Whilst training for my diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), one thing my tutor said struck a chord, "...a good therapist uses every theory, and every available resource to support their client through the recovery process". I remember thinking, 'wow - that's powerful, and something no one else has ever said before.' It always confused me that the more we learn about helping people, the more we seem to limit ourselves. Traditionally if you learn CBT you follow a particular model, and use psychological interventions to support someone, but here my tutor was saying 'every available resource' - that had to mean anything that has evidence of use right?
Before I continue it's important you get a little understanding of me, and why in my eyes this was just so ground-breaking. Growing up I was always heavily reliant on facts, figures and evidence to make my decisions - my dad is scientist, and engineer, my mum a nurse both professions very reliant on all things tangible, and something which always felt comfortable to me. I even recall one parents evening when both my dad and I were arguing with the English teacher because I was refusing to read any of the required novel as I did not see their worth - instead trying to have a history book as my choice for my GCSE project - I'm sure you can appreciate that it did not go down to well... I was brought up an atheist - not imposed, it was a personal choice. I just could not seem to agree with any one prescribed religion - instead agreeing with maybe a few parts from all religions, and then after a dreadful R.E. lesson finally deciding there was no 'proof' and therefore it could not be real.
As I grew up my opinions changed - I came to appreciate novels (thank you Patricia Cornwell who so very well combines enough science with fiction to enable me to make the initial transition), but still I held steadfast to my scientific, and evidence based understanding of the world. Well that was until June 2015... My sister was going though a difficult period, I myself was having a hard time and did not know what to do. We both had very new start-ups, and being your own boss, although rewarding, saps you of all your energy, self-confidence, and self-belief. June was tough - we were both on the verge of jacking everything in, and re-joining the 'real world'. I knew in my heart that this would be a mistake, what we were both offering is something that's needed, and would I ever forgive myself if I walked away?
My sister told me to do 'a reading', and ask the Angels what I should do. The look of pure horror which crossed my face was so obvious my sister stepped back. So much was going through my head - and all of which were leading me to the conclusion she was having a serious mental health crisis. Yet she stated it again, and placed a deck of 'Angel Messenger Cards' in front of me and left the kitchen (if she hadn't of been my sister I would have whipped out my diagnostic equipment!). I opened the box, and there was a manual - phew!
Ten minutes later my sister returned as I was still staring blankly at the cards. Out of 44 cards how did I pick the one which was dedicated to helping others, and specifically with children? Something I only decided for myself a couple of years ago. It must be a fix - but how?
I looked through all the other cards, and they all contained very messages, but all came from a place of positivity, and I thought OK lets do this. It can't hurt to have some external positivity on days when I am struggling to stay focused, and motivated. Over time, I started having a go with meditation, yoga (not just as exercise but as a healing process), and many different aspects of the 'holistic'' world. These tools enabled me to stay positive, stay focused and not give up. However, I was keeping it all to myself, and out of any therapy. I was being a dutiful scientist 'at work', and someone who was embracing all things alternative in my home life. It was such a dramatic transformation for my family it sparked an 'intervention of sorts' - in December 2015 my sister sat me down and asked whether I was having a mental health crisis. The very same thing I had been thinking 6 months prior for her! My response I have never felt more motivated, more confident and so grounded in my life. I was no longer feeling partially empty, as if something was missing. My mind, body, and soul were all working together and I quite literally felt at peace. I even have times when I do not think of anything and just enjoy the moment - something I have never been able to do, previously always having at least 5 things racing around in my head.
Whoo that's me sorted, but it struck me - was I being a good therapist by keeping this to myself? I was happy to use anything, and everything to make sure I succeeded, but only use prescribed psychology with my clients was that right?
"...a good therapist uses every theory, and every available resource to support their client through the recovery process".
If I was honest with myself, and no doubt if I had asked my tutor - I was being selfish. Trust me 'coming out' was hard.
Who was I? What do I tell people I do? Will people I know, and respect look at me differently, see me as less, and start to doubt my worth, or my word on subjects I am passionate about? I had spent years in education, and training, trying to be acknowledged as a psychologist and now I was: a spiritualist, a hypnotherapist, an aromatherapist, a counsellor, a psychotherapist, a CBT therapist, a child development psychologist, a trainer, an ex retail manager...
So I decided I'm still a psychologist but I just use everything in my toolbox to support those in need - including things which are complementary. There is research which supports the effectiveness of complementary therapies, and who am I to decide that one discipline should be held above others, when in reality they all work? The only thing that ever makes a difference in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client - eluding someone's belief, is not going to be grounds for building a trusting relationship. Instead I empower people to use what they believe, coupled with what I know to work to move forward in their journey. If they are not spiritual, or against aromatherapy then this is not part of the process.
Life is a choice, and I simply allow others to expand their knowledge, and make their own choice.
I would like to say thank you to Allison Pond who's article inspired my blog piece today.
Katie Woodland - A developmental, and holistic psychologist who specialises in educating and empowering individuals, business leaders & school teachers to remove mental health as a barrier to success.