It is common for clients to be curious about a therapist’s own experience of therapy. Sometimes this is a desire to build a deeper relationship than boundaries allow. However it is also quite reasonable to wonder if the place a therapist is coming from is based on their own lived experience. After all, it’s easy to say try X or Y when it is theoretical, but very often clients wonder if a therapist truly understands how difficult X can be.
With this in mind it have decided to make my reflections on this year into a public post. If I ask clients to look back, and consider their successes, and learn from what did not go to plan, surely I should be willing, and able to do the same? There is also value, I believe, in a year many have found politically difficult, to remind ourselves, that personal achievements also matter.
As the year started I decided I wished to be more involved in the LGBTQ community locally, and nationally. This however took a far more public, and unexpected turn, when, channelling the frustration with the failure to stand against conversion for trans people I ended up spearheading a campaign to have the BACP explicitly add them to the protection offered LGB clients. The press attention also made me decide I needed professional head shots!
In the spring I also attended the Women in the City future leaders award, after writing several pieces for them. It might have seemed a very different setting to work campaigning for some of the most marginalised in our society, but the belief in those with a platform setting aside time and energy to help others was a common thread.
I soon realised however that we all only have a certain amount of “spoons” which we can devote to the external. Whilst I still hope to improve things locally for LGBTQ rural people, this year I have learnt the value of specific, focused goals (more of which later!)
I also attended the Pink Therapy conference, and, as always, came away inspired, thoughtful, and determined to investigate further study and training.
I was honoured to be asked by Sheena Revolta to speak at the film festival accompanying Pride events in Newcastle. Sheena is an inspirational force in the North East, in everything from challenging censorship to punk rock. I continued with my writing, both for the Queerness, and the Huffington Post. The response to my writing is has confirmed for me in 2017 it’s an area where I hope to do more, starting my first book, on decoding family messages.
I was also involved with the founding of the Newcastle branch of Sisters Uncut. Some may find it odd for a therapist to take an active role in campaigning and demonstrations. For me though it is about authenticity, I am the same person as I always was, someone who believes the world can be a better place by the actions of individuals. I also believe very strongly in the importance of specialised services for the survivors of domestic abuse.
In July I attended the inaugural Stonewall Bi Role Models training. It was a day which brought together a diverse group of Bi people to better equip us to bring change across the country. It was also a day for personal exploration and practical network building, and I would recommend any of the role models courses to people.
As my private practice has grown online I have had to give a lot of thought to also having a physical office space. Whilst I use a local community center for in person counselling more and more people seem to be finding online counselling works for them. I decided that finding the right therapy room needs to be the goal, rather than just any therapy room, and as with so many choices around space, I will know the right one when I see it.
I also attended a number of interesting, and informative, events in the Autumn. The BACP training on working safely with survivors of domestic abuse highlighted for me the importance of never growing complacent about our learning, or our competency. On a lighter note the first meeting of Out of Office, an LGBT networking event, made me think just how much Newcastle has changed over the years since as a teenager I thought the only option was to move away.
Winter is a natural time to think about endings. As a counsellor a well managed ending, parting with a client as they move forward to a new phase of their life is an incredible moment. However there are also clients over the years who leave therapy for other reasons, often financial. As I look forward to 2017 one struggle is still to reconcile how many people need good, professional counselling, but for whom the cost is a barrier.
One way of squaring this circle, and one of the most exciting developments for 2017 is my becoming a board member of Be:Trans Development and Support. Tara Stone has been leading the way in the North East in providing support to the trans community, as well as working with agencies to improve their services. Moving this forward, as Be becomes a development agency with support across the north east will mean that many people who currently are isolated, or without support can be reached.
This has been a challenging year for so many people, but we must not lose sight of the fact even in the hardest of times humanity can excel, can show its better face, indeed, often in adversity do we see humanity at its best