Upasana: Sally, I know you as a counsellor and community worker, but today you have offered to reflect on your experience as a client.
There’s a perception that counsellors make the most difficult clients. Do you think that that is true? Did you feel a resistance to the process for that reason?
Sally: No I don’t think its true, I think it’s the opposite. I think it helped me. Counselling was my career choice, so it is only natural that I also see its utility in my personal life. I’m naturally drawn to (a therapeutic) way of thinking about myself and my relationships. I had resistance to the process as just a normal part of the process and the work. The resistance was the work for me for a period of time, a rich part of the work.
Upasana: How did you make the decision about which counsellor to consult?
Sally: I wanted to see someone who had done their own psychotherapy as part of their training, for me this is non negotiable. I had known my therapist from my early 20’s and had such a positive experience with her that I returned in my 30’s to go deeper.
I was drawn to Jungian therapy and her relational style of working. I was confident of her integrity and her ability to be conscious and working with her own process and to work with the transference.
Upasana: What did you like most about how your counsellor worked with you?
Sally: The description that most powerfully sits with me is one of a baby bird and the mother. When the baby is young it needs the mother to eat the food and digest it, then the mother feeds the baby the digested food. I believe that this is what children need with their emotional experiences. I did not have this as a child, no one was there to help me digest my experiences. My therapist was able to take my undigested and raw emotions/feelings and to digest them for me and give them back to me in this digested form. I could then integrate these digested experiences into my life
Upasana: Can you describe her way of working with you?
Sally: We worked a lot with what was happening in the room between us, ie feelings that came up towards her, my reactions and responses to what she did and said. This was like a microcosm of my relationships in the outside world as well as a re enactment of what had happened in my primary relationships. Our relationship was the work and the canvas. She worked with the counter-transference and transference that came up in the room and would name what came up in a way that would make use of this raw material.
Upasana: What are the things you have learnt most from being in therapy?
Sally: I learnt to put words to my feelings and bodily experiences. I learnt a language in which to speak and relate to myself and another person. I learnt to trust processes and to love them. I learnt to feel much more safe inside of me. I developed a compassionate observers position in my mind. I learnt how patterns of relating run through families. I learnt how these were set up in my family or origin. I learnt to trust myself and my feelings and intuitions much more. I learnt what it feels like to be held with love, respect and compassion. I learnt what it feels like to be heard deeply. I learnt that Im not bad. I learnt that things are personal and they are not personal. I could just go on and on.
Upasana: How would you describe your relationship with your counsellor?
Sally: I feel so much gratitude towards her. I’ve not seen her for many years, but we still have some contact via email. I am eternally grateful for all that she offered to me, the safe container.
Upasana: Do you think that therapy creates a dependency on therapy?
Sally: I think this is an interesting question. I think it is a fear that people have of their own vulnerability and shame of their child needs, including dependancy. When I hear people say this it feels like it is said in a way that dependancy is a bad thing, something you don’t want. Was I dependant on my therapist? I hope that I was for a time, yes I was, in the way that I could surrender to my own child needs of feeling vulnerable and being in contact with my feelings of dependancy. I was dependant on her to hold emotions that I was not able to hold for a period of time and then slowly I could take them and hold them myself. The period of dependancy was an important developmental task for me. I think the question to ask if one is looking for a therapist is whether the therapist is able to allow and tolerate that dependancy for the time it is needed and to see it as part of a process and that they have a healthy relationship with their own and their clients dependancy. I think what would scare me more is being with a therapist that doesn’t see that dependancy exists for a period of time in the relationship. To have wisdom and be process orientated and to work with client to not shame them around their needs and to allow the client to grow up and to let go of this dependancy period.
Upasana: What other sources of healing have you found in life? What has been or have been the things that have led you to feeling at peace, joyful or in less pain?
Sally: Meditation, singing, breathing, energy work, yoga, writing, talking, drawing, art therapy, working with alternative healers and plant medicines.
Upasana: Again, I can’t thank you enough for helping me with this project.