Such a simply put word that holds an incredible depth of meaning. When I first began graduate school, consultation was disguised within a number of supervisors we became paired up with. Looking back, it is wild that more of them did not belly laugh at the clumsy way us newbies meandered about. Wide-eyed, brand-new, counselors-in-training eager to learn the lingo and take on the world.
I’m belly laughing now looking back. The innocence was endearing.
As we counselors-in-training found our sea legs, the program ever-so gently backed off the number of required supervisors. While we were completing our internships, we only had one.
And thank GOD for my one supervisor.
You see, my supervisor in graduate school was a rare ray of sunshine that showed me the pure magic that was working with kiddos in a therapeutic setting. Prior to beginning any clinical work, I had envisioned myself sitting in a stereotypical, oversized therapist chair with clients sitting across from me. The room was orderly and predictable. Tissues casually placed on the coffee table that separated us.
Oh man, I cannot imagine how dull my therapy experiences would be without my first supervisor.
She introduced me to the magic that are children’s worlds and experiences. She compassionately guided me through the Narnia-closet into ways of creating safe spaces and utilizing play as a rich way of communicating with youngsters. She taught me that a therapeutic space could be anywhere and everywhere. That kiddos are wickedly attune to their worlds, their traumas, and the capacity for healing. I loved every single second of my practicum and internships, largely due to the out-of-this-world consultation my supervisor consistently offered. To this day, I have a cup on my desk that holds color pencils and markers that has GP across it. My simple reminder that healing can be colorful and unique to each and every person.
It was quite unnerving after graduation.
Largely because you are swiftly kicked out of the safe and secure consultation nest you had grown very comfortable in.
After a world-wind time period chalk-full of celebrations, diplomas, and cap and gown pictures, you are suddenly all on your own. I somehow found my way into a mental health agency, fueled up by the extra sleep and sense of accomplishment. That experience was intense, brutal, and quick as I discovered many of my own needs could not be met within community-based mental health. Judge if you must, but know I am grateful for the experience I gathered, and for the friendships gained along the way.
Looking back, I would have to say that finding your “therapeutic tribe” is an absolute MUST for one’s sanity, professionalism, ethical attunement, and happiness within this field.
After personally experiencing the act of practicing therapy with and without a therapeutic tribe, I would have to say that I am a better and more comprehensive clinician because of them. My number one, ride or die, peanut butter to my jelly is my clinical director. The magical human who paid witness to my potential and hired me on to work within the practice she cultivated and nurtured with her bare hands.
Needless to say, I respect the hell out of her.
Janeen has created such an open and inviting workspace, and it is second nature to consult with one another. When I have my newb moments (I am sure all of us therapists do from time to time) she has never once made me feel silly or shamed. Consultation is a vibrantly celebrated engagement of therapeutic minds that build off of one another’s’ strengths. Over time, this therapeutic tribe has grown, and I’ve got to tell you, the consultation is absolutely brilliant. They create a space, much like the cherished space my OG supervisor created, that nourishes you where you are depleted. Burnout is validated and is looked upon with compassion. Points of stuckness are approached vivaciously. Laughter is abundant, shoulders to lean on are constant, and cake is a known, effective stress-reliever.
Consultation is a MUST for effective, ethical, comprehensive, and happy clinicians. Practicing as a therapist in this current world is hard, folks. It’s filled to the brim with unknowns, novel situations, and scary moments. Transference is a completely real and realistic thing, due to us experiencing the same trauma as our clients, concurrently. Consultation with our “therapeutic tribe” helps hold ourselves accountable, highlights our own need to be mindful of our own mental well-being, and provides a safe space to say “This is hard and I am tired.”
So, cheers to the therapeutic tribes out there. You all are very deeply cherished and appreciated.
Some of the most over-exhausted topics of 2020 include the Election and COVID-19. At times, it feels like groundhog’s day in regard to the redundancy. I just read a news article claiming that grocery stores are beginning to feel the second wave of “panic shopping” as the “second wave” of COVID-19 embarks on its steady rise. Sigh. Haven’t we read this chapter already? Wasn’t that in level four of the game of Jumanji we have been forced into this year?
There is a theme that has been becoming ever more prevalent within the therapy room. A theme that seems to be the quiet crisis that “panic shopping” and over-run political commercials have dominated. A crisis that is not only consuming our youth, but perhaps most humans along their journeys.
So, let’s explore it.
The passions that perhaps once provided a sense of identity and security suddenly seem lackluster and there is a void in motivation to engage in them. Once zealous artists are looking at their sketchbooks and cringing. Once creative chefs are allowing their mixing bowls to collect dust as they settle on their 6th frozen meal in a row and indulge with Netflix blaring in the forefront.
This experience of avoidance has many of our youth, predominately our older teens, spinning. College applications are begging the question “Who are you?” and many of our aspiring college students are looking at their sketchbooks gathering dust in the corner and realizing “I have no idea who I am anymore”.
Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable realizations. The pressure to define yourself, morals, values, and passions in the midst of this year’s game of Jumanji. You’ve been frozen in survival mode for so long that you are merely left with hazy memories of what life used to be.
This is where I typically see the color draining from my client’s faces, the fidgeting uptick, and the tears gathering in the corner or their eyes. Throughout this processing journey there are hints of the shame, exhaustion, and loneliness these brave teens are carrying. The burdens that have yet to be spoken about or validated. There’s a name for this, folks.
Trauma. Burnout. Chronic emotional and mental fatigue.
All very real experiences that not only our youth have been subjected to, but all of us as a collective human-whole. Suddenly, our passions have been exposed to trauma. While living day in and day out for months with increased experiences of fear, anxiety, and grief of loss, we have been left to our own devices. The activities that used to bring us peace seem to highlight the feelings of unknown and of existing in an out-of-control world.
Imagine that throughout your life, you developed a love of coconuts. You loved when you would find one at the store, or indulge in a coconut-riddled treat. One day, a giant storm came out of no where and swept you off against your own choosing to an island. You were confined to this island until an unknown time. However, it was overflowing with coconuts! Silver-lining in the crisis. Days pass, and the indulgence in your favorite thing is fantastic. It helps distract you from your confinement, your anxiety about the future, and your loneliness. However, as the acute stress morphs into chronic long-lasting stress, you grow more and more detached from your love of coconuts. By the time you have an opportunity to leave the island, you never want to look at a coconut again.
That’s where our youth are. There is trauma associated with the coconuts in their lives. When they think of what used to light a fire within them, whether it be drawing, painting, baking, cooking, basketball, you name it, it is now associated with the trauma of state-wide lockdowns, loved-ones dying, and missing out on proms and birthdays. Talk about an awkward experience.
But guess what? There’s hope.
I want to encourage our teens, and honestly all humans right now to let themselves off the hook. Normalize that you’ve had one too many coconuts within a traumatic experience and that you need a break. It’s OK to not have inspiration to pick up that paintbrush or bust out the mixers.
So, how do we get back to what we love?
Take the next few months off. Use that time to create a list of activities or things to try for kicks and giggles. Something novel and random that encourages endorphins and positive memories. Whether it be rock climbing, walking on the beach, or hot yoga; pack away the paint brushes with a “see ya later”.
Then, when you’re ready (and you will know when you’re ready), re-introduce yourself to those coconuts. Those ingrained passions, but at your own time. Redevelop that positive relationship on your own terms. This will not only empower you but inspire you to become grounded that you are still, and have always been, uniquely you.
Here Comes the Reframe
A large component of my job is to explore the different reframes to perspectives and experiences that challenge the sense of stuck-ness one perspective can cultivate. My favorite way of introducing the possibility of different perspectives having the potential of being just as valid as the next is quick, but impactful. I start by grabbing my handy-dandy dry erase board. Sitting with the client across from me, I draw a six. I then ask the client to tell me what number they perceive. They most commonly retort “nine”. I then engage in friendly, lightly challenging dialogue that the number before them is, in the perspective I am defending, a six. A smile and, at times, an eye roll or scoff follows, as the brief experiential activity supports there are many possible perspectives that hold as much validity as the next.
How can we reframe taking “first steps” in a way that’s motivating to embrace vulnerability and embark on the adventure focusing on the possibilities for growth?
How do we know the value of growth if we do not encounter obstacles, stumbles, or pop quizzes along the way? In my experience, growth is most notable if you’re able to turn around and not only pay witness, but also appreciate the journey and experiences that have led you to where you have gotten. I would not appreciate who I have grown into as an equestrian if I had not experienced falls, naughty ponies, missed competitions due to a lame horse, or the tough choices between weekends with friends or late nights staying up with a sick horse. We don’t wake up experts, or at least I have yet to find the magical potion for that. A major part of being human is we have to create our own roadmaps. Sure, we can ask for help and support along the way, however if you get down to the nitty-gritty, we are largely reliant on ourselves to reach the goals we dream up.
Yikes, talk about an existential crisis!
Yes folks, it is largely our own responsibilities to dig deep and discover our own motivation to pursue our goals and decide which “first steps” we must take to begin the journey toward those goals.
So yes, I believe we must become familiar with our own humanness prior to taking any “first step” into unknown territory. Why? Because it can be a pitfall and a major source of stuck-ness if we meet our own stumbles or obstacles with criticism. A large component of any obstacle is the background noise of the “peanut gallery” others feel compelled to retort. While the “peanut gallery” usually has good intention, the dialogue and feedback can notoriously be unhelpful. Even just in the sense of influencing our own inner self-talk toward a more negative and defeating tone.
Instead, I encourage others (and myself) to replace the criticism with compassion. When you come across an obstacle, or you stumble along your journey, show yourself the nurturing that we would a toddler courageously taking their first steps. Honor the uncomfortable emotions that may flare (disappointment, discontent, sadness) and show compassion toward the human that is you that is doing their best with the tools that they have. Give yourself space to feel, and then honor the goal that is still there despite the wobbles.
Alright my beautifully courageous humans. It is time for a reframe on these “first steps” into the creation of an unknown roadmap. Dig deep and examine which parts of the journey you may experience vulnerability along the way. Develop awareness of when you may become subjected to critical self-talk, and brainstorm ways you can show yourself compassion whenever challenges with this flavor occur. (And know they will occur). Give yourself ample permission to be human and set some hard boundaries with the “peanut gallery”.
I promise those “first steps” will be worth it.
The first step is always the hardest.
I’ve always been curious to what makes this one step the “hardest”. Is it the lack of roadmap that us creatures of habit are turned off by? Is it the beckoning of vulnerability this step requires? Is it the necessity of examining one’s own humanness that fuels this step?
Perhaps it’s all the above.
This question propels people into therapy more so than any other question. It generally presents as “I have this goal but I am stuck and cannot seem to accomplish it.” Then the expectation of “tell me what to do differently and I’ll be on my way” typically follows.
If only growth and healing were that easy!
Think about watching a baby contemplate their first steps. There is usually a journey to approach their actual first step. It includes figuring out how to actually move their bodies either by lifting their heads, tracking with their eyes, or rolling over. Next comes synchronizing most of these movements to sit up and oh what a shift in perspective this is! This shift fuels motivation to continue to search for other new perspectives and all the sudden their standing! Holy cow the rush that comes from being able to see from this height! By the time they find the motivation to try walking, the risk of vulnerability and tumbling is worth the embarkment of the tantalizing adventure that lays ahead.
Where does this sense of tantalizing adventure vanish to as we grow older? What themes are pertinent throughout our experiences that encourage reluctance in novel “first steps”?
I have a few ideas. For example, the more we grow, the more our innocence materializes. Our sense of wonderment is thrown into the shadows of what could go wrong. Ever-so-gradually, we experience uncomfortable human phenomenon that create “mental bruising to our egos” like judgement, ridicule, and mockery. Our falls somehow shift from the perspective of being one step closer to our goals to the highlighted focus of our weakness.
I’m sure we have all been there. Perhaps you woke up one morning with the most magnificent idea for a business plan. One that is beneficial for the greater good and embraces your own passions. You hurry to the kitchen to excitedly share your brilliant thoughts with your partner and you are met with an almost-bored stare. You can feel the excitement that was once bubbling through your veins just seconds before shrink away just with the sight of this non-verbal communication. Our bodies and minds go “oh crap, your vulnerability is showing!” Next, your partner yawns and says halfheartedly while returning to nursing their coffee, “Sounds great honey, but you know we don’t have the money or time to invest in something like that.”
Bam, vulnerability is met with disappointment; focused on the entirely of the obstacles that lay before you. You suddenly feel like the wobbly toddler who has stumbled and the adults around you start pointing and commenting on how you may never walk with confidence.
So, how can we combat this tendency to shrink away from the obstacles any “first steps” require and reframe to focus on the possibilities for growth and nurturement?
Stay tuned ;)
The Welcome and Hello Part
As I sit here and ponder how to properly say “Hello and Welcome to my Blog!” in a way that captures attention of others long enough to scroll, I am looking out at the most serene mountain tops (something that is breath-takingly unique for this Florida girl). For someone who typically has plenty to say, I am not all that smooth with the introduction parts. I keep looking out at these green peaks, peppered with the first kiss of autumn leaves, willfully hoping they will whisper what to say that sounds “smooth” and “intriguing”.
My name is Katherine Scott, and I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Northeast Florida. The magical place where the land is ordinarily flat, the air is heavy, and the weather is as moody as a toddler after a bad night’s sleep.
I have the utmost pleasure of working in a private practice lovingly known as Puzzle Peace Counseling. Here, I work with a diverse array of little humans, their families, and the parental couple. While I encounter plenty of the mental health gamut from ADHD to OCD to trauma and grief that encapsulates the entire family system, I have a special place in my heart for Autism. At Puzzle Peace Counseling, we specialize with this particular population.
It is my calling, my therapeutic “sweet spot”.
Anywho, more about this later.
As therapists, we are required to explore different theoretical orientations revolving around how people go about healing their “emotional and/or mental turmoil”. Then, we are asked to choose one and thoroughly align with it. This alignment could shift throughout our journeys as therapists, but funny enough, mine has remained a constant.
Experiential Family Therapy. AKA, I view healing occurs through the connection of the mind, body, and soul. The unifying trifecta that encourages us to hone in on our experiences, as well as heal through them. Sitting in a chair across from my client for sessions on end does not cut it in the experiential sense. Many times, we are knuckle deep in slime creations, artistic expressions, outside, or integrating balls, blocks, or games into our dialogue. The creative opportunity for therapeutic experiences are limitless.
Another experience-based form of healing is through writing. One I am particularly fond of. I’m not sure if it’s the quiet way of tuning into my thoughts, or the safe space it cultivates when trying to organize my mindset. Whatever the case, it’s one of my experiences I engage in that brings me healing, peace, and an outlet to let the words out from my mind and into the world.
So, at the encouragement of my sweet, newlywedded husband, here I am. This blog will contain a diversity of tid-bits and tangents. An outlet for my hotheaded, feisty side. A blog focusing on what my experience of being a Therapist is in this messy, pressurized, somewhat-of-a-dumpster-fire World that 2020 has not-so-lovingly created. A blog of perhaps helpful guidance regarding humans in all different phases of their journeys.
A place one could ask a vulnerable question or two and cultivate a thought-provoking dialogue. Who knows, the possibilities for these experiences are limitless!