I’m currently in the middle of day 2 of Australian Association of Family Therapy’s Conference hosted in Melbourne. I’m originally from Sydney so there was some uncanny valley when I stepped out of the airport. Are the streets differently sized to Sydney or am I imagining it?
As a giant introvert I was not looking forward to the amount of people and hours I’ll have to be internally switched on. As a therapist I was peachy keen to get into the presentations and talks. 1.5 days in and I am wiped!
I came with a colleague so there’s also the interesting navigation of spending so much time together in a (semi-)social setting of breakfast, breaks, lunch, dinner, etc. Luckily, we’re both big introverts and also fans of talking about talking about so we can speak openly about when we need some time alone.
This trip has also made me reflect on the evolution of my now as a person and as a professional compared to me as a person and a professional only a few years ago in terms of social anxiety and imposter syndrome. I used to be anxious about finding someone to sit with or appearing busy, preoccupied with appearing to know more than I do, and a whole variety of insecurities related to feelings of inferiority.
Now I pick a spot, sit down and do my own thing. I’m more comfortable with quiet, even silences, and that has been something I’ve consciously cultivated over the last few months. I am a stereotypical Sydneysider who is always on the go, always doing 3 things at once, and over-committing myself.
I’m very consciously slowing myself down for personal and professional development. I think the therapist’s Self cannot be separated from their practice so every change I make in my personal growth has an impact in my practice. I’ve moved away from very cognitive “building insight and reflective capacity” (isn’t that a patronising phrase?) and moved towards processing and experiencing. Emotionally-Focused Therapy’s Sue Johnson’s key phrase “slow down” has made itself home in my couple’s work.
There’s always something interesting both to unpack intellectually and watch in basic fascination of the posturing and negotiating of egos/beliefs/insecurities in a room full of therapists. Most of the attendees are professionally trained to some degree (social work, psychology, psychiatry, etc), some have even worked in this area for decades but no one can escape the insecurity and vulnerability of being human and wanting to be admired.
I love the growing trend of emphasis and recognition of Self of the therapist. This was something that was seen as unprofessional when I was at university. I was taught to cut off the part of me that was human so the only part the client saw was the professional. Bullshit! Evidence now shows that the therapeutic alliance, the being with, the Self, the authenticity and human connection is the biggest part of whether therapy works or not.
I’ve booked into an Open Dialogue / Dialogical Approach training next week and I am excited to see how it can support me in being present, curious and open.
For the conference so far the interesting sessions were about: Attached-Based Family Therapy, Parenting Project (Bowen-based manualised program for parents in CAMHS), and working with transgender/gender diverse families.