My Approach to Helping
From my special education training, I became very oriented to focusing on strengths within and without an individual. When I first meet with a new client, I ask them about what brought them to seek help but move into what are their strengths, what has worked well in their life, who and what in their surrounding world is a support or source of comfort or fun. I find most people have "aha' moments in the first meeting from doing a modified family tree called a 'genogram'. This will show positive relationships as well as the source of problems within and without the family history. We all learn how to relate to the world and how we see ourselves from the people we grew up with: our family of origin.
I like to educate people on simple ways to calm themselves paying attention to their breath and how this is the first step to learning how to step back and "detach with compassion" from overwhelming feelings. I use art therapy to further learning this skill. Making different images with scribbling or a magazine collage or simple stick figure drawings can stimulate language, feelings awareness and memories. Looking at images and experiencing the feelings is a way to practice detachment and learn to tolerate feelings and literally face your fears or sadness or anger. This approach is relevant for all ages. With younger kids, the breathing is modeled more than taught. Parents practice with the kids before bedtime.
I go back and forth between talk, art and breath and body awareness depending on what the client needs or is expressing. I provide quite a bit of direction, making suggestions to try this or that, what does that feel like, what do you sense, feel, think, see? If they don't have the words or are overwhelmed we return to the body awareness and art making for soothing, settling and hopefully more information.
With younger children, this is modeled or taught in story form with therapeutic stories, metaphor and or puppets. In the midst of this, I also am playful and encouraging whenever it's appropriate. Life is difficult enough! Let's have some fun while we're at it! That is part of the magic of art/play therapy wherein we can tap our inner child to come out and play and help us let go and be in the moment.
From Eastern philosophy, I refer to mindfulness and being in the here and now. There is the idea of the emotion mind, the rational mind, and the wise mind. In Jungian psychology its the Id, Ego and the higher SElf and various personas. In Transactional Analysis, it's the inner parent and inner child. No matter how you cut it, we usually are experiencing some kind of inner dialogue between conflicting aspects of ourselves which cause us trouble until we learn how to step back with love and compassion and figure out how to resolve the conflict. This also includes physical cues and what the body may be telling you.
Let me also add here, that I respect and value your particular spiritual beliefs and practices or lack thereof. In one form or fashion, spirituality or the lack of gives me more of you to work with and is a resource for you in your growth and healing.
My job is to be the outside observer and support while you figure out how to tell the tree from the woods as the saying goes. My job is to show you how to corral the wild part of yourself and then go into that corral and develop a relationship with the wild or scared part of yourself.
The horse whisperer dude just waits patiently until the wild horse begins to feel safe and eventually comes over to the horse whisperer. The horse whisperer stays calm and confident and is gentle, patient. The horse whisperer revels in the strength, resilience and beauty of the horse and shows the horse there is nothing to fear. Eventually, the horse and the whisperer can leave the corral and go out and enjoy each other in the world working together with the strength of the horse and the wisdom and calm of the rider. I will show you if you are ready and willing how you are your own horse whisperer! And I will believe in you until you believe in yourself.