New Beginnings

plantIn my preparation for coming ‘back to work’ I glanced through old comments and notifications and found a comment left in 2008 “How do I know I am with the right therapist”? I don’t know how I answered back then, but today I thought “What an interesting question”. How do therapists/counsellors know that they are right for a particular client, and how do clients know that they are with the right therapist?

Often both clients and therapists fall prey to the assumption that therapy is the only path to recovery and/or that therapy with a particular therapist is the only path to healing. This is a dangerous assumption. Let’s not forget, the client is doing the healing, not the therapist. The capacity of the seed to become a fully grown, healthy plant is within he plant, not with he gardener. He or she is only providing an environment in which that growth can accelerate. When the seed is not growing the gardener has failed to provide the appropriate environment.

Unfortunately there are plenty of therapy models that base the lack of progress in therapy on shortcoming in the client: s/he is either in denial, avoidant, hostile, has a negative transference, is lacking trust, or (my favorite one) NOT READY. And although that might all be present in the client, it is the therapist’s job to provide the right environment for that to be addressed. That’s the therapy. If clients wouldn’t have these negative symptoms, they wouldn’t need a therapist.

It might be useful to revisit what a therapeutic alliance is. Judith Herman writes in her book trauma and recovery p.134 and 147

the relationship between survivor and therapist is one relationship among many. It is by no means the only or even the best relationship in which recovery is fostered…Though the therapeutic alliance partakes of the customs of everyday contractual negotiations, it is not a simple business arrangement. And though it evokes all the passions of human attachment, it is not a love affair or a parent-child relationship. It is a relationship of existential engagement, in which both partners commit themselves to the task of recovery.

I read that interpretation and think of compassion, care, respect, understanding, and appreciation. If we (therapists and clients) can make that happen as best as we can and as often as possible, we are having a good thing going and growth can take place.

Coming back to the above question of how to know that you are with the right therapist my response is: when you are starting to feel better, think better, and function better. I personally don’t believe in the old saying “…it has to get worse before it can get better”. I think that is a tragic ‘invention’ of a pessimist who got hold of the fact that many people have to hit rock bottom before they act against their habitual beliefs. But it is by no means a law of nature. Things can actually get better starting NOW.

So, how do therapists/counsellors know that they are right for a particular client, and how do clients know that they are with the right therapist? I would love to hear your thoughts on that 🙂

A New Model Of Change

Many people want to make changes in their lives. It is obviously something very close to our heart because millions of people are making it their business to help others change: consultants, coaches, trainers, advisers, and therapists, to name just a few. Change can have many faces, but no matter what change people aim for, it’s always a difficult process – at least that is the commonly accepted view-point..

All throughout my life I have worked and been with many men and women who were desperate to change. They hated almost everything about themselves: the way they felt, the way they looked, their health, their behaviours, their thoughts, the way people treated them … the list could go on and on.

More often than not these people just couldn’t see what I saw: That they were nice, kind, caring people. The only thing that stood in their way of seeing what I saw, was their negative way of thinking about themselves.Years of habitual negative, critical thoughts about themselves and their behaviours. Most likely influenced by childhood experiences but nonetheless carried forward in life – indeed kept alive – by their own mental processes of thinking these negative thoughts over and over again.

The ‘traditional’ way of dealing with these situations is either to help a person to change the content of their thoughts or by exploring in-depth how childhood experiences have planted the seeds in the person’s head. Both approaches are fairly time-consuming and not that successful – I know that because I have been trained in traditional psychotherapy and worked for years according to these theories. If these theories were so effective, shouldn’t we have a planet full of blissfully happy inhabitants by now given the army of ‘change workers’ each day?

No matter how often I demonstrated to clients – with evidence – that they are likeable, good people with a good working brain and a good working heart, they never immediately slapped their forehead and said “Of course, you are right, thank you for helping me see it”. It often took year(s) for that shift to happen. These negative self-thoughts were like kikuyu grass refusing to be eradicated.The traditional way of change appears to be more like ‘the tail wagging the dog’.

Let me propose a new model of change. Who says that change is hard work? Aren’t there plenty of examples of people having an insight, or at the snap of the finger making a fundamental change in their lives? Human beings are so incredibly adaptable that they will move towards their innate health and well-being when they are shown how to leave their thoughts ‘alone’.

Thoughts, of course, are just thoughts. Positive thoughts, negative thoughts, judgemental thoughts, critical thoughts are just thoughts. They are not real, they are just some arbitrary thoughts a person has about what they think is real. Thoughts about something or someone are just like a street map people have about the city they live in. Useful to help navigate your way around, but nonetheless a map of Auckland is not Auckland. It’s not the real thing.

A new model of change involves taking a leaf out of Eastern philosophical traditions and learning to take one’s thoughts and perceptions not so seriously. They are just thoughts, nothing more. Where the trouble begins is that thoughts (we have between 50 and 100 thousand conscious and unconscious thoughts each day) lead to feelings and the stronger the feelings are, people feel compelled to take them very serious and act on them.

A new model of change involves showing people that they have easy access to their wisdom when they take their upsetting thoughts and thus their upsetting feelings less serious. When they are in a calm, quiet mind, they have access to their wisdom, creativity, and good ideas to help them deal with any problems at hand.

I have seen this change only take a split second. Change truly can be only one thought away!

If you curious about this model of change, contact me so that we can make a time to talk!

Messages From The Past

Messages from the past are a bit of a mixed bag, aren’t they? Remember the movie ‘The Goonies’, where kids are finding an old treasure map in the attic and get quite excited about the possibility of helping their parents out financially, ending up – after overcoming dangerous booby traps – finding an old pirate ship full of jewels and gold?  Happy ending, but a nail-biter in between. I suppose, one could say the message was a positive one, given that it evoked excitement and hope.

Other messages from the past are not so positive. Most people who read this blog have had a history of abuse and neglect. They struggle with old messages either given through hurtful words and actions or through neglect, the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. In short these messages can be summed up as ‘you are not worthy of care, love, and protection. One can easily see that the later messages are negative ones given they can be emotionally crippling and causing symptoms (low/no self-confidence, lack of self-care, lack of emotion regulation skills) some people label as ‘mental illness’.

Most survivors, if I would be able to take them onto a journey into the past whereby we could visit a fellow survivor in her childhood and observe a situation when they are being hurt, would say without hesitation that the fellow survivor does not deserve to be hurt, it’s not her fault, there was nothing she did wrong. Indeed they would immediately see that the parent and/or abuser were accountable of their acts no matter what excuses they would utter.

How come that people carry these message for years and years in their hearts? Partially because there are strong painful emotions accompanying abuse and emotions act like glue, they make memories stick! Another reason is that abuse happens mostly in childhood when the kid’s cognitive development is mainly shaped by egocentrism causing her to believe that she ‘made’ it happen.

Looking back as adults, we can see easily the fault in such thinking. How then are we to understand survivors tendency to nurture these old negative messages from the past? Especially given that often the message sender was ‘out of his/her mind’? Given that what a person says or does has all to do with that person and with nobody else. Given that a statement such as “you are …. xyz” can’t possibly be true and accurate given that whatever a person perceives is filtered through his/her own history, filters, biases and subject to distortion, deletion, and generalisations.

I hope that survivors give some attention to the function of thought in human’s experience of creating reality and scrutinize their own thoughts about themselves. Thinking “I am not OK” or anything negative about themself can’t possibly be real because it does not take the whole person into consideration and completely ignores that thoughts are just thoughts. They are like a picture of a person but never the living person. A living person is more than a picture can ever convey.

I wonder what help my readers with putting their self-perceptions into perspective. If you want to know how understanding the processes of thought, mind, and consciousness can help you to have a better life, and if you want to know how to let go of a child’s perspective, follow this link and contact me.

Don’t Quit

Closed There are a number of times in a year where people get easily stressed and become vulnerable to get flooded with hurtful memories that then become hard to cope with. Christmas is such a precarious time of struggle where everything feels too hard. Some people end up thinking of quitting.

I would say ‘don’t quit’ because overcoming obstacles teach us about our selves and about the world around us. Overcoming our fears and facing obstacles also makes us resilient and strong. Overcoming obstacles that form a resistance to a planned path of action is necessary for people to grow. Physics teaches us that there is no life without resistance.

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16 Sessions Funded For Sexual Abuse Counselling

Flower in water Survivors of sexual abuse can access now 16 sessions of counselling funded by ACC when they either lodge a new claim or have lodged a claim recently and are still waiting for a decision from ACC.

This funding was made available after the independent review panel has sharply criticised ACC's handling of sexual abuse claims.

Survivors who have felt discouraged to lodge a claim will now be able to contact a therapist and start a course of 16 sessions. For many survivors that will be all they need. Those who need further sessions will need to go through some assessment procedure. How that procedure will look like is currently unclear, because the review panel has instructed ACC to devise a process that guarantees client safety.

If you are thinking of starting sexual abuse counselling funded through ACC and you live in the proximity of Takapuna, you can follow the link or contact me on 027-486.3770

ACC’s Wall of Shame

Psychotherapists and counsellors have collected stories of mishandling of claims since the implementation of the new clinical pathway. It's a long long list which is published on my blogs in two installments. It would be good if people would reach inside themselves and find a fighting spirit. It's not right, it's not OK, and survivors have the right to demand that they get a fair treatment.

You'll find part I of the list HERE , covering incidences 1-52,  and part II of the list of mishandlings HERE covering incidences 53-90.

Nick Smith’s Mismanagement Hurts CSA Survivors

V8922B Read the latest media release from Labour MP Lynne Pillay about the trauma survivors of sexual abuse have to deal with in the aftermath of the implimentation of ACC's New Clinical Pathway.

Parotting over and over again that this new pathway is designed to improve services for CSA, Peter Jensen from ACC has yet (6 month after introducing the new clinical pathway) to provide a clear-cut statement how ACC is going to achieve that. Obviously, the 'media advisors' from the government and ACC have not managed to identify HOW the new pathway is going to benefit survivors.

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Action Against ACC Funding Cuts For Counselling

Sunflower Nick Smith, Minister for ACC, has promised an independent review after 6 months from implementation of the new clinical pathway ACC has pushed through inspite of wideranging protest from survivors and clinicians working with survivors alike. Sofar nothing seems to have been organised and the action group (therapists, counsellors, psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and more) is still waiting for information about how the review will be conducted, who will conduct it, and what will be the reference points.

Those who have followed my reports about ACC will have cottoned on that I am mighty frustrated with the whole thing. I certainly don't think that we have been told the ugly truth yet about the scheming and hidden agenda that drove the government and ACC to act as they have. One thing is certain, it has nothing to do with improving services for survivors.

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Dealing with the lack of memories

Waterdrop When it comes to memories of abuse or neglect, dealing with them becomes an important part of therapy – especially when survivors are flooded with memories and find it hard or even impossible to get some relief from them.

It appears to be similarly difficult to cope with the lack of memories. People may have a feeling, body sensations, or sense of having experienced abuse, but no picture or coherent story they can access.

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