I am reading Brené Brown’s new book “Dare to Lead”, which is all about the importance of feeling vulnerable and owning it in business. The book leaves me thinking about the role that vulnerability plays in counselling, sandplay and creative arts therapy. Supervisors and teachers tell us (consciously or unconsciously) that feeling emotionally doesn’t help our clients. I wonder where that comes from?
I supervise many therapists and students who come in shamefaced and ‘admit’ to me that they showed emotion in a session with a client. It saddens me that even highly trained therapists think they did something wrong by allowing a child to see that they were moved by something they said. Counsellors cannot always be a blank slate. Likewise, many of us feel guilty about returning a client’s hug in their last session. As long as we are aware of what we are doing, and it is not being done to fulfil our own need, is that really so bad?
Therapists are human beings just like everyone else
Yet, we expect such high standards of ourselves. We are taught in training to be professional, but there comes a time I think when we are confident in our ability to hold ourselves, that we can relax a little. Of course we need to watch our boundaries and work on the ability to keep our own problems out of the therapy room. But a client struggles to tell us something deeply affecting when we show little or no reaction. Many clients (and supervisees) have their feelings validated by a compassionate response on their therapist’s face. Therapists can show their vulnerability: we are human beings and not doing so disavows our own humanity. I want us to be human.
Brown brackets together feeling vulnerable, fear and courage
Her view is that we need to be in touch with all three at the same time. Creative therapy really scores here. Sandplay and art create a holding and intimate space between therapist and client. We take a risk putting symbols in a tray, but there is also a peace in it. We are frightened to express ourselves, which needs courage at the same time. There is also a release and a relief in being witnessed, authenticated and held. Our families, friends and colleagues sometimes teach us not to be vulnerable. Vulnerablity can be seen as perceived weakness with potential consequences. In creative therapy, we can learn that we can show ourselves in a safe, contained way and be accepted just as we are. There is always room for personal growth and to feel good.
Students and supervisees talk to me about feeling vulnerable. I would hate it if they couldn’t. I think its essential to be a human being in supervision. Vulnerability in training or the therapy room is a crucial gift. We can take the precious space that supervision or training courses provide as somewhere to learn to know our own vulnerabilities. We can learn to love them. Therapists can accept failings as no longer something ‘other’ or ‘outside us’. We are able to contain ourselves in front of clients when we acknowledge our frailties. Our vulnerability creates a softness and a kindness that is a crucial part of the healing. It also provides the soil in which the creative flowering can grow.
My therapist also battled her demons
I really grew in my own process when I realised that my therapist or supervisor also battled with demons. I felt seen in the moments when I saw compassion or felt a resonant opening of their heart. My feelings of vulnerability were acknowledged. My therapist also encouraged me to pick up a paintbrush or move the sand with my fingers.
All of our training courses come from that soft, expressive place where vulnerability is seen and creative seedlings can grow.
You can find more details of our Integrative Sandplay, Working Creatively Trauma, creative supervision and Expressive Arts trainings on our website jillcartertraining.co.uk or by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org.
We offer courses face-to-face in the UK and online for counsellors and therapists as well as others in the mental health field.
Our courses are offered at introductory, certificate and diploma levels. You can apply online via the website.