Counsellor, BACP (Acc), Reg,Dip Supn, UKCP Acc,Supervisor
I am an Integrative Person Centred Therapist and UKCP Accr Supervisor. My Integrative practice includes elements of Psychotherapy, Person Centred practices, along with TA, CBT, Gestalt and now Trauma Work and Focusing/Grounding Techniques.
The main content of my caseload, both as a Supervisor and a Therapist, consists of Trauma related interventions. This applies not only to my work with clients who are experiencing the effects of historical traumatic events, but also to my work with Therapists who work with these clients and often, out of awareness, suffer Secondary Trauma Symptoms. Following attending the Trauma workshops, I was able to recognise the negative impact on the therapist’s work with their clients, when they themselves are affected by trauma. For example, the therapist developing boundary difficulties with their clients in terms of extending numbers of sessions to ‘rescue’ the client or deviating from the therapeutic goals originally identified collaboratively with the client.
On a personal level, out of awareness, I had been subjecting myself to vicarious traumatisation for some time. I realised that to be able to work effectively with both clients and supervisees I needed to address my own self-care. In turn I could then raise the Therapists self-awareness of Secondary Trauma and self-care. I made the realisation that my own difficulties stemmed from high levels of empathic responses. I had to some extent, believed that in order to be Person Centred in my approach this required me to ‘follow’ the client back to their historical trauma to process the events which , in my opinion, invites re-traumatisation.
Whilst working as a volunteer in an environment providing therapy to clients suffering complex trauma symptoms I met Dzmitry and attended the two Trauma related workshops run by himself and Celia.
My learning has been that Person Centred Practice can involve a variety of techniques which can halt the re-traumatising of Clients during the Therapy process whilst still maintaining the Person Centred approach. Thereby we can protect both the client and ourselves .
FOCUSING AND TRAUMA WORK
I found Focusing work enabled the client to ‘move’ at their own level of tolerance. They are enabled to Identifying where the trauma lies in their body and promote an acceptance of the traumatic events and its effect on their body. Thereby moving towards an integration of the events into the ‘here and now’ without the events impacting negatively with strength, on their present lives. As the technique does not rely on ‘talking’ therapy or language abilities, I have used it with clients for whom English is not their first language, those too traumatised to relate events and also young people whom I have experienced, cannot always find words but can use this technique for processing distress.
I have experienced many other of the Integrative Techniques being ‘stopped in their tracks’ by trauma. The client’s perceptions of time scales are distorted and their usual thought patterns disrupted by trauma. This resulted in ‘stuckness’, an inability to find a way forward. In my experience my personal development from the workshops has been to be able to allow my clients, my Supervisees and myself also, to ‘sidestep’ the frustrations of the ’stuckness’ and blockages caused by trauma and its disruptions of the thought processes. All in all a very liberating technique and the workshops providing valuable insights to ourselves and others and the potentially debilitating effects of trauma on our minds and bodies.
Over the years Dzmitry and I have worked with many hundreds of people on our courses, these were Psychotherapists, Counsellors, Psychologists, Alternative and Complementary Therapists of all kinds and people who just came out of interest and for the healing.
It gradually became evident that our approach works especially well with people who have suffered from trauma. Dzmitry is an expert in this field and he has found that, before doing any therapeutic work, a client must feel safe and must have some resources around him and within himself. Our Complex Trauma (Stage 1) workshop looks at how to establish safety and resources.
We have also both found, as have many others, that working with trauma can affect us and distress us deeply. I think that, before embarking on doing this work, all helpers would benefit from some ideas about how to ground themselves and keep boundaries. These are not just physical boundaries, such as keeping regular appointments and structure around the therapy session; we also need to learn to establish boundaries inside ourselves to prevent us from becoming overwhelmed.
A very important aspect of working with trauma is to be aware that trauma lodges in the body and the emotions, those parts of us that are managed by the more primitive parts of our brains. When a traumatic event happens our rational, thinking brain switches off. This is the part of the brain that has language. So, talking therapy does not work with some clients. We have to do something else. This is where we have found Focusing to be so useful. It begins with the body, finding a felt sense of an issue, and it develops into a dialogue with a part of ourselves. During this process, the thinking brain is engaged and the trauma can be transformed into a normal memory and stored in the usual way, rather than triggering us into fearful emotions.
Our Complex Trauma (Stage 1) course covers preparation for doing the work and gives an introduction to finding felt senses in the body. To some people, paying attention to the body can be a new and interesting experience. We give several exercises that can be used with clients, once the participants have tried them out for themselves.
We believe that it is important for people to attend this course before they go on to enrol for some of our others, because the concept of working with the body is quite new to many and we would like people to have a grounding in the work before going on to more advanced ways of working with felt senses.
Ever since I attended training weekends as a part-time youth worker I have been fascinated with group work. It wasn’t about therapy but most of the sessions were about personal development. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my youth work trainings and I would come home feeling high.
It was as a result of my youth work that I found counselling. I decided to take an introductory course because I thought it would help me to connect with the young people in the club. I found it fascinating! This was what I really wanted to do! So then I embarked on learning to do counselling and finding out an awful lot about myself in the process.
My Person-Centred Counselling course was all experiential, designed by Carl Rogers it was unstructured and everything was done in the group. When I finished that course I wanted to find out more and ventured into all sorts of alternative methods of healing, all of them experiential and all of them most enjoyable. The one thing I found to be the most powerful was Focusing. It encompasses all of the other methods and approaches in a simple and gentle way. It gets straight to the root of a problem and resolves it far more quickly than can be done with talking therapy. It does, however, work on the same principle as Person Centred therapy, where the client finds her own way through a process with very little input from the person listening. It was discovered and developed by Professor Eugene Gendlin in the 1960’s who, together with Carl Rogers, listened to thousands of tapes to discover what it was about therapy that made it work. They found that if the client noticed a feeling inside themselves and tried to describe it, then the therapy was successful, regardless of who the therapist was and what model they were using.
So, if you are interested in new and different ways to heal people, do sign up for our courses. We include lots of experiential exercises, so you are likely to find out new things about yourself, as well as new things you can use with clients. Dzmitry and I do our best to keep the experience gentle and safe, so that you can enjoy the process.
Celia Dawson & Dzmitry Karpuk
Our journey from our old organisation, Health Minds, to our present new and exciting existence, Complex Trauma Therapists, Network in the UK, has been fascinating, rewarding and full of learning.
We have now connected with many hundreds of people on their personal and professional journeys and have found some particularly vital topics that many of us have in common. The most important of these is the question, “How to deal with trauma?” This is quite a new field in the area of Psychotherapy and it is now evident that working through the body and the use of experiential therapies, such as gestalt therapy, art therapy and psychodrama are the most effective.
Although we use elements of many different approaches, we have found that Focusing Oriented Therapy is particularly useful here. It starts with a “felt sense” of an issue in the body which then changes in a gentle but powerful and healing way. We have developed a number of courses, which are available to new, as well as to experienced therapists, to demonstrate this approach to trauma work.
Of vital importance, when working in this difficult field of trauma, is the safety and well-being of the therapist. It is so easy for boundaries to become blurred and for us to pick up the fear and panic of our clients and take it home with us. For this reason, we build into our courses elements of self-care to help us and to remind us not to become enmeshed in our clients’ difficulties. Our new website exists also for therapists of obtain help, support and advice on this issue.
One extremely important element that we have found when working with trauma is that no model of therapy will work if the client does not feel safe and has not found some resources within him/herself. How often have we have had clients who came for only one session and then disappeared? Some foundation work is essential we have built this into all of our courses.
We are looking forward with eager anticipation to developing this website to help us all with our work and to make available effective ways to deal with the suffering of our clients.
This website also provides information for the general public around trauma work as well as advertising qualified professionals who work with issues related to single or complex trauma.