There was a time when, at the start of a new year, I’d turn towards what I could improve. I don’t think of myself in quite that way anymore. I’ve come to realise there is as much growth in self-acceptance as there is in forced change.
That said, I am on a year-round lookout for things that may enrich my day-to-day life, or practice. So, when I hear the same message three times from three different people, I tend to pay attention.
Lately, people have been reminding me that, while therapy is often about being authentic and congruent in the moment, there is also a great deal that you can do to prepare the ground.
In the run-up to BACP Spirituality’s ‘Working with Soul’ online event, in November, I had conversations with some of the speakers to gather the material for this post-conference issue.
My chat with consultant psychiatrist, Sarah Eagger, which you can listen to in Thresholds online, was packed with useful information. One of the things that stayed with me was Sarah’s suggestion that practitioners practise talking about spirituality with their peers as a way to ‘…find our own language’. In these role play conversations, we can sense what might sound odd to us, and therefore to our clients. This made a lot of sense. It seems hard to admit, but perhaps deep exchanges in the therapy room don’t always come naturally. It’s not what is expected from us in wider society. So, the take-home message from Sarah was, be prepared.
I’d had another Zoom conversation a few weeks previously with Matthew Cormack, which will also be available online soon. It was a moving conversation that both celebrated queer spirituality and honoured the trauma and pain that people have experienced. I came away with a similar message: we must learn about ourselves and other people, and reflect on our own sexuality and gender as therapists; ditto our spirituality. We must learn more about GSRD narratives and experiences. Be prepared.
Finally, in a supervision session, I was reflecting upon the not exactly uncommon pandemic challenge of struggling to smoothly transition between different life compartments. I sometimes move from client session to email inbox, to the postman at the door – not always having fully finished feeling what I needed to feel. My supervisor asked me what I could do to draw upon a sense of being spiritually grounded after a session ends. I came up with a little ritual. She suggested I practise it with her, there and then. Ah, I thought, there it is again. Be prepared.
One of the most beautiful lessons I took from Martina Lehane Sheehan at the conference in November is the concept of statio. It is a monastic practice: a deliberate, sacred pause between things. Another form of preparation.
I hope you enjoy this issue and get as much from it as I have. It was great to see conference participants talking in the chat room about how nourishing they found the morning. There was a calm to the event and that sense, yes, that we could be prepared.
Amy McCormack, Editor