I was reading a paper this morning called “what brings you here” by Marilyn Barnett. It’s an interesting piece of research that explores conscious and unconscious motivations that drive people to train as a therapist.
she explores the past traumas and pain that often inform the ‘wounded healer’ to choose a life of listening, guiding and healing others and what this phenomena means for the client/ therapist relationship.
In the essay Barnett urges the need for a rigorous training that focuses not just on a therapist gaining theoretical knowledge, or a ‘good’ track record in client work but with grading determined by the therapists capacity to delve into the depths of their own psyche and shadow.
In response to a UK university researching methods to ‘reduce unnecessary pains associated with learning counselling’ Bennet responds by suggesting that “perhaps pain is a necessary part of the process of becoming a therapist and maybe counselling is more than something to be ‘Learned.”
I have been sitting with this concept all day, the need to go through pain to be a good therapist.
It sits relatively easy with me, facing the pain has been something I have relished in for many years and sitting in the murky waters of our dark side, in grief, shame and rage is my comfort spot.
I do not think pain is bad, if faced and not feared I have seen and known how pain can propel people into pleasure and power and wellness.
Pain is a part of birth, death - rebirth, change, transition and growth. Life is not a comfortable ride, even at the very beginning, as the first cell divides and multiples to eventually form the greatness that is us it takes an intense build up of pressure, this pressure and vibration force the form to transform. Change is uncomfortable.
And yet the thing that I believe has made me a good therapist was a lesson that felt like a radical learning/unlearning when I trained as a Craniosacral therapist. The simple but profound notion that we can and should move towards the light.
That we can and should connect to what feels flowing, well and vital and cultivate a connection to this place of innate human wellness so that there may be integration for the places that are stuck.
Learning to move towards ease - towards flow is the gift that keeps giving. It offers a deep and profound resolution from the stuck, auto loop of survivor complex that the nervous system resides after trauma. To relate to an embodied sense of wellness, to the blood and breath as well as the brain that can help to analyse, intellectualise and survive is what brings equilibrium.
I was taught in this training that if we are moving from the right place; from an open hearted, full bodied place - if our whole intention is right then we should never be drained in the therapists chair but only ever fed by the practice.
Cranial taught me the profound need for a therapist to be well and resourced, to be connected to the well of energy and aliveness that resides within them and just by simply sitting in this place and tuning into the client there can be an awakening in a client - a remembering of their own innate wellness.
This is the fundamental principle to the approach I take, to support a client to find their own well of resource and aliveness first and foremost. From here they may voyage the ocean of their unconscious, of their feelings - and inevitably, eventually, they may bravely sail to that pit of pain they know so well but this time not with the aim to face it head on, or drown in it but gently, with a peace offering; with the message that there is now room and strength for the stories to be heard and for those places in the body and mind that hide away the hurt to come and join the whole - to integrate - to be one.
Perhaps to be a good therapist is to be an experienced wayefinder and to teach the art of safe exploration to the edge of our internal worlds? To have moved out of the role of ‘wounded healer’, ‘survivor’ or ‘warrior’ and comfortably into the zone of being simply ‘enough’ - for this is the destination we hope our clients will one day arrive - the land of being them and knowing the brilliant truth of being wholly ‘enough’.
I hope that in the future the trainings for all therapists will be safe spaces to explore theory, quantitative/qualitative study, neurobiology, metaphor, dreams, pain, breath, nature, presence, the body, anatomy, movement, poetry, the universe, relationship, attachment, shadow, lightness, love and the whole spectrum of tools we voyagers may need on the treacherous and glorious journey back to ourselves.