving to the left or right of the front of the room change the dynamics of the room?

The change represented difference and I feel that a number of conversations occurred in relation to the subtlety of my movement. The group responded by discussing differences of opinion about the course, each other, perspectives on race, religion, sex, counselling, spirituality, profession, age, family, the why of this career as opposed to any other. Identities for the group became a little more defined, roles the members played changed from week to week: the information bearer, joker, quiet one, challenger, agreer, arguer, dismisser, lecturer enthusiast, social commentator, pessimist, optimist and realist changed from week to week. Which offered the group a chance to simultaneously grow individually and together.

Time and Timings

There were a number of boundaries that were initially presented as trigger points which the group  agreed on or raged against. The clock on the wall in the space we used was roughly 3 minutes faster than real time (my watch). By the 3rd week I had identified that my start and stop times were out of sync with the clock on the wall and members of the group were agitated by this discrepancy.

I chose to raise the timing of the start and end time with the group to gain perspective on whether clock time or watch time would be best to use for the timing of the experiential group hour. On reflection the group decided that they would like to use the clock on the wall to time the beginning and the end of each experiential group.

By the 4th week the timing of the start had slid to coincide with my ‘watch time’ and so I naturally chose to adjust the timing of the experiential group to allow for a later start. Challenge to the timing of the Experiential Group became a frequent issue in the 1st few weeks of the group being run. No sooner had I either raised my hand or indicated that our time together had come to an end, students were making their way to the door. I found it curious. It was like something had gone wrong with the work. Their exit provided them with an abrupt end to a difficult experience. At times this may well have been the case.

Challenge

Describing the purpose of the experiential group was something I had not spent a lot of time reviewing before the group started. In short I said to the 11 members how I perceived the space could be used and said ‘Welcome to your first experiential group. How has your first day been?’ I was promptly informed that the group had started the course a week ago and that this was infact their 2nd week.

Ah, the facilitator gets it wrong! But can he regroup? Internalised thought

I then said something about the idea of safety and that I wanted to provide a safe environment in which all students could share things in the room and be heard. The other idea that was put across to the room was that they needed to be authentic as their professional logs would be marked on reflection of what they had shared in the room.

Challenges came from the group in terms of not fully understanding the purpose of experiential group, or what my role as facilitator was, and questioning if the material that was discussed would disrupt the fragile new alliances that were being formed amongst the group. I took up the gauntlet and attempted to manage the groups development as I had with other groups I had supported previously, which included the Skype group of counsellors that I met with every month and the various basketball teams I had coached.

Experiential Group as a Catalyst

If a person could take a picture of themselves before joining a group experience and then another at a mid-point of a course and then another picture near the end of the course they may well be able to perceive subtle changes about themselves.

Things like their stance whilst sitting or standing, as they talked and expressed ideas to a group of peers. When being challenged by another on a point, they would not try to slink away and hide nor become defensive but seek an empathic understanding of why the question or challenge came when it did.

The picture of themselves in the last experiential group would present them with their growth. By journeying with peers, subtle and significant changes will have occurred. For me as a facilitator all students appeared to have hewn from the granite of the course an identity of who they were and where their counselling journey was to lead them to next.

Good bye and Thanks

I have mentioned in a previous blog that saying goodbye to this first group of counselling students was bittersweet. We were able to develop a closing experience of the group that seemed to resonate with all members that attended.

At one point my voice cracked as I shared that I was going to give up ‘Fear’ and what I was going to take was ‘All 11 of you’. The closing of the group had been mentioned as an idea roughly 9 weeks prior. It was similar to the ending of the Roda when I attended Capoeira with the London School of Capoeira 1999-2001. A completing of a good dance with fellow capoeiristas.

I considered all I had worked with, as a facilitator of this years Experiential Group, ready to move on to the next stage of their journey, capable of fulfilling their roles as mental health practitioners/counsellors/psychotherapists/students.

My thanks are largely due as a result of the group’s patience, resilience, trust and belief that I could facilitate the room and support the group to hold each other and the issues discussed with sensitivity warmth and compassion.

What a ride! I look forward to my next group of students, going again and supporting learning and development.

I wish you well.