a Resource for Clients & Therapists
2019 Tidbits & to-Do's - morsels to spark curiosity
This portion of the model will be broken down over a few weeks, in order to provide an opportunity for each aspect to be explored. We will continue with awareness of the experiences in our work, will progress through a few different exercises each week, and then summarize this phase of the model.
In Phase 2 of A-E-I framework (the "E"), we begin to explore the inner workings of the therapist, who he/she is, his/her story, and experiences as a therapist and human being. We delve more deeply into the model of self of the therapist, how we see ourselves, in the context of our work. Additionally, the intention is to learn what to do with these places when we get triggered or stuck, as well as how to better utilize these aspects of our story to benefit the work. The icing on the cake is that the therapist may just very well receive healing they need around some very old wounds, which is just such a wonderful bonus!
Exploring your self in the context of your work is a challenging experience. I encourage you to team up with a colleague buddy, or seek out individual consultation as you begin this exploration.
Elements of Phase 2 include:
Initial questions to explore:
A few of the core areas that therapists have expressed a personal/professional challenge in being a therapist include:
Yes, we are human, too!
Reading Reflection: explore above questions in your personal journal, with a buddy, consultant, or feel free to comment here.
Next Up: Phase 2 ~ Expression of Self ~ Safe Places to Express Yourself
Before moving on to Phase 2, let's check-in on a few key questions for the first phase.
What is emerging for you as you consider your emotions, thoughts and behaviors as a therapist?
Considering a case that you are challenged by, what are your key moves? What is your go-to for dealing with the tough spots?
When reflecting on your experiences as a therapist, also consider what these might be like:
* sitting with a highly anxious person
* sitting with a very angry person
* experiencing contained fury in a withdrawn client
* working with a withdrawn, shut down individual
* a client being angry at YOU
Some of the greatest benefits of Self of Therapist work is to better know yourself in the process of being a therapist, addressing items that might be unresolved in your own story, and then learning how the knowledge and new experience around your own issues can actually benefit you, as opposed to simply blocking you, in the process.
As I consider the evolution I have been through in becoming a therapist, what I have grown to appreciate most of all is how deeply I experience the energy of emotions. I believe the term for this type of individual is "Empath". My body experiences the energy in a very deep, felt way. As I work with other therapists, I am finding more and more of us have this somatic experience in our work. I believe this can be both powerfully helpful, and powerfully exhausting and debilitating for a therapist.
Self-care is such an important part of being a therapist. Please consider, how do you take care of yourself in your work, and your life? How do you rejuvenate and replenish? My self-care go-tos come in many forms: exercise, reading, writing poetry, hanging out with my sons watching GOT, just to name a few.
Next Up ~ I am heading out of town to a conference the week of September 25, therefore, the next posting, Phase 2 ~ Exploration and Expression, will be introduced the following week, the week of October 2. Please enjoy this time to reflect on the initial phase of this process!
Once the therapist has gotten a sense of his/her side of the relationship, the therapist can explore the interaction and interdependence with the client. Oftentimes, what’s happening in the client may be the catalyst for exploring the therapist’s side. Regardless of where it begins, just like with our clients, we can track a pattern of interaction.
Questions to explore – interdependence:
These questions take last week’s inquiry and look at the interdependent cycling back. When B is impacted and reacts, how it will then impact A.
To better illustrate this, let me tell you about a case I had a number of years ago where I was in a fascinating dynamic with the couple, specifically with the male partner. I presented this case at my 2013 presentation. The videotape of the session showed this cycling full-on. I will try to do it justice verbally.
Sam and Sally, young 30-somethings, were making headway in treatment. Sally was sharing an important fear that she experiences. While she was trying to express this, Sam kept interrupting her. Initially, I asked Sam to pause and wait her out. He would pause for a moment, and then a few minutes later would attempt to interrupt Sally again. I continued to ask him to give her space to explore; however, he continued to pause and then interrupt. The more I asked him to pause, the more frustrated he became. The more frustrated he became and interrupted her, the more I became frustrated and asked him to pause. Eventually he was so frustrated, he stood up and began pacing the room.
Using the above exercise, I felt frustrated (feeling) with the client, I started thinking “he isn’t listening to her, or me (thoughts), and I kept interrupting him (action) to get him to stop interrupting her.
As he was interrupted, he probably felt dismissed and frustrated (feelings) with me, may have started thinking that I don’t care or his thoughts/needs don’t matter (thoughts), and he kept interrupting, and eventually began pacing (action).
The more he interrupted, the more I paused him. The more I paused him, the more he interrupted. And so on, and so on. The more and more this happened, the more out of attunement we became, getting further from each other’s understanding.
In a future post, I will explain what this was all about for me and for him. For the moment, just notice the interdependence and pattern.
Reading Reflection: Consider your cases and explore possible interdependent patterns. Map out the pattern in your journal; share any relevant experiences you notice. I welcome questions for clarity at all times.
Next Up ~ Phase 2 - Exploration and Expression of Self
In Phase 1 of the A-E-I Framework, the emphasis is on creating awareness and insight regarding the therapist’s experience in the treatment process, including his/her experience of the client, the treatment, and the outcomes of treatment. Additionally, the therapist’s successes and struggles in work are explored, leaning into the positive affect and resourcing, as well as the blocks and challenges the therapist experiences.
Many different resources can be utilized to increase awareness for the therapist, such as an Attachment Style Questionnaire, or producing an Attachment Style Genogram of the therapist’s family of origin (focusing on the attachment strategies of members and how the therapist’s own attachment strategies were developed). Additionally, exploration is made with attention to identifying thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the therapist. A therapist will be exploring his/ her personal action tendencies as they pertain to moments during the treatment process and clarifying a normative behavior along the four quadrants of attachment (secure, insecure-anxious, insecure-avoidant, insecure-disorganized). For more information on attachment theory, google John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth.
As the attachment style is uncovered as it presents in the work, the therapist can explore unmet attachment needs, as well as connections to the therapist’s own story, including values, moral compass, religious ideation, political beliefs, etc. (moving into phase 2).
Summary of key components:
For consideration, these elements are kept in mind throughout this process:
Reading Reflection: Consider the following questions ~ Awareness of Self. Note in your personal journal. Please share in Comments to the degree you are comfortable.
Next Up: Awareness and Acceptance of Self ~ Post #2 of 2 – Interdependence, Case Example
Resourcing the Heart and Soul of the Therapist: The A-E-I Framework for Self of Therapist Exploration ~ An Overview
The therapeutic relationship has often been considered a very important part of the treatment process. Leading experts such as Salvador Minuchin, Virginia Satir, Carl Whitaker, Daniel Siegel, and Harry Aponte, presented and utilized important facets of use of self and mindfulness of the therapist. Alliance and therapist utilizing him/herself in the process, along with theoretical principles and sound interventions, integrate to provide optimal treatment outcome. These concepts are often referred to as Self of the Therapist, Use of Self of Therapist, and Person of the Therapist.
Oftentimes in the treatment process as we access our client’s experiences and emotions, our own humanness comes online, which can be challenging to understand and navigate, as well as greatly beneficial. Understanding our self in the context of our work and learning to skillfully use our self with our clients makes the therapeutic experience rich and rewarding, for both client and therapist.
“Clearly, it is through our own humanity that we can connect with, intervene, and help transform the work with our clients” (Aponte, 2009). As we open our self to our own life story walking alongside that of our clients, we learn that our own views, emotions, experiences, etc., become an important intervention in the work. As a therapist learns to better understand his/her own world, he/she learns to better utilize what Salvador Minuchin referred to as the greatest asset to treatment – the therapist (Minuchin, 2013). And in doing so, the added benefit is becoming our own resilient self!
Theoretical Framework for Self of the Therapist
Resourcing the Heart & Soul of the Therapist: The A-E-I Framework for Self of Therapist Exploration, is a three-phase process, organic in nature, allowing things to evolve in a sequence, while also recognizing that growth and change do not happen in a linear fashion. The 3 phases are:
Phase 1 – Awareness and Acceptance of Self
Phase 2 – Exploration and Expression of Self
Phase 3 – Integration of Self Back into the Work.
In this framework, Self of The Therapist definitions, concepts and misconceptions (i.e., transference/countertransference, blocks as problematic) are presented and discussed. Participants walk through a framework that includes a series of exercises progressing from awareness and understanding of our self and our attachment style/coping strategies in the context of our work, to exploring the therapist’s history and how this informs our work, to learning how our story can be utilized to great benefit for the treatment. Exercises are progressive in nature, while also being circular, as each part weaves with other aspects.
An important distinction is recognizing that while this is considered more consultation work for a therapist, it may at times feel like it is therapy. It is important to be mindful this type of consultation is done in the context of work, and may overlap family history. SOT mentoring is not traditional therapy; however, it is a therapeutic experience. Appropriate referral for deeper therapy work is always an important consideration for the therapist and consultant, and should be discussed openly and candidly throughout the process.
Reading Reflection: What thoughts and feelings are evoked as you read this segment? Please feel free to comment, or write in your private journal.
Next Up ~ Phase 1 - Awareness and Acceptance of Self - key elements, an exercise for self exploration (Part 1 of 2 blogs for phase 1)
As an intern in the Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Program at Fairfield University in Connecticut, I often felt confused, frustrated and overwhelmed in the clinical aspect of training. I would at times experience feelings with my clients that felt familiar to ones I experienced in my family of origin. As normal as this is for a therapist, it was incredibly challenging for me. My body would respond in a similar way as when I was young; I would shut down and numb out, or my brain would freeze, making it very difficult to learn how to be a good therapist.
For example, when working with a very loud and angry mother, I felt like I was in the room with my own mother and siblings during arguments; I would become quieter in sessions, much like I did as a child. In another instance, I began having nightmares associated with an individual client, activating personal trauma history I wasn’t aware of; this made it confusing to focus on the client. In another scenario, I was facing limitations in the couple’s work due to a familiar dynamic with the male; I responded in similar caretaking ways as I did with my father growing up.
Through the years, I sought out many supervisors and therapists, all very validating and helpful. I explored underlying issues and understood many connections; yet, what remained unresolved was a mechanism that allowed me to bridge the gap between my supervision and my therapy for lasting change. I continued to grow and evolve. I continued to get stuck in my work.
Eventually, it became very clear that I wanted to bridge the 2 worlds together in a more intentional way. I sought out and was finally able to connect with a supervisor who was willing to bridge these two worlds with me. Because of this work, as well as my continued therapy, trainings, and self-development pursuits, I began to make major shifts in my work that continue today. Today, I can remain more present during anger, can regroup and redirect when confusion arises (strong FOO issue), and feel confident in my ability to work with most any client who walks in the door, making sense of any thought, feeling, or behavior presented.
I began to organize and capture my experience of growing and healing through poetry and journaling early in my journey (circa 2004). I eventually organized my process into a 3-part attachment based framework for SOT exploration. In 2011, I created a workshop presentation, and finally introduced my work in 2013 at a brief seminar in NYC. I have since shared it with many therapists at EFT trainings, SOT workshops, in small groups, and individual consultation. And now, through this blog, I hope to continue to share my journey, and those of others, in an effort to help therapists reap their own benefits, through exploring themselves in the context of their work.
This framework is the result of more than 18 years of growth as a therapist, supervisee, and supervisor, case analysis with self-reflection, workshop participation and facilitation, and my supervising many growing therapists. It is based upon the combined works of attachment theory, as learned through Emotionally Focused Therapy, Harry Aponte’s Person of the Therapist Model, EMDR, Brené Brown’s shame research, and Tara Brach’s Buddhist teachings, as well as many other wonderful resources, Bible studies and learning I have encountered on my journey. Additionally, it is the culmination of over 57 years of being a human being - learning, growing, and healing.
Reading Reflection ~ Consider what your learning process has been like as a therapist and/or supervisor. Note any thoughts, feelings, memories that emerge in your private journal, or feel free to share in the comments.
Next Up ~ Resourcing the Heart & Soul of the Therapist: The A-E-I Framework for Self of Therapist Exploration ~ An Overview
I have been considering the evolution of this blog, and the many starts and stops along the way. It’s been a little frustrating, however, there are always good reasons for behaviors. Having compassion for this therapist’s self in her process has been a great learning opportunity!
After a few years of a very full schedule of work commitments and travel, I decided to lay low the past year or so. I have been enjoying summertime ~ sunny days, time with my family, managing my light work schedule, taking time for exercise. It has been, by far, one of the more peaceful summers I have experienced in many, many years.
During this time, I have been clarifying my intentions for this blog and my professional goals. Given that one of my most passionate interests is, of course, self of the therapist exploration, I wrote a few articles to publish my framework. I began wondering what I wanted to gain from publishing, and decided I would simply like to help others experience a process that I have found helpful; I would like to pay it forward.
And so, here I begin, again, with my SOT blog... and I am motivated to keep this momentum growing.
My game plan ~ I will initially share a bit of my story and how SOT became so important to me. I will then present an overview of a framework I organized during my SOT exploration, breaking down specific aspects of this framework each week.
There will be case examples, as well as exercises for readers to explore, and a final section of each blog, Reading Reflection, encouraging you to pause and consider what you have read and how you might apply the information. Questions and topics from readers will be incorporated along the way.
Time to get started.
First up ~ Historical Significance for Development of a Framework – Author’s Experience
Recently, I commented at a training that Brené Brown talks about vulnerability in a non-vulnerable way. Sorry Brené fans, but please pause for a moment and consider this. There is no judgment here, just an observation. I am not stating this as a correct or incorrect stance, and actually, it would be correct as far as the forum she is speaking. The question of how to present on vulnerability in a TEDTalk or workshop requires a certain degree of distance to the experience in order to present.
A few supervisees have asked me to elaborate on what I mean by this, and the applicability for our work as therapists.
Consider transparency and vulnerability, and what comes up? Well, they are similar, but definitely not the same. Here are the definitions from Webster's Dictionary:
Transparency - the quality that makes it possible to see through something; the quality that makes something obvious or easy to understand
Vulnerability - easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally; open to attack, harm, or damage (don't you just love this definition?)
These aren't the most applicable definitions for our purposes, so please consider my very basic versions of these concepts:
Transparency: Speaking candidly about what you think, how you feel, what you do.
Vulnerability: Openness to experiencing the full breadth of a thought, feeling, behavior, etc .
As I reflect on my statement about Brené, what I mean is that she is being transparent about her process; she is discussing what she has researched, and how she has applied it to her life. She tells parts of her story very transparently, in order to demonstrate the concept of "vulnerability". And, when doing so, she is not experiencing the depth of the experience in that moment, she is in story mode. She is not accessing the full emotional experience as she tells the story (at least not any time I have witnessed her presenting online or at her training).
And this would be appropriate for the forum. As we teach, as we provide therapy, our task with disquisitions (telling stories) is not one of being fully vulnerable, it is one of normalizing, opening more awareness, providing more clarity and understanding (Webster's definition of transparency).
So, what does this mean to a therapist?
As I was learning to be a therapist, I was often criticized about being too open about my life with my clients. My clients knew I was married, knew I had children, knew I had my own struggles in life. My clients did not, however, know the full experience of my life, nor should they. It would not be in either of our best interests to share more than necessary. This is transparency.
However, what I have learned over time, is what I will call the dance of vulnerability... sometimes dancing with transparency, sometimes dancing with vulnerability. And as my client work has evolved and strengthened, I have actually grown to be more vulnerable with my clients, and supervisees, when appropriate. My preference is to simply be myself, with healthy boundaries as to the degree I demonstrate or role model in our work.
As an example, recently with a new case, I shared with the clients that I was a wrestling mom when my sons were in high school, and really appreciated the commitment, intensity and passion of the sport. I shared in an effort to build an alliance with the male (guess what sport he participated in). This helped him begin to trust me. This was transparency.
With another client, as she shared the depth of a wound from her younger years, her story aligned with parts of my own. While telling me about her pain, she hit her shame and humiliation, and fear of judgment by me. It began to shut her down. In that moment, I shared that I knew the pain she spoke of, because I had had a similar experience in my youth. As I said this to her, my heart felt a depth of sadness that she could see in my eyes. I recall my hand covering my heart, my voice going soft, my pace slowing down. This was vulnerability, for both her and me.
With the dance of vulnerability, I like to consider the striation of transparency and vulnerability, and the concept of slicing things thinner (in EFT, an intervention to make the risk smaller).
As I share transparently, I am doing so at a level of awareness, more cognitively. I am making statements, not necessarily in an experiential way. I am story telling. I may have emotional reactions to telling my story, some showing, some not. There is some risk in sharing my story, however, the depth of emotion in sharing is kept more minimal, with less risk.
As I share more vulnerably, I am bringing into the story-telling more of my emotional experience. I am sharing some of how I am feeling about the statement; I am accessing some level of the experience in my body at the moment I am speaking. Many therapists have seen me do this with role-play demonstrations at my workshops or training events. I am showing my reaction in the moment, which is vulnerable, however, I do not go deeply into the underlying aspects of my emotional needs.
And then there is this deeper level, where I lean into my experience, allow the full emotion to come alive, and bring that feeling forward. In my Self of Therapist workshop, participants have seen me at this level, when I share the story more fully, telling the history behind the experience, and experiencing the emotions alive in that moment when sharing (tell tale sign is my voice softening or catching, and tears in my eyes).
This is what I refer to as the dance of vulnerability, or striations of vulnerability.
And so, to connect more fully to our work - I see this as similar to how we walk our clients through the EFT process. Starting with the concepts, naming and sharing them, then deepening into the emotion of it and sharing that, then deepening even further into the depths of underlying emotion, shame and experience, and sharing that. It is the difference of talking "about" our experience, from talking "from" our experience.
With my example with this woman, I did not share the details of my story, but I shared its existence in a way that she could know what was in my heart in that moment with her. Yes, it was risky for me to even do this much, however, keeping my sharing limited kept it safer for both of us. To let her know I knew exactly what she went through in the way I did was an altering moment in our work, pushing her into a new dimension of trusting me, and feeling the shame begin to heal. The experience was incredibly moving, and liberating, for both her and me.
I am not suggesting you go out and tell your clients about your story and your pain. I am simply offering to consider how you are transparent with your clients, consider the levels of striation to vulnerability, and the potential for enhancing your own sense of self in your work, and therefore in your life.
As always, I welcome your reactions, thoughts, and experiences related to my sharing! ;)
It has been some time since I blogged, mostly due to some of my own self of therapist issues playing out these past months. We could consider that I have had a number of competing attachments to contend with and my writing took a back seat. ;)
Today, I am sharing from a personal/professional place ~ my personal journey over the past number of years of becoming a therapist and supervisor, which culminated in an experience last week at a professional training.
Two years ago today my mother passed away. This is pivotal to my story, because my mother is the source of both my great strengths as a therapist and supervisor, as well as my great woundedness and insecurities as a therapist and supervisor, moreso than any other figure in my life. This is also pivotal because her death was the catalyst for me galvanizing my work in a deeper direction, which has been quite amazing to experience, while also being full of really rocky terrain.
And so, as I unravel my mixture of feelings today, I am growing in clarity of the finer points of my journey that have truly helped me to become the professional I am now. The points that have actually led me to becoming Me, which then influences my role in my work.
Ok, so the mother I had ~ she was born in Ireland into a very large family, the 10th of 12 children. She was one of the few who became educated, becoming a nurse and traveling here to the states in her early 20's. There are many tales of her travels, but a main point is that my mother was bigger than life. She was bright and colorful, with flaming deep red hair. The image I have that describes her best is of a colorful eagle with wings spread out, soaring high above in the sky, circling all around, beautiful for the eyes to behold.
And yet, she was often flying so high and fast that it would be hard for her to see anything on the ground beneath her, which is where I resided.
And now my presence ~ I am the 4th of 5 children, and I was born with a quiet and gentle nature, which is the part I got from my dad. He was a kind man, soft spoken, a caretaker by profession (pediatrician). And, I was born with a happy nature, a love of life, a love of song and dance, with music in my heart always. This I got from my mom. I am truly, out of all my siblings, the most like both of my parents ~ looking like my mother physically, loving life and comfortable in front of people (thus my love of presenting workshops), and yet a quiet, gentle presence that speaks to my dad's nature in my being.
Fast forward to how these play out in my work life. Being a therapist is my fourth profession, and I have often thought it would be my last, but I am honestly not sure of that, as I have many, many interests. Writing is a love, as well as the arts (drawing and photography), and who knows where my travels will take me ... perhaps I will travel the world, take or draw pictures, and write for a travel magazine in my retirement years!
Sorry, I digress ... back to the main points ~ some of the most frequent criticisms of me have been my gentleness, my quiet voice, my sharing from my personal heart, as well as my desire to connect through words. These criticisms originated from my mother. I did not speak until I was 2 (see my June 2015 posting for more of that story). I have been teased about being shy, and then a confusing message about talking too much when I did talk. I have been criticized for sharing more than I should with clients and colleagues, for being too transparent. The list goes on ... and on ... All of these messages have confused me, confounded me, made me angry, made me hurt.
And now, today, I am grateful to share ~ they are no longer as strong a barrier to me being me. Today, I am grateful for who God created in me, and how I can now bring all of me into my work as I assist clients and colleagues in their own healing journeys.
A Short Story of a Transition in Work Life as it Relates to My Healing
Last week, I had the pleasure of coordinating and co-leading an EFT Externship in West Hartford, CT. This was the first real forum for me to be seen visibly in Connecticut, after a number of years coordinating EFT trainings in Louisiana and Arkansas, helping those communities develop and evolve. I was now ready to settle in at my home base.
After "doing" all the coordinating and logistics, being sure the participants, trainer and facilitators were all taken care of, I had a chance to do a live consultation, working with a client case at the training, being observed by the trainees. This was my first real opportunity to work with a couple in this setting, and I was excited, nervous, and ready for this experience.
I believe the most wonderful thing of all during this training was giving myself permission to bring all of me. I shared with the group my process of growing, the natural nervousness of performing my first live, and the excitement that I had waited for some time for many things professionally. I continued to lean into my process with them, sharing transparently about how I would manage my emotions in the room with the couple. And then by the time the couple came, I was ready to go, I did what I feel was an exceptional job for my first time out, and I was embraced with cheers and accollades for the work I did when all was done. But mostly, I was acknowledged for my vulnerable process with the trainees, sharing my heart with them in an authentic and vulnerable way, and allowing them to respond to me in ways that groups of colleagues in the past have not ever done.
In one week, I carried together my role of "doing" into a space of truly "being" who I am, and I was embraced for both of them. This was an exercise of moving out of the old life into the life I was always meant to live. And in doing so, I brought all of me to this training, allowing me to be the type of role model therapist, supervisor, and leader of a new community that I have always hoped to be.
There is so much more to this story, but for today, I ask you, does it get any better than this? Embracing oneself, and being embraced and truly responded to for all of who we are.
I am just off a 2 day Self of the Therapist workshop in New Orleans, LA, with an amazing group of therapists. These are some of the most generous people I have had the privilege of being alongside as they train as EFT Therapists. The courage to open the doors of their hearts, and their experiences, learning from and with each other, is truly inspiring.
As I reflect on my own experience of these 2 days, as well as knowing many from this community since our first EFT training in March 2013, I am struck by the ever amazing power of "leaning in". How when we are instinctively drawn towards each other's pain and suffering, we make all the difference in the world to a person's healing experience... leaning in with people who are safe, loving and compassionate. Leaning in ... the source of healing the wounds and brokenness of our spirits and souls.
Leaning In ...
What do we mean by "Leaning In"? For me, it is shining a loving light of empathy and kindness on the dark corners and recesses of someone's pain, suffering and aloneness. Leaning in allows us to honor that we hurt, honor the very good reasons for the hurt, and provide the nurturing and care the pain needs in order for a person to heal into wholeness, to transform into his or her true self.
Sue Johnson, co-founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, stated in a 2014 talk for Mind-Body Green, that it isn't about survival of the fittest... it is about survival of the most nurtured. (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14364/how-to-make-love-last-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification-dr-sue-johnson.html)
Nurturing each other, and learning to nurture ourselves, is leaning in. Learning to understand the very good reasons we feel and behave the way we do, is leaning in. Giving ourselves permission for our humanness, is leaning in. And in doing so, we transform from surviving in this world, to thriving!
As I reflect on my 2 days with these amazing people, the courage to "lean in" is what I am holding onto in my heart ...
For today ... Lean In ...
Hi and welcome to my blog! I am excited to have this endeavor underway. It has been many years in the making.