14 January 2014

I won't stand for Abuse - I will stand against it

Unfortunately I will have to take a week off work at the end of February. This is to attend a hearing in another part of the country. I raised a complaint against a therapist/supervisor who I believe abused his position of trust when I was in training. I can't and won't go into the details here. Apart from feeling so deeply ashamed that I could somehow wind up in this position, it wasn't until I heard that other women had been subjected to the same or similar abuses that I decided that I had no option but to report this man, who at the time, showed absolutely no remorse or compunction for the distress he caused, and which I so clearly communicated.

I am passionate about counselling. I am passionate about ethical practice. I am passionate about protecting people from abuse. This is what has driven me to continue with what has been an ordeal that started in August 2011, but really picked up when I eventually reported to the appropriate authorities in June 2012.*

For anybody that has raised a complaint about an unethical, abusive therapist alone, I salute you, You deserve a series of medals, because this is one of the most gruelling processes I have been through in my entire life. For anybody that did not feel that they could go ahead, I absolutely understand. Would I if I was alone in this….? Quite possibly not. Sometimes it seems better in a survival sense to minimise the incidents and wonder whether I was somehow at fault. Whatever somebody's reasons for not complaining, I understand and respect those reasons. I salute you for doing what you need to do.

"Never interrupt your enemy when he's in the process of destroying himself"

Fortunately, the case is very, very strong. There are numerous witness statements and, in a way quite fortunately, the therapist in question has behaved appallingly in response to those who raised grievances; sacking people, writing character assassination documents and circulating widely with the threat to circulate even more widely, lodging professional complaints against complainants. None of the complaints he has raised have proceeded to a hearing as it was quite plain for all to see what the purpose of the complaints was, which was not to protect clients from unethical practice (the whole point of the process) but to try and ruin people who had raised legitimate complaints.

So, aside from the fortitude of having truth on our side, which helps mightily, we have the shocking behaviour of somebody who it seems will stop at nothing to try and prevent that truth being exposed.

I have worried at times about my safety. I have my journals hidden safely away from home (thankfully I wrote down much of what happened when it happened as we had to keep personal journals as part of our training) and I am careful. I have had my email account hacked numerous times since this started (having never ever had an email accout hacked ever before), received dirty phone calls, had an old online account accessed and the intimate details shared wide and far. Some of these could be to do with him, some of them maybe just coincidental.

But I am not alone, there are others standing up against this person. It is strange position to be in. I abhor the fact that I am not alone, but in our not aloneness we can help each other to stop it.

I'm losing a week of pay (on top of everything I have lost to date with this case), having to arrange childcare/dogcare transport and accommodation. Any person with an ounce of reason will see that this is not just a case of trying to cause some trouble for somebody.

This isn't personal, it's about protecting clients and about protecting the profession. Every profession has a dark side and whilst I do not profess to be an angel (yes I have metaphorical warts on my personality), I do not abuse and I will not stand for the abuse of myself or others.

For further information on how to check that your therapist is regulated read this post by Phil Dore:


* There are many complex reasons why I waited, mainly fear of not being believed and professional dependency. 

6 January 2014

Mindfulness and Martial Arts - Good for Mind, Body and Soul

I often recommend a mindfulness based exercise, such as yoga, pilates or a martial art to my clients because this type of exercise "flexes" our frontal lobe as well as our muscles, and it is in doing so that we pop out of our automated way of thinking and provide our minds with the space to change. That is what learning is all about - forming new neural connections. This is also what unlearning is about - severing the neural links that have been long established and which cause us to react in the same old unwanted ways…unless we utilise our incredible frontal lobes and literally change our minds. This process is known as neuroplasticity and was introduced as an idea in the West by William James  in 1890, and was largely rejected until the 1970's. James stated:

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind". 

It took us a while to get with the programme but getting there we are with the NHS embracing mindfulness and the University of Exeter investing in the clinical development and research of mindfulness based therapies.  

Here is a short video by Professor Williams from Oxford Mindfulness Centre, on The Science of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness alters our perspective and gives us the mental space to develop a new way of thinking, as well as calming down our emotional reactionary circuits.

Several years ago I tried kenjutsu which is the art of the Japanese sword.  I joined whilst I was training as a counsellor and tried weekly for about three years. It was helpful when I have been stressed, or busier than I'd like to be, or had challenging times in my life.

I am fortunate in that my counselling work is very mindful in that I am aware and present in the moment with my clients. It is easier to be mindful when we are doing activities which promote mindfulness. My enabling work with an autistic teenager is also very mindful. William is perpetually mindful of the immediate here and now. I had a dream about him several years ago; I was in a forest, taking part in a gruelling assault course. I was struggling to climb over and under things at breakneck speed. I glanced over at the other competitors and all I could see was William, skipping up and down on a tree stump, flicking a ribbon, whistling and smiling, totally at peace with the world.

I have many clients who are aware of the concept of mindfulness and have read books or attended a course but struggle to integrate it into everyday life. There are ways of weaving mindfulness into our everyday lives. Walking is an excellent way - thinking about what we can see and hear right now as we walk, rather than losing ourselves in thoughts/concerns/worries that are miles away from where our feet are…

A great martial arts class can be a highly effective way of developing strength of body and mind, of switching off the old, habitual thought processes and turning on that part of us that makes us uniquely human - our frontal lobes. Flex that frequently and you'll have a young mind as well as a young body.

Finally, I asked many people I know who do a martial art to tell what their Myers-Briggs type is. I was hoping to see a pattern. I had assumed that they would be mainly introverts rather than extroverts but actually, there was a fairly even spread. However, the majority of martial artists were *NF* types, that is intuitive and feeling (as opposed to sensing and thinking). Hmmn. Food for thought.

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