25 Mar Interactive Therapy and Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone
Usually my blogs are on a subject that I specifically want to help my clients with. Whether that be to share information with them or discuss a book I have just read.
This time though I am working collaboratively with an amazing photographer, Julia Harris at JMH PhotoStories. Julia worked with me (pre-covid) on taking some pictures to enhance my website and social media.
Anybody who knows me personally knows I’m not a fan of having my photo taken so this pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I love what a photo can do and respect how they can help you step into another’s world but the experience for me feels very vulnerable, exposing and unnatural.
The photos that I got from Julia really helped me step into my clients world. I wanted to show them my cosy, warm, ‘home from home’ summerhouse and help them to decide whether I am the right person for them to have counselling sessions with.
So in this blog I am going to give you more of a visual look at what therapy with me might be like. It can include some creativity if that fits you as a person. Or it could be conversation if that’s more you. Therapy techniques are tailor made to what and how works for you. Whilst I use the same skills, knowledge and activities they all benefit clients when used in different ways.
“Julia, how often do you step out of your comfort zone?”
Every time I meet a client for the first time! We’ll have messaged beforehand or spoken on the phone but meeting someone face to face gets the butterflies going. What if we don’t click! For a really good photo shoot we both need to be comfortable and relaxed, I worry that if that’s not the case then I won’t get the photos they want. I’ll end this answer by saying that, to date I have got on well with everyone I have worked with 🙂
ME (SAM ANDREWS) AND MY COSY, SAFE SPACE
This is me. I describe myself as approachable and fun. Therapy does not have to be serious. Sometimes the scary unknown of therapy can be eased with a visual connection to someone. I hope this helps you to connect with me.
And this is the space I work in, it’s a warm, cosy, safe place to learn and grow together. My summerhouse has a mini forest behind it so we always hear the birds tweeting. Spot the butterflies behind me? I often use butterflies in my analogies with clients, particularly when we talk about growth, I love their colours and warmth, they give a sense of ‘home from home’, safety and containment.
I am always learning about new ways to help my clients, researching all the time, hence my little reading corner that has a pile of books in it. A selection that provides me with techniques, symptom specific and topics that I can talk to my clients about. I am continually learning and updating my skills in the areas my clients need support with and as a therapist making sure I stay on top of the new techniques for different stages of a client’s therapy.
“Julia, we talked about which photo to use for this bit, do you see why I went for this one?”
Absolutely. Your space is bijoux, I like that word, ”small but elegant and tasteful” and this little corner with light shining through tells us things about it and you. The pretty wallpaper shows your relaxed nature, its calming, and the books show the side of you that wants to know more and more, that wants to be able to help a client the best way possible. We also get a little glimpse of you, and you look very happy sitting in your quiet reading chair!
INTERACTIVE & FUN
Sometimes we can lose our motivation to do things when life gets busy. Emotions hit us or we need help to think of ways to work with our family. This is one of the creative ways I work with a client.
I encourage the use of jars in different ways, whether it be individuals that need achievable goals over a certain time span, or a parent who wants to connect more with their children. I will encourage them to write things down that they’d like to do with their children and to consider things that they can do at home with them. If there are boundaries around finances we may talk about free activity ideas to add to the jar. We may think about creating ideas for a monthly treat.
One client used different coloured paper for different areas of their life to help keep them separate and identifiable. It was great to see how their mind organised this activity and how they made the activity work creatively for them. I always tailor ideas to who you are and what works for you best.
Our collaboration to produce this blog has been interesting. While talking about what photos to use in the blog we saw things differently. We discussed what we saw in a photo and negotiated which ones to use. It was like therapy, It’s all about options. I can give options but you know you best. I love to hear what you want to try or how you see something. It’s important to always keep this journey your own.
“Julia, if I gave you a jar to fill with notes on paper what would be written on them?”
I have often talked about having a Happy Jar for the family. Every time any of us achieve something or have a moment when we feel really good about life I’ll scribble it down on a piece of paper and pop it in a jar. Every now and then, when we are all together, the jar comes out and I think it would be fun to read through them, remember and say ‘that was pretty cool’.
I think I might go and find a jar and label now I have put it on paper 😉
THE MASKS WE WEAR
Creative activities can help visually open up conversations we didn’t know we needed to have. For instance, why do I put on a metaphorical mask for the rest of the world? Is it to keep people out and blend in or, for the vulnerable of us, to stay hidden and unnoticed.
When I do this activity with clients it always starts out as a fun and playful experience of who do I show to the world verses who am I really? We can often metaphorically wear many masks for the roles we play whether that be a professional at work, mum, wife or daughter. We can easily lose sight of who we are when we are trying to fulfil a role that includes another person.
This helps us refocus back on you as a person underneath everything as you are always the centre of our work together, we then will discuss between those masks or afterwards how that was to do and often compare with each one as to why they are so different what’s the fear of being more authentically yourself. What might get in the way? Others judgement? Fear of being perceived as too different?
I talk a lot about the masks we wear as in my training we did some experiential work on different aspects of who we are and I chose to incorporate these into one. I also got to try this technique out at a creative therapy CPD event that The Bower House Support Services ran a few years ago to try many alternative therapy interventions. I will never ask a client to do something I have not tried myself, this way I can better help support them through the activity.
“Julia, how do you choose which photos are best for a job .”
(Smiling) We can all get picky when it comes to photos that include us. If you’re struggling with a choice it might help to see what someone else sees in the photo before you discard it.
Of these 2 photos, you preferred the simpler image with an introduction to a story whereas I wanted the one that told the first couple of chapters!
It wasn’t until we got chatting that we realised you had got a lot more personal about the second photo. I liked the interaction between you and your client but it just shouted out to you that you were not in the seat you normally sit in when with a client. My eyes went straight to the colours of the paints and the mask, I found it intriguing, while you went to the fluffy footwear 🙂
Try to look at a photo, especially one that includes you, objectively.
MY PIN BOARD
Some people do not resonate with creative tasks, so we might talk using metaphors instead. Using an image we can both identify with, to describe how they feel or felt. For example, the client may say they feel like a bird whose wing is injured and nobody is there to help them. My response would be reassurance that they are no longer alone, I’m here to help mend the wing so they can get back to flying again.
The board is another useful visual in my room. Top left is a positive reminder ‘You are enough’ sometimes we don’t hear this as much as we need it.
Top right is an example of lists I often recommend making daily to help you recognise how much you may be trying to fit into your day, week or month. We can often push ourselves to attain more than is humanly possible, we only disappoint ourselves by continuing to expect this from ourselves.
Bottom left is a positive affirmation ‘Make Today Count’ to remind us to keep focused on our goals! The first diagram next to it is a well-used theory when we get pulled into triads in relationships. I use this to explain how everyone will see from an alternative viewpoint. Each person’s perception of which part the other is playing may not be the same. We can only ever see something from our own perspective until we discuss it with an impartial other.
The last diagram shows what both healthy and unhealthy boundaries look like. Visually showing one extreme to another. I ask clients to identify what their boundaries were like growing up and where they would like them to be now ,within relationships in their life.
“Julia, are you a person that lists?”
Absolutely, and I get great joy from crossing a ‘to do’ off it when done! I do try to keep my lists realistic, no point in filling it with every little thing, it just gets stressful then. I put down the stuff that is important to get done, whether that be something work related or a birthday I need to remember – I have a terrible memory! I fun it up with colours and at the end of the day I re- write it fresh ready for the morning, I’ve normally doodled all sorts over it through the day!
I hope you have enjoyed my chat and the chat from Julia. We both like to keep life relaxed and as simple as we can, if that’s the way you like to work and if you think we can help you with interactive therapy or photos then just drop us a message.
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