The following are blogs from our Student Scholarship recipients, detailing their experiences on Days 1 and 2 of the 2015 Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, held in March.
How do I begin to describe my first day at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium? I already know that this will become a yearly event, and I’ve already marked my calendar for March 17 of next year. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with attendees from a wide range of races, theoretical foundations, various countries, and practice types. There was a common thread with each of them: this, they said, was truly the conference to attend if you’re lucky enough to work in psychotherapy.
The day started beautifully with the wise words of Jon Kabat-Zinn. We need to be present and mindful more, he said, and talk about being present and mindful less. This is something I personally struggle with, as I try to balance being a student, social worker, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Jon’s description of living in the full dimensionality of our presence was beautifully put. So few of us live like this.
Both workshops I attended have given me takeaways that will linger long after this conference is over. Deany Laliotis led a fantastic workshop focused on the four core skills of trauma treatment. I learned more about clinical practice applications for trauma in this workshop than I would have in a semester at school. Later, I had the privilege of attending the afternoon Flash Forum, Advances and Challenges in Working with Kids and Adolescents Today, led by Michael Ungar, Ron Taffel, Lynn Lyons, and Martha Straus. I left this workshop with knowledge, ideas, and practices that I’m certain will give me more confidence as both a social worker and a mother. Who could ask for more than that?
Being only six weeks from graduating with my MSW, this event is giving me the kick of excitement, knowledge, and confidence I need to sprint to the start of this wonderfully exciting career.
I had the pleasure of attending the Brainspotting seminar with David Grand today. What fresh and amazing information! I am drawn to anything that involves the brain because it brings the scientific information I need to the often less concrete world of talk therapy. Any information that helps me understand how our brains work in conjunction with our bodies and souls is exciting to me.
Brainspotting is a process by which the client can access encapsulated trauma or other mental health issues without using extensive “talk therapy.” Knowing that clients can often get wrapped up in telling stories, accessing the information using BSP gives clients another way to process their distress without going too deeply into the narrative. Accessing the information in the body using the field of vision cuts out the neocortex; a part of our brain that, while useful, can get really hung up on stories and the need to make sense of them.
I also appreciated that BSP is exceptionally client-driven. Therapists are encouraged to “be the tail of the comet,” as “the client is the head.” The BSP approach is also familiar to me in many ways. I am in a systems-oriented graduate program with an emphasis on therapists themselves and the value in the therapeutic relationship. Attuning to the energetic field, tracking the client’s body movements and facial expressions, and letting the client guide the sessions are all values of mine. I also really appreciated the notion that a person has inside of them all the information they need to access, process, and heal themselves. The job of the therapist, this workshop added, is to create a safe place to promote this, and for me to support my client throughout this journey of personal exploration and growth. I look forward to learning more about this technique and adding it to my therapeutic tool box.
Today I attended Terry Real’s workshop, “Breaking the Vicious Cycle.” Terry did a great job introducing the audience to the work of his Relational Life Institute. Initially, I was convinced that I was not going to like the presentation since Terry, by his own admission, has an “in your face” style. But by the end of the day, I was really quite impressed. Terry’s concise definitions, experience, videos and explanations made me rethink my own stance on couples therapy. This has opened completely new doors for me as a clinician.
Terry discussed the role of truth in building a therapeutic alliance within the first minutes of therapy. I’m very used to hearing about the role of empathy and unconditional regard but have thought little about the role of truth in creating bonds. That kind of stopped me in my mental tracks. How would that work? Then, Terry said something powerful. He defined intimacy as the happy combination of love and truth. He explained how one of the very first steps in saving a couple on the brink of divorce is to tell each partner the truth of what they’re doing that is destroying the relationship. And Terry managed to do so in a way that didn’t lose his clients. Terry tells them this, he said, in a way that is both loving and understanding but not lacking in precision. With videos from therapy sessions he conducted, Terry showed how using truth in love has the power to start a revolution. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from Terry today.