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
Hi and welcome to my blog! I am excited to have this endeavor underway. It has been many years in the making.