On Saturday 04 March 2016, IICP were delighted to welcome Dr. Marie Adams to present a one day teaching class with our Masters Students. Following this, on Sunday 05 March, she presented a one day workshop highlighting her research into the personal lives of forty therapists in order to prompt discussion on why we become therapists, why we become the kinds of therapists and exploring The Myth of the Untroubled Therapist.
Review of Workshop
By: Pam Patchell (MA 2015 Year 1)
The IICP annual conference is preceded by a day of teaching where the guest speaker takes the helm in the Masters class. On March 5th, Dr Marie Adams came to visit. Marie goes down in the annals of IICP history as the first lecturer to bring both Master class participants together as one group. Whereas last year I was in the office in a haze of jealously, this year, I was front and centre with my MA15 peers listening to Marie and discussing the questions she posed. On March 6th, Marie conducted a workshop for the IICP 2nd annual conference.
In gathering her research, Marie says she sought to ‘learn from others’. What Marie learned has become a powerful tool of self-reflection and reflexivity. Self-reflection is the personal journey towards development and self-knowing. Reflexivity is the conduit converting self-knowledge into professional growth and competency in therapy. The workshop inspired me to come to terms with how I apply myself as an equal partner in a therapeutic relationship. That is no mean feat, particularly when I have struggled with what that means.
Marie’s dispelling of the myth that I can bracket my own experience, and the exercises she offered in the workshop, helped me to accept something I had not had the courage to embrace. Not only can I be me, and maintain boundaries, I do it well when at the forefront of my mind is the therapeutic consideration of what might be useful for the client, and/or ‘what would be useful to keep me safe and well’. I just don’t do it all the time, and for the life of me I could not see why!
Sometimes it is a simple concept that transforms your perspective. Marie talks about how there is always a ‘tension’. I had heard of the concept of tension in a sociological context, and have applied it to macro contexts in awe inspiring ways. It had not occurred to me to consider tension on the micro level; to consider the degree of tension between me, and me as a practising psychotherapist. By engaging in the exercises, I learned that what matters in the tension is how I identify with that anxiety, and how I use it.
Some ways of measuring this gap are supervision and peer/colleague support based on honesty and congruence. I worked in a group of trusted colleagues, first year students, and people I was newly introduced to. Fortunately, I felt the discussion space we created was based on mutual sharing and trust.
Marie also advocates self-care, away from therapy friends and subjects. From playing the stock market to throwing pots, she encourages therapists to do what helps us to feel ‘normal’ (whatever that is)! During one group discussion on ‘what is the question that needs to be asked’, a colleague offered, “Is this response based in fear or love?” and I am already asking myself this. In addition, the group work gave rise to other questions and I left with a plan to address them, away from therapy! Addressing the elephant in the room is another consideration Marie offers.
The elephant in the conference room was hosting a workshop positing therapist self-care as vital, on Mother’s day! An irony not lost on many. Some views are that it is a sacred day of family, or just another Sunday, or a ‘Hallmark’ day that can be celebrated any time. Irrespective of opinion, where there is a mother figure, there is typically a family. So, there is a tension that needs to be managed between pursuing those tasks that bring us closer to our life goals, and remaining connected to those we share intimate love and belonging with. For me, the commitment to the work lies in knowing the real answer to the question, ‘why are you a therapist…really? Deep, deep down, in with my other hidden stuff is the truth that I am a therapist is to heal myself. So really, it is deeply personal work, and knowing what that means is all at once as inspiring as it is tiring.
Through my commitment to my profession, family support, the attentiveness of the IICP staff, and Marie’s inspiring delivery, I left the conference feeling positive, restored and grateful that so many came together to allow IICP members to have a day together under the banner of counselling and psychotherapy work. The personal struggles with ‘tension’ in the lives of each however unknown, were not lost on me, and I want to thank all that made it such a memorable day. It was a privilege to attend. This work matters, as does contributions to making the work possible, so I send a heartfelt thank you to all involved.
Article written by Pam Patchell, 2015 M.A. student