Ways I might be different to other therapists:

I offer counselling for individuals and relationships of all types – friendships, romantic couples, platonic friendships, family members, queerplatonic relationship anarchists, and the good ole relationship from oneself to oneself.

I am interested in relationship counselling between more than just couples – friends, parent-child, carer-child, adult siblings, etc.

Adult sibling relationship counselling is an increasingly popular service. There are specific dynamics and issues with adult siblings that don’t occur in any other relationships – who will care for your ageing parents, who will pay for their increasing health needs, how to come together to confront an ageing abusive parents, etc.

I focus on growing self-awareness and self-advocacy.

I look at your family of origin experience and how that’s influenced you as you are today.

I consider your possible attachment styles and attachment wounds.

I am LGBTIQA+ experienced. I still volunteer for a parents of gender diverse youth support group.

Lived experience + professionally trained = best of both worlds

I don’t believe I’m an expert – I believe in working relationally and collaboratively with you.

I don’t want to talk at you and tell you what to do. I want to sit with you and listen and be curious about your experiences.

I believe all people have acts of resistance in times of trauma and hardship. It’s about pointing out those moments no matter how subtle and seeing where you resisted and fought back.

I have training in working with men who use power and control and violence. I believe in empowering and inviting these men to take responsibility.

I genuinely believe that change is always possible.

Moving house is mentally exhausting, and how much of your personal life do you decide to share with coworkers and clients?

I’m not physically moving until mid-late January and I am already stressed. I think I’m stressed a reasonable amount for the situation and I’m also balancing it with excitement. So, really I’m complaining for the sake of complaining – which can be therapeutic and bonding!

That relates to my current train of thought – how much of my personal sh*t do I share with my co-workers and clients? I know, I know. There’s no right answer. Everyone’s different, everyone’s work environment and relationships to people at work is different, and so on. Still…

While I was doing my Bachelor of Social Work degree at uni, I was taught to have an absolute concrete hard line between my personal and professional life. Pfft. Boundaries are important but that is impossible – like literally impossible.

Current best practice and training (ugh there’s always better stuff when you’ve already left) shows that social workers/therapist are more effective when they show they’re human. Every social worker I’ve meet agrees that there are hard limits (e.g. don’t add your clients on your personal Facebook!) but the other stuff is a bit more grey and wibbly-wobbly.

I use discretion to decide whether or not something I share is appropriate. I generally follow the principle most social workers follow is – I only share it if it has a purpose and helps the client. That being said, why deny that I’m feeling a bit tired or anything else that shows that I’m human and imperfect? The days of therapists presenting this perfect impenetrable have-my-life-together are over! Or at least for those of us that keep up to date with Best Practice with capital B and P.

You have to model the model – be imperfect, be vulnerable, be human and show that it is okay to be all those things you’re telling clients are okay! If you say one thing then to the contrary then why would the client believe you?

Or relate to you.

Or trust you.

So my point is that I’m really tired guys. Moving sucks. Buying furniture sucks and is so expensive. The dog in the box photo I found is cute though.

And you can always trust me to be honest and imperfect.

Peace,

Michelle

External supervisors and the small world therapists live in

Supervision is a topic I am super passionate about. I believe you should get a minimum of 1 hour of clinical supervision every month. I’m getting 1.5 hours of line management every month, 1 hour of work funded external supervision every 6 weeks, and 1 hour of self-funded external supervision every 4-6 weeks. I used to attend a monthly group supervision (that has since been discontinued). I also co-facilitate caseworker group supervision across 3 offices (but I’m not counting that since I’m not a supervisee).

That’s a lot of supervision. I know.

When I used to work full-time in two separate organisations I had another 2 supervisors on top of that. Messy!

In my speciality of relationship and systemic therapy (with an attachment lens) there’s not a lot of options for supervisors with a degree (mostly Masters due to the limited study options too) and at least 10 years of experience under their belt. I also had some additional criteria – I needed them to have enough degrees of separation from my organisations I want to work for in the future, my current managers, most of my co-workers, etc. You get the picture.

When I was researching potential clinical supervisors in Sydney I had a very short list. I think it was about 6 names – maybe less. I had to cross someone out because they literally worked in my role previously and my line manager was not keen. I crossed off another two people because they lived too far north for me. I crossed off another because they were running group supervision for one of my workplaces. So I had 2 people left over.

It’s been about a year since and through training/work/etc I’ve noted a few more names but it’s still a small group. I’ve attended enough state-wide and national conferences/trainings to know the key players. Word of mouth is both a huge advantage and also very dangerous! A trainer I liked recommended a supervisor I loved, and on the other side at the national conference a group of family therapy leaders recommended a supervisor I had tried earlier and totally flopped with.

Supervision IS NOT just about finding solutions, solving problems and double checking what you’ve done.

Supervision IS about building a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Supervision is a relationship where you are supported to grow.

Supervision’s goal is to create and maintain a long term relationship where you feel emotionally safe enough to expose your vulnerabilities as a person and as a professional, where you are open to be challenged, and comfortable to ask questions about what your supervisor said. It’s about having passionate theoretical and ethical debates, unpacking a session where you would have done everything differently, having someone who you see as an expect recognise your skills and identity as a therapist, where you can grieve and celebrate cases.

It’s about finding the right fit like Goldilocks. Trial and error. I definitely feel different levels of comfort and trust towards different supervisors. Some supervisors are more structured and holding in their approach which can create a sense of safety and security in the space you share. You trust in their ability to contain you. Some are more practical and task based, and provide less emotional support. In contrast, others may not have strong enough boundaries and try pull you into being their emotional drama. In the supervisor-supervisee relationships there can be a variety of dynamics and dangers that occur in any dyad.

I also love peer supervision which I don’t have in my current role – I’ll take a look at options out there or even look at starting my own peer supervision group where we can meet up once of month after work or on the weekend.

Controversial Question: Do you need to love yourself to be able to love another?

Do you need to love yourself to be able to love another?

This is a question that’s come up a few times in the last month in my readings, audiobooks, discussions with colleagues, and now in my thoughts.

I can cite a bunch of blahblahblah this theorist says this, that theorist says that – but really what is your immediate visceral reaction?

Where do you think your belief came from? Your parents? The media? Has it ever caused any problems for you or your intimate relationships?

I won’t lie. I was a fierce proponent of “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else!” I think it is 200% true that you should focus on self-compassion (which is different to self-esteem; post on that to come) and prioritize self-care in this fast-paced chew you up and spit you out society.

However, does that mean you should avoid being vulnerable and dating until you’re 100% settled in your own skin?

Maybe. Maybe not. Context, as always, matters.

One of my core principles as a therapist is working transparently (translation: no bullshit). I’m going to throw out another controversial idea! Haha! I think dating is one of those things that may not be for everyone.  I think it’s fair enough for people to make a conscious decision to stay single.  Some people who do not have the emotional energy to give to a romantic partner with existing needs (e.g. mental health; children) and it’s best for their stress and wellbeing to focus on themselves. 

But!

If you’re using something like that as an excuse and not a genuine reason that it’s time to challenge yourself on what you really want, what you’re scared of, and what you want that you don’t even know you want.

If you are interested in the theoretical side of it look into Stan Tatkin (PACT), Sue Johnson (Emotionally Focused Therapy), Dick Schwartz (Internal Family Systems), Gottman, Brene Brown for modern theorists’ view on it.

The (historical) pioneers of attachment theory were Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby.

My reflections on Emotionally Focused Therapy

I’ve been brushing up on my Emotionally Focused Therapy with Sue Johnson’s online course and her book/s. I’m far from an expert but so far it’s a model that really aligns with my main homeboys Attachment Theory and Family Systems Theory.

If I had to take only one thing from my study into Emotionally Focused Therapy, it would be to not get distracted by the content couples come in with (we never have sex anymore! the house is a mess! you’re rude to my mum! you had an affair! I don’t like the way you speak to me!). Under all this content is the root of the problem – disconnection.

Of course, the other things problems – but the root of ALL problems is the lack of emotional safety and security in your connection to each other to openly and unabashedly talk about it without anger, hurt, sadness or defensiveness.

The root of all discontent is disconnection.

The solution is safety and security in connection with another (your lover, your child, your mother, your Self).