Planting Little Seeds

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I signed the lease for All-of-You Therapy, in Milnathort, Perth & Kinross, Scotland this week. I get the keys on Thursday, 2 February when business will commence.

All my work and hours put in had eventually paid off and I am opening my own private practice. I’ve worked with adult clients, Survivors of mainly, childhood sexual abuse. I have also worked with children of primary age with wide, varying issues and/or worries.

I remember the moment in class, studying for my diploma in therapeutic counselling when a representative from Place2Be, which won the Well-being in Schools Awards 2016, came to speak with us, detailing additional courses offered for counsellors also wishing to work with children. I was moved by the speaker and how receptive the children seemed to be to counselling, when brought up with it around them, knowing it’s okay to feel, be heard, speak up and have their own space to play, be and work out what’s going on for them. I had a strong memory of being at school whilst my family life had been turned upside down. My mum moved myself and brother into a new house and very shortly afterwards a neighbour had set fire to his house, leaving a big hole in our floor. I had taken the afternoon off school and had missed a few afternoons previously due to traumatic, life changing, family events. When I was at school there were no counsellors, only guidance teachers and of course the school curriculum was at the root of their agenda. I tried to explain, I had to help my mum, we didn’t have a home or know where we were going. However, there seemed little concern about what I was going to do, seeming more worried, I’d missed a few lessons. In their eyes, the struggle I was going through was for my Mum to sort out and I should be at school. I felt angry, not listened to and didn’t feel understood at all. Someone listening to me, looking at things from my frame of referenc, taking into account diversity, acknowledging and validating how I was feeling would have made a world of difference to me. I often now hear from adults “So and so are very angry” And, I think of course they’re angry after what’s happened to them – as an adult you would be angry and wouldn’t be able to just sit down, be quiet and read your book. Working through anger is a process and valid emotion but there should supportive facilities to assist with this and unfortunately, there isn’t enough at present.

In Place2Be the child has their own box to store their creations which I have carried through to my practise. I initially, particularly liked the idea of this as the box is symbolic of the child and their identity/ inner workings. The material inside which they have made, is what’s going on for consciously or unconsciously for them. In turn, it’s important, its protected, it’s safe and the children cannot take anything out of the room until their last session. Their creations must stay in the box, promoting containment from session 1. In their last session, they look at the box with me and decide whether they would. 1. Like to take all the box home, which they must do that day, being responsible for this. 2. Only take some items home - they may not want to take everything away from counselling. 3. Leave the box with me but let I them know it won’t be kept by me or in the room, if they don’t want it. How the children treat the box, especially at the beginning, compared to the end is very telling.

In this blog, I will be purposely vague on some topics to protect my own self disclosure as a counsellor and to protect client confidentially.However, hopefully in brief examples, I provide will highlight All-of-You Therapy journey, who I am and why I’ve reached this point. I work as an integrated counsellor, my modalities are mainly person centred and psychodynamic, dependent on client needs. Both modalities compliment each other very well, I fiercely believe that everyone has their own answers and under the correct conditions will find them. I think of examples where I’ve spoken with friends about what I want to do, a friend can’t help but give you advice but you don’t always really want this and often, I knew what path I was going to take despite advice given. The psychodynamic part will help with change and focus and look at relationships, patterns and how the client forms them.

So far, each adult without exception has brought material from their childhood, when the foundation for who they are is being established and built. This continues and patterns form - with early intervention, we can give children the tools they need and help them make sense of what’s going on for them.

In play-led therapy with children, I work at their pace and follow their lead. Noticing the therapeutic change in children, is very touching.I normally witness change when children start linking their metaphor which comes from actions in their play to themselves.In session 3 the acknowledgement their play touched upon their reality may have been far too painful for them to acknowledge. This shift occurs quite naturally as clients start to listen to their inner voice and who they are. From this, other aspects of them and their life start to click into place and reoccurring themes are picked up on which spill into other strands of their life. The client finds their own autonomy.

This is all great for schools who have counsellors in place, which is common in Edinburgh and Glasgow. However, the first hurdle, I had to get over when working outwith schools and working in Fife was children not being used to having counsellors around or knowing any peers who had a counsellor. They only knew what they saw in films and had a real fear of coming and thinking there must be something really wrong with them. Each time, it took several sessions to overcome this stigma, in comparison with children actively seeking counsellors out at schools and smiles with greetings as I would walk down the corridor. Immediately, I wanted to open a service outwith the cities, central to other Scottish locations where I could make a difference in mental health. This would help the little people who would become big people who would maybe have their own little people, able to handle their own emotions, take care of their well-being and know it’s okay not to feel okay. There is accessible help out there that isn’t cognitive behavioural therapy, takes all of you and your needs into account, works on your level and isn’t time limited, working at your pace.

I have a testimony from a 10-year-old girl in Fife.I asked her, if she wanted to think about how she felt first and she told me with mighty determination ‘No, I know how I feel when I come here’ She told me she wasn’t writing during her session though because this was her time – Quite right too. She gave me permission to use this as she wanted to help other children help other children;

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It’s quite difficult to read as the original is with another agency at the moment so can’t scan it although it reads;

“What I feel in my Sessions

Mixed emosions but Kerry always helps and when you get to know Kerry she doesn’t really feel like a councelor she feels like a friend and it’s a good environment to let it all go and get help and I don’t really like to cry but I feel it’s okay a little to cry here and Kerry’s nice and lets your know it’s your room and do what you like cry, laugh be made and a hole load of other things, so don’t be afraid to spill the beans”

This child came to me with lots of loss in her life and didn’t know how to cope. She started with her head down, scared to speak to coming away from her sessions smiley with her head up high. Telling me she knows how she feels and what she wants to do next and that’s all that matters, despite what others think of her. Seeing children outwith school means they get the support they need whilst not missing out academically or from school activities, avoiding the feeling of punishment.

This now brings me to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. A common theme, I’ve noticed in such trauma are feelings of low self-worth, thinking their vulnerable, younger them is somehow to blame. I’ve seen self-punishment, thinking they should got over the abuse even although there are huge amounts to overcome.Many were at the ages where they were forming their own personalities, making sense of who they were.In some instances, peers would have been discovering their own sexual identity whilst theirs was being invaded and betrayed. One simple fact that stayed with me from early training, which meant everything for me and made so much sense is if you’ve been sexually abused you’ve also been emotionally and physically abused. I invite you to let that sink in …………….

The main material the client brings isn’t always about the sexual abuse.Some clients explore this and some don’t. They do explore what has happened because of sexual abuse which is often the part that takes time as the result of the trauma, sexual, emotional and physical abuse E.G. Trust issues, eating disorders, self-image, self-worth, confidence, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, inability to move on, attachment issues, dissociation, depression, addiction etc.The list goes on and covers every aspect of what is to be human.

Below is a testimony from a survivor who was my client for 6 months which came through as an email via the agency, I was working with;

“Thank Kerry very much for all her help and support these past 6 months of sessions. I am in a much better place now because you so kindly took me on. I honestly don't know where I would be if I didn't get the help when I did. I'm going to miss my time at ***Agency Name**** as I looked forward to coming in every week but I'm away overseas next week to start my life over there again.

Many many thanks again!!

Regards and best wishes to all “

I will let this feedback speak for itself in terms of what the client took away from her as a result of counselling.

Whilst studying, I can remember observations, I had chosen 2 of the most difficult fields there are in counselling.With children, they can’t walk away from the situation they’re in and survivors of sexual abuse have witnessed, felt and been part of some of the darkest parts of humanity. I can wholeheartedly say, I’ve never seen it this way and as a counsellor, using my skills, I should never matter what the client is brining.

Perhaps, in all that’s been written in this blog there is an understanding of All-of-You Therapy’s journey and how it came to exist. We want to be there for all of you – whether you are little person or a big person. We want to be all inclusive, here for people who need a bit of help so individuals aren’t left to struggle, we care.

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