When writing, I often find as I imagine many writers do, the material which comes to mind surrounds something I am experiencing in my personal or professional life at that time. I have been thinking a lot this past few weeks about how it feels to be returning to my private practice providing online and telephone psychological therapy.
Nearly a year ago I made the decision to not take on any new clients, and take some time out for myself and my family. As you will read in my blog as well as being a clinical psychologist, I am also someone who has been suffering from chronic illness the past 11 years. As you can imagine, this in itself brings its own continuous self care needs. Very sadly, in the past year and a half, I lost one of my closest friends, and myself and my incredible family lost my beloved grandmother, uncle, and aunt and her partner. So some slowing down was definitely needed!
On returning to practise, a blog I wrote this time five years ago keeps coming to my mind, so when a fellow therapist, Karin Brauner Hollman (www.k-brauner-counselling.co.uk ) very kindly asked me to write a guest blog I thought sharing this, with a bit of a– five years later – reflection could be insightful. As this links into a previous blog, I thought it may be a good idea to post it here too.
Read my original post here: My journey from naivety, to frustration, confusion and disempowerment (written december 22nd, 2013).
Reading this blog again actually made me quite sad…
A lot has happened in that time, for all of us! Whilst I practice gratitude daily, we cannot deny that the NHS is not being funded to enable it to do its job and austerity is taking its toll on our society. All of the amazing people who work in the NHS and social services are doing their best to help their patients; often risking their own health needs in order to do so.
However, in the same way we all have to manage many difficult things in our lives, the fact is this is the reality we currently live in. Whilst I keep optimistic that things can most definitely improve in the future, all we can really do at any moment is make the best of what we have, giving ourselves permission to feel the wide array of emotions that will most likely arise.
As therapists and clinicians, we can make sure we do our best for our clients, whilst also looking after ourselves. As is often said, we cannot look after others if we do not look after ourselves first.
As members of communities, online and in person, we can continue to discuss important issues, raise awareness, be respectful of difference, show others that they are not alone, and that it is okay to reach out for help, whether to a friend, somewhere like Lifeline or Samaritans. Perhaps central to all of this is being compassionate and loving towards ourselves and others.
As patients, I believe we are at a time where it is becoming more important than ever to advocate for ourselves, and our loved ones. I know this is something I continue to struggle to do, and I know how the medical system works; so I can only imagine how difficult this must be for others who have not worked in the healthcare arena. I imagine we have all had that feeling when you go to see your general practitioner or consultant, for psychological or physiological reasons, to only leave feeling disappointed and as if you have wasted their time. Although it is not always easy – far from it – we can try to ask for what we need, whilst also being emphatic to the limitations being imposed on our healthcare professionals, who ultimately for the most part do have our best interests at heart.
As a Psychological Therapist returning to practice, and someone who continues to be faced with frustrations surrounding the health care available, I feel I have to be careful not to enter into what many of us therapists refer to as RESCUER MODE.
Great empathy is, I believe, an amazing thing to have, but in order to help clients most effectively, looking after ourselves in the process; we have to remember we are not there to RESCUE them.
We are there to provide an environment, a safe space, where we can work together as a team, to ultimately help them help themselves. Furthermore, when we are patients and getting physical or psychological treatments, it is important that we acknowledge the part we play in this joint role, being mindful of falling into the very common and understandable mode of wanting to be RESCUED.
Although this part can be extremely difficult, I believe in the long term it helps us feel more empowered, even when facing some of the most difficult of life experiences.
Whether a healthcare professional, a patient experiencing psychological/physical difficulties, or both a clinician/carer and at least at times a patient – as I imagine many people reading this blog will be – I would love to hear your thoughts!
Love and peace to you all
The Wounded Healer (A.K.A. Krissy)