Proud and Playful

Sharing a proud moment today as the post arrived; I have been awarded my Senior Accredition for Counsellor/Psychotherapists for Children and Young People. I feel so very proud I wrote the accreditation five times because I was never sure it was good enough and finally sent it off.

On receiving my accreditation it always leaves me quite reflective about me and my practice and in particular my work with children and young people. I was late to therapy having had a career in IT and said I would never work with children. My own childhood would need revisiting and that wasn’t something I thought I could do time and time again.

However my clients  just kept getting younger and my first supervisor encouraged me to be more creative to meet the needs of the older teen clients. I soon realised I didn’t really know what she meant and she noticed I didn’t really know how to play. I embarked on a play therapy course to learn how to play and it changed my practice and me forever.

There were tears during training as I was asked to paint a picture as I realised I didn’t know what to paint, all the others were painting, for me there was just panic. The should’s and the shame were overwhelming and I ran off  and sobbed in the loo. Then the hurt crept in as I realised nobody had ever painted with me as a child. The same thing happened when we did the story telling.  For most a play therapy course is an opportunity to have fun and play and learn,  for me there was fun but lots of challenges and tears  too as I had to deal with the mess and noise that I didn’t like, never mind the overwhelming feelings. I had spent so many years as a child trying to be seen and not heard and now here I was being invited to make a noise and a mess.

There was many tears but also a lot of learning, through this process I learnt the seemingly innocence things we do can have such a profound experience on others. I never ask a child to paint me a picture; I don’t assume a child can even be in a room with me, I don’t assume they know how to play either.  I get really cross when adult therapists just start working with children without the necessary training to make them competent. There are a lot who do this and I think we need to be appropriately qualified and experienced and to raise the bar on quality in counselling. We need to able to work out  what type of child we have in our therapy room or with me it might be  sitting on the chip shop wall and adjust our approach accordingly.

My waiting list tells me I have got something right and I work with kids who have seen several therapists off, but are happy to sit on a park bench or in my car and talk to me. Relaxed informal therapy works so well, and if we can adjust our approach to fit the needs of traumatised and neglected children, we can reach them. If we race in trying to fix you will possibly get told to F@*K off if you are lucky, mostly in residential settings they will avoid the sessions when they know you are coming.

Getting the balance right and meeting a child where they are at is not easy. It takes skill and practice, to really tune in and hear a child, to provide support that fits for them that’s not too over or underwhelming.

I have been asked what my secret is why my practice is so busy the answer is, I am just me, a little bit of a chatterbox, very passionate and through lots of study very knowledgeable. Add in my own experiences and some hard work and I have done it, I have created a job I love so much that I struggle to say no when the diary is full .

I was a little bit greedy with the personal development and the books, having studied child adult and family therapy, having read and digested hundreds of books and dozens of conferences and really listened to my clients always asking what more can I do to be of use to you.

I wanted to learn as much as I could, most of all I learn from my clients, always asking what can I do that would be more useful, “take me out of this damn room” one told me, another said “can we go for a walk?”, I listened and I factored in the things these kids didn’t or did get.

So when they tell me I am pretty safe and sick, I ask them why, and they tell me, “because you take the time to get to know me”,  “because you never lecture me”, “because you’re honest and there is no bullshit”, “because a Mel talk works”!

What I offer these kids and all my clients is a real relationship, no promises I can’t keep, no I can fix things for you, just a shake of the head and an acknowledgement that “yeah it’s all a bit shit today”, and the offer a hug is always there, real true acceptance is to accept just what is and hold fire with the well meaning interventions.

I don’t plan sessions, I work with what is and so far it seems to work just fine.  It’s nice to have this accreditation from BACP but the real reward comes from being allowed to spend time with these kids to get to know them. I encourage them to find their pussy cat as well as their tiger with claws.  These children are never just angry or hurting they are a million things and if we just stop trying to fix them they will tell us just what they are, in their own good time, when they feel safe enough to do so.

A proud day to be recognised and to be told I am good enough by BACP my regulating body, but I kind of already knew that anyway, but it’s still good to have it in writing. A special thank you to Jane Myring my clinical supervisor who accepts the maverick in me and for her much valued support.

If you need support get in touch there maybe a little wait but I will try to help as soon as I can.

Best wishes

Mel & River the Sausage