A counsellor on leave

From October until December, 2016, Jacqueline Pullan, will be living and working in Fort Kochi India. In this series, She discusses her personal and professional reasons for embarking on a journey that will further her understanding of the practical use of yoga in psychotherapy.

I am three days away from completing my work with clients before the arranged professional sabbatical, a period of 7 weeks.

My clinical supervisor is acting as a surrogate therapist for anyone who wants to be seen during this time of my planned absence. His work with me, helps me to understand my feelings about and towards each one of my clients as I care for them and how this action on my part is a co creation of an ending.

This can be a challenge for clients in that there are many concerns and feelings that may be evoked from the past and relevant in the present. In this circumstance I am a catalyst (the therapist )becoming unavailable for issues of trust, dependency, loving and losing, desire, grief and mourning. It is also the opportunity for bringing into the light of awareness how painful ,and manageable endings and perceived losses can be. The sessions have been important in every week and some more than others have focused on what meaning it has for the client in their life experience of separations.

Sometimes the client wants to be rational and understanding and below the threshold of consciousness needs to communicate tears, fears, anger and even shame that may surge out of their need and the loss. Rationalisations and sincere good wishes are also reactions of wanting to see only how this is a fabulous decision for me, whilst they are left behind.

Each one of us will have our history and our stories of how goodbyes are imbued with the good, bad, ugly and indifferent feelings and memories. It does matter that I am returning and I will be working with clients again if they choose to return to therapy with me.

However, for some, it is as if I have killed them off or I have died. To leave the therapy prematurely ( before I have the control and power of being the one who ‘ends’ on the designated last session) is for some, a protective and necessary adaptation to unprocessed pain. Being late, not showing up or forgetting or refusing to pay the fee are clues that the client is in the throes of unconscious process of frustration, anger, hostility and disappointment in me.

If, and only if, the client can tolerate their response to my ‘going away’ will I be privileged to work with them again. It is an emotional period of conscious connection in the awareness of parting. Gwyneth Paltrow took a media trouncing for her public efforts in conscious uncoupling and I admire and appreciate how my clients are in their struggles and adaptations to this unwanted and unchosen change in our partnership working together. For the clients who elect to reconnect, we may continue in exploring how this separation resonates in their lives and how their adaptations and strategies of coping and surviving and thriving are developed time and time again.

During supervision today, I talked of why I am going to India (again) to study yoga. Whilst on the teacher training near Mysore in 2014. This experience led to many further questions that demanded investigation, both personally and professionally.

Change inevitably occurs in any relationship. In modern psychotherapy, there is a powerful relationship between client and therapist. A relationship that must always be fully considered from both sides. It is therefore essential that I think deeply on the needs of my clients when embarking on a journey that is in aid of professional development.

You can discover more about my journey to India, and it’s profound impact on psychotherapy in the BodyMindTherapy Clinic Blog.

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