This is an important message for anyone starting any professionally supported healing journey.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am an advocate for people of all ages, getting help and support when we need it. There are times we all need someone who is professional, appropriately trained, qualified and experienced to walk with us for a bit. I have been there. It can really help.
However, I recently heard the experience of a dear lady who had been referred for counselling by her GP.
She is a sweet, caring, funny, and well mannered lady. She comes from the generation who grew up before technology. No TV, phones, texts, tweets or Facebook. And as do many survivors of childhood trauma, she has strong values around not hurting people, or doing or saying anything that might make someone upset.
She had been struggling with physical and mental challenges for over 3 years, and finally found the strength to ask her GP for help.
Desperate to start to feel better, she plucked up all her courage and arrived for a counselling session – the first of the 6 she was allocated.
She didn’t like it much. When I asked her why not, she explained ‘the lady’ sat behind her table and spent a lot of the time staring out of the window. “It was strange. She didn’t look at me, I’m not sure if she was listening, she just kept looking out of the window – I thought she must be on the look out for a nice young man!”
This is not ok.
It is SO. NOT. OK.
When she told me this I kept myself professionally together, but noticed an internal volcano erupt. It was a combination of sadness for this precious lady who was treated this way, and absolute indignant rage that she was treated this way by a ‘professional’ who is supposed to help her get better, not make things worse.
This is not how it is supposed to be. And the truth is it is not how it is for many, many people. But it had been her experience and sadly it can happen. So should it be of interest to you or anyone you know, here is my advice. This is my plea.
DO THIS TO HELP FIND THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL FOR YOU
1. If you ever find yourself meeting someone for the first time, who has the credentials to see you through a journey of healing (mind, body or spirit) then please, please, please, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you do not feel safe in every way, with them, your journey with them will be a superficial one at best, a waste of time at middle, and further damaging to you at worst.
2. Please vote with your feet, and if you are not comfortable, and don’t feel you can challenge the practitioner (I know this would have been impossible for me when I was post-trauma suffering with depression or anxiety symptoms) just don’t go back again. You don’t need to. It’s about getting YOU the right help match for you. Either you could ask for a different professional from the same organisation to work with or go somewhere completely different.
3. See your first meeting as an interview or audition... and it’s not you on trial; it’s the professional. If they don’t meet the simple and appropriate criteria of making you feel SAFE, HEARD, RESPECTED and UNDERSTOOD, or if anything feels ‘off’ to you, then just be grateful you didn’t go any further down the line with them and move on.
I fully understand that it takes some real emotional energy to do this – much easier to go along with what the ‘professionals’ say. However I think many people don’t realise that they can and SHOULD have a voice and need to OPT IN to working with someone you feel will be a good match for you.
As my conversation continued, I was hoping to hear how this lady’s horrible experience got resolved. It didn’t get better – she just stuck it out. She kept going – attended all 6 of her allocated sessions, “but I didn’t really say very much. It didn’t help me at all really.” After her final session she was sent a feedback form through the post. She dutifully filled it in and sent it back. What did she put? “Oh I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I just ticked good or excellent for everything.” I understand why she did this.
Whilst the improvement of mental health is a massive deal at the moment, so is keeping the standards of the professionals privileged with this work appropriately high.
I never agree to work with anyone, adult or child, until we have had chance to meet and they have a chance to check me out and see how they feel with the journey to get to me and being in the room. We know who we feel safe with. We know when we don’t.
If you don’t feel safe, don’t go back there.
4. Do not assume all counselling experiences are the same. If you have already been through a similarly ineffective experience, and know you are still not OK, then consider trying out some different types of therapy.
Creative Arts therapists are a great choice for people who know there are things in them but not sure how to get the words out.
There is a whole new approach where a therapist works with you to release tension from your body, without you having to talk about what has gone on at all if you don’t want to (TRE).
Thankfully, on the suggestion of a close family member, this precious lady, came to try TRE and is already well on the way to living life better now than she has in years / decades.
You don’t have to stay stuck.
There is healing.
There is HOPE.
There is HELP – when you find the right person and approach for you.
Life starts throwing things at us from when we are small – and we learn to navigate, deal with, overcome or stuff them.
Regardless, they have an impact on us, and so many parents find that ‘parenting’ brings many of these unresolved experiences and tensions to the surface. Being with an anxious parent always has an impact on children.
I am so proud of this Mum who trusted me enough to take me up on my suggestion she try learning TRE.
In just a few sessions she felt and LOOKED so different!
In her own words though…
My journey started with Claire in January 2017.
I’ve always suffered with bouts of anxiety throughout my life,
usually when the stresses of life, illness, loss, family, work, etc, become hard to deal with.
Over a number of weeks I’ve tried to fix everything, everyone and myself when this happens.
But sometimes you can’t! and that’s when I’m in trouble.
So you try to hide it, carry on, and store these feelings.
In the past I have had to go to the doctors.
But this time I met Claire, and decided to try TRE.
I suppose at first I was unsure about it, skeptical, not quite sure whether it would help.
But after 2 sessions I started to understand it and feel the benefits in my own body.
I started to release underlying tension, stress, thoughts, aches and pains, that I’d tucked away for a long time.
My body and my mind feel so much better,
relaxed muscles, neck pain gone, and even foot pain (from Plantar Fasciitis) getting better
and my mind doesn’t worry so much.
I suppose I concentrate more in today rather than what might happen.
I practice TRE at home now 3 times a week, and it does work.
I would like to thank Claire for her time, patience, and helping me heal myself.
We all have these times in our life, TRE helps so much, the natural way.
Thank you x
TRE is a powerful tool being used across the world to help people of all ages release tension from their bodies.
If you would like to find out more you can explore the TRE section on this site and search the TRE blogs in categories on the right hand side. 🙂
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned…
As many of you will know, Hinton has been a big part of my life for the last 16 months (make that 20 if you want to include the 4 months of crazy excitement and preparation from decision day until he actually arrived!!)
The plan was; be a puppy socialiser, and learn everything I can about that experience, then when he goes on to the next stage of his training to be an assistance dog, enjoy perusing my options and consider whether I
- a) want to socialise another puppy
- b) want to get a pet dog
- c) have had enough of dogs through this chapter of life and am happy to move on to life’s next adventure dog free..
As I chose to take time to have a sabbatical from my clinical work, I knew I would need a stop-gap. Hinton was to be my sabbatical ‘project’. (Unbeknownst to me he was actually born on the first day of my sabbatical).
He was a project.
I could write a book about everything I have learnt.
However, this post is not about any of that, it is to let you all know that that plan; my plan, isn’t happening.
Hinton is being withdrawn from the charity’s training program due to the challenges he has with his health. Now, if you are like every other person who I’ve told that to, your next thought will be
‘so are you going to keep him?‘
And there it is.
The question that was SO BIG to me it ground me to a halt for a few days. I’m not exaggerating. To you it may seem strange, but I was overcome by the enormity of the decision… a decision I had never planned on having to make…the life-changing impact of something I had to use my voice to choose what next…
Sometimes life happens to us.
Sometimes we need to use our voice to choose life.
I am grateful to have some people close to me who appreciated the bigness of my decision and gave me space and time to explore it from every angle. If we have experienced trauma of any kind in our past then it can be easy at times like this to take cover in our favourite survival pattern – run away, argue or hide and wait for it all to go away. Have you noticed what you do?
This decision needed to be made, and while I certainly had wisdom enough to put some self-care boundaries around it, to take the time I needed to make it, it had to be made. The decision wasn’t going anywhere. I had to get myself grounded, moving, thinking and processing and listening to my head, my heart, my spirit, my fears and my desires.
These are the things I asked myself to help come to my decision.
- What do I love in life ? What are my core passions, my values, the things that bring me life?
- Does this change support me in being more me or less me?
- Does this change mean I will grow forwards to new or go back to the old?
- Do I feel what I am letting go of, has grown me or shrunk me?
- Will the future I choose to move into grow me or shrink me?
- What about this scares me? (Acknowledging that there is fear or that something is hard, doesn’t mean you don’t do it – you just get more clarity about the root of the fear and power to overcome it).
- Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Or do the positives carry MORE WEIGHT than the negatives?
- Am I ready to be responsible for me and the development of my life?
- Am I ready to choose life?
AND to you..
In case you too are at a fork in the road, be it work, a relationship, or whether or not to keep a dog, hear me, yes it is a big decision. I know whatever you are facing, it’s an important decision. It is important because you are important.
Join me, whether for you it is yes or no, find the courage to choose life 🙂
P.S. Hinton is staying. x
We all know that being around challenging children is HARD. Being involved in their lives means that we have a significant role we are playing – and yet it can sometimes mean we think that to be doing a good job we have to keep it all together and not let others know how hard we are finding it. We can be honest – but only a bit…
I wrote this several years ago, when Hinton was 9 months old. I wrote it for me and never intended to share it – but have decided I would, in case it resonates with anyone else out there doing significant work and finding it HARD right now.
HINTON DIARY – 9 Months
“So I cried today in a room of women and four-legged furry beauties.
I was done.
‘My furry boy’ is a real challenge at the moment – in ways that no one knows if they just look at him.
In fact if you just look at him, you would say how gorgeous he is, and you would want to touch him (EVERYONE wants to touch him).
You would have no idea about what it is really like living with him at the moment. The stubbornness, the independence, the inescapable attraction for anything new, how unbelievably strong he is when he wants something, and then there is the sensitive tummy, sensitive temperament and unpredictable VERY mushy toileting.
My ‘boy’ is 9 months old and a real conundrum in so many ways.
I’m not just saying it. He has had his trainer scratching her head more than once.
We went to our regular socialisers puppy class today.
It was clear to the trainer as soon as we arrived, that I needed some extra support and I didn’t deny it.
The trainer took him and I sat there with tears pouring down my face. Exhausted.
It turns out that some dogs are like this when they hit teenage stage.
It turns out that they are not all this hard, but some are.
It turns out that in some ways he is very normal.
It turns out that in some ways he is very different, and not all the standard ‘normal’ approaches are helpful for him.
It was lovely for them all to notice and comment on the good bits they see in him (he can do rocking sits and downs when he has a mind to, waits and stays are there too, and I think the stories of how he now copes with being handled, poked and prodded which he totally HATED a few months ago, actually really impressed them).
And that is it, the conundrum. He is not all bad. Not by a long shot. I wouldn’t swap him for any of the other pups. He is ‘my boy’ [for now] and we are going to work this through together, we will both be changed by it, and come through wiser.
That is where we are going. But to get there I needed today.
- I needed to be around the wisdom of others who ACTUALLY KNOW what it is like being a puppy socialiser.
- I needed to hear encouragement from others who ACTUALLY KNOW what it takes to be a puppy socialiser.
- I needed to hear and receive affirmation of the good job I am doing with him from people who know the investment of time, energy and life it takes to train a pup like this.
- I needed time out – even just a few minutes – of not being on the end of the lead, to regroup and get myself into a calm state again. Time to look at him from a different perspective and realise there was no other puppy in the room I would want to take home instead.
- I needed to hear from people who are more experienced than me, that being at the end of myself did not mean I was a poor socialiser in anyway.
- I needed to hear stories of the depths that others (who seemed to have it all together and appeared to know what they are doing) have been to with puppies they have socialised in the past – and to see one of them sitting there with the very same puppy, now calm and in control of himself, happy, snoozing and ready for the next stage of training.
And he needed time away from me.
Right then, he needed time being handled by an expert.
He needed support from someone who was calm and grounded, who could help him move on through those minutes in a positive way.
It takes a village to raise a child apparently.
It surely takes a community to raise an assistance puppy.
So as I am writing, we are home now. He is asleep by my feet.
Still gorgeous. Still a teenager. Still so much toddler.
Socializing an assistance puppy has to be up there with some of the hardest things I have ever done.
But I’ve heard many parents say the same about parenting.
I’ve heard many teachers say the same thing about teaching.
I am SO grateful for the support and expert training I have around me. While everyone wants to throw their two pennies worth of opinion at me – I know who I am choosing to listen to. I am learning so much about dogs, about people, about me, and I have chosen to change and grow through it all… Socialising my first assistance puppy IS an adventure and I’m not done yet.”
SO from one honest heart to another – let me ask you these 9 questions:-
- Are you doing something significant?
- From 1-10 how hard is it at the moment?
- What is hard about it that no one else would know from the outside?
- Do you compare yourself with others who appear to have it all together?
- Who would you need to hear positives from to really receive and believe what they are saying?
- When was the last time you had ‘time out’ away from those children?
- What are the specific positives or developments that you can see are still in your children, even in the midst of a challenging phase?
- What emotional support do you need?
- What specific expert support do you need?
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