Firm Foundations

The Physis Scotland Foundation Year 2018 began with 19 new trainees in the last weekend of September. So exciting! We appreciate that this reflection is from the trainers’ frame of reference, but we did want to mark the excitement and the new beginnings for us all.

Over the last 18 months or so, we have been working hard to recruit a viable Foundation year group to launch Physis Scotland. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we might have a group this size which brings with it both great opportunities and great responsibilities. A larger group can be daunting for both trainers and trainees, but we were delighted to observe how the group was able to talk about this and come up with ideas to encourage and support each other both within and out with the training sessions.

Below is a potted reflection of our first weekend:

Fabulous new group meeting, forming, sharing and learning together

Open Communication is being modelled from trainers and invited from all

Unexpected learning happening as we share together – learning what cannot be taught

New direction for many as we review the opportunities for our futures

Diversity within the group is vast with trainees from all over the world bringing richness and different frames of reference into the room

Admin session was necessary, but time consuming, to understand the key things we need to undertake and embrace training in all its fullness

Tuition from Matthew, Student Advisor, on how to write and structure an essay was informative and soothing

Identifying personal training goals for the year ahead was liberating and exciting

OK-we discovered we are all ok, we can all think and can make decisions about our futures

Negotiating our group contract helped us to co-create a safe environment within which we can learn, be ourselves and flourish

Year Handbooks are the necessary reference for us where we know what we are doing and what we need to work well together

Exciting curriculum ahead with experiential and creative techniques to help us learn

Autonomy is key for us all as we plan for the future

Ready now to journey together into the rest of our lives, personally and professionally

We are excited about the year ahead and look forward to meeting up later this month.

What A Journey…

As we approach the beginning of a new academic year, we are delighted to include a blog from one of our colleagues Lynn Esslemont about her experience of being a TA student.

What A Journey…

When the two Fionas invited me to write about my experience of being a trainee for the Physis blog I was both honoured and perplexed. Honoured that my ramblings continue to be of interest to others and perplexed as to how to concisely condense fours years of training onto a page or so of text. Thank you both for the opportunity and the challenge.

My previous experiences of education and training have been merely a series of tick box exercises and jumping through hoops. Something to endure rather than to embrace and enjoy. While there has been an element of that this time around, in terms of coursework and other practical requirements, there has also been a whole other part of the training process which I wasn’t quite prepared for. I have shared in previous blogs for Physis how I got started on my TA journey so I will not repeat myself here. I will only restate that since the fire started there has been no turning back. There have been times when I doubted my ability and desire to do the work. There were other times when I felt certain that working towards CTA and TSTA was my ultimate goal. Through these ups and downs, highs and lows, there has emerged a certainty.

The certainty is not that I am becoming the perfect therapist, nor is it around the end goal. My certainty is simply that I am on a path, and I am heading in a direction. In times gone by this would have freaked me out; no certainty, no end in sight, endless work. Today, however, I am liberated in my ability to trust the process and have faith in my journey. This has become a bit of a mantra among myself and many of my fellow trainees, often with the F word eloquently slipped in for maximum impact! I would like to note that I am not wandering aimlessly along the path. I still have thoughts and ideas about my destination and the direction of my path. These ideas ebb and flow, linger and leave and come round again in different guises. As my supervisor is always keen to remind me “all things are possible”. There is also a wee part of me that wonders if this has all been an elaborate exercise in self awareness and personal development. That too will be ok.

For me, the real work of the training process has not been in the academia of it all. It has been in the self awareness, the pain and discomfort, the emotional work, the breakthroughs and the aah moments, the growth, the tears and the joy. The real work is in the connection with others. Being part of an intimate group of people who have been so generous and courageous. Who have been willing to see and be seen. Who have shared themselves throughout the journey. Friendships forged in fire, like anchors, which provide safe harbours in stormy seas. I have never experienced anything quite like it. What a journey!

If I may be so bold I would like to leave you with my first ever pantoum. A poem written as part of my ending process during my final training weekend. The words used were selected from a page of free writing about my thoughts and feelings at the end of this particular part of my journey. Little did I know at the time how perfectly they would sum up my experience of being a trainee, of being part of both the Physis family and the wonderful world of TA.

Becoming Me

I am more me


I am more me


Baby, what is going on…?

This month we are delighted to include a blog from one of our colleagues Ronen Stilman PTSTA who is offering a CPD on Post natal depression soon.

Humans are creatures of pattern. We employ these patterns from an early age as we try to make meaning of the vast amount of information surrounding us, as we compartmentalise and develop strategies, in response to the what life throws at us in order to to cope and manage.  These patterns, which are core to our existence, are often also our “Achilles heel”. Because sometimes, our reality and our expectations don’t meet and we find ourselves in counter-productive, and sometimes, vicious ‘circles’ that often become part of the dynamics of our relationships.  Those vicious circles manifest themselves in one’s reaction to the other’s action, and so forth.  And sometimes, despite our best efforts, we just can’t work it out, or we just can’t shake it off, whatever it is. When people come to see me as a psychotherapist, this is the point where I often meet them for the first time.

I have always been fascinated by people and their stories, which is what attracted me to this weird and wonderful profession in the first place. I have spent many years learning about the human psyche, and have heard, first hand, the most intimate, diverse and interesting stories from clients.  They have taught me one important lesson: whilst experiencing pain is universal, how we experience it, is individual. You see, pain does not discriminate against gender, race, sexual orientation or any other form of diversity, but these certainly colour how we might experience pain in the first place, where we might be vulnerable and how we might be shamed by ourselves or others. 

Myth buster

In our early years we all make so many unconscious decisions and interpretations about our world that we don’t even notice them. For example, if I tell no one how scared I am about something, my mates might think I’m strong and I will continue to be popular and relied on. Or if I tell anyone how lonely I am, people might think I am weird and walk away. These beliefs are heavily shaped by roles and models that we derive from society. We might grow to think that masculinity is about being tough and strong, or being the bread winner, or that femininity could be about being rescued by a prince or aspiring to be a mother. Society tells us that being beautiful is about possibly having a six pack or a D-cup. Many of us believe that when it comes to love, we are to look for “the one”; who would complete us, satisfy us without having to tell them how, or whom we would we live with happily ever after. How realistic is that? And what happens when these stereotypical myths do not fit us or when we don’t fit with them?

The root of all evil

Freud suggested that our parents are responsible for all of this (actually our mothers to be precise, but it is the 21st century after all, so we have moved on a bit). Indeed, our parents model how to be in relationship for us, and also what tasks males and females take responsibility for in our families. It might be a temporary relief to understand your roots, however J.K Rowling has famously said that there is an ‘expiry date’ on blaming your parents, and unless we take personal responsibility and change some of these patterns, nothing is likely to change for us.  

One of the most significant game changing events for some of us is having children. When a child is born there are many social and cultural expectations that it should be a joyful and happy time, and so by contrast, experiencing depression instead could cause devastation in a parent’s life. Coming to terms with the magnitude of the arrival of a new member of the family and its impact requires time and takes significant emotional resources. In addition, a new baby has an immediate impact on all of the existing relationships within a family dynamic. 

Baby, I got the blues 

Physis has invited me to offer a CPD workshop in October 2018 entitled “What’s love got to do with it?”, where we will be focusing on Post Natal Depression (PND).  PND is a depressive episode that occurs following the birth of a child. It can affect both parents and it is more common than you might think: It is estimated at 12-13% (O’Hara & Swain, 1996) with higher incidence level in developing countries (Patel et al, 2002; Cooper et al, 1999). For fathers, figures vary significantly, and are estimated at 7–30% (Huang & Warner, 2005), with first time fathers particularly prone to mild to moderate depression (Cowan et al, 1991; Soliday et al, 1999).

The training event is open to trainees and practitioners from all schools of thought. In the training event, we will explore together the depth of this phenomena; we will look at the contributing factors, such as symptoms and how to recognise them and what assessments tools exist. We will also review and critique a range of theoretical and clinical frameworks in order to understand and work effectively with PND, as well as touch on important ethical considerations that are likely to arise with this type of work.  

Find out more about the CPD workshop: “What’s love got to do with it?”.


The excitement and the edge

A lot has happened since our last blog on the website. We have been working away in the background with various esteemed colleagues and friends who are helping us with the who, what and why of Physis Scotland and how best to present to the world about who we are and why we are here.

Essentially, relationships are at the heart of what we do. Relationship with ourselves first and foremost so we know why we are doing something, in this case for us working at Physis Scotland, and then relationships with others. ‘Others’ have been experienced colleagues who are keen to help us with sharing and marketing our passion for TA, or ‘others’ have been prospective students or people interested to find out more about what we do. In all the contact with ‘others’ we have had recently through meetings, social media, open mornings, taster evenings, TA 101s, interviews, we have had some really interesting discussions where we have tussled with the dichotomy of TA being the most wonderful, life changing thing that has ever happened to us, and paradoxically, has also has brought with it alongside an ‘edge’ of discovery, that has been uncomfortable at times. A bit like childbirth for those of us who have experienced pregnancy.

If we were to consider our work in Physis akin to pregnancy and childbirth, there is a lot to learn as we transition and grow with Physis and especially as we embark on starting a new Foundation Year in September 2018. It is very, very exciting and also has its own edge and a big responsibility for both of us and the prospective students who are applying. We have a responsibility to create an environment where students will thrive and flourish, where the teaching and learning is of the highest standard, where they and we will be supported and stretched to grow and, equally, they have a responsibility to monitor their individual progress with support from peers and us.

These last few months have been hard work, but if it was all easy, we would not feel as if we had achieved anything. The excitement and the edge continue and we would not have it any other way.