Category Archives: Barbara

Physis Video

Hear directly from the Physis Director of Training, Barbara Clarkson. In this short video, Barbara explains what’s distinctive about the training at Physis. If you’re thinking about training to be a counsellor a therapist, why not take a few minutes to check it out. Barbara also explains why there are so many giraffes on the website…

Open Morning at Physis

Preparations are well in hand for the first ever Physis Training Open Morning on Saturday 13th August from 10m til 1pm. Click here for your Free Open Morning tickets

Have you ever wondered whether training to beome a counsellor or a psychotherapist could be the new adventure you have been waiting for? Have you always been fascinated by people and how they tick? Have you found yourself taking on the role of supportive listener with friends and family? Are you interested in finding a career that will offer you ongoing satisfaction and variety? Come along and discover what we have to offer.

Recent newspaper articles are saying that there has been a 40% increase in the number of people seeking psychotherapy. Organisations offering low cost counselling are reporting huge waiting lists, in one case over 200 people waiting for counselling! Counsellors and therapists in Edinburgh describe full practices. There is certainly a demand for what trained counsellors and psychotherapists have to offer.

Maybe you have questions about whether counselling training is really right for you, or whether that dream you have had of working with people to help them heal, recover and become stronger in facing life’s challenges could ever become a reality. We are ready to discuss how we can help you.

Come along on Saturday 13th August and chat to our trainers, support staff and some of our students to get the low down on the courses we offer. There will be refreshments available and a variety of short presentations during the morning. Curiosity killed the cat so they say, but perhaps it is really good for giraffes?! (You can even discover what this strange obsession we have with giraffes is all about!) Click here for your free ticket Free Open Morning tickets

If you can’t get to the open morning then please get in touch with us anyway at and we will be happy to help.

See you there!

Barbara Clarkson, Director

Community and Connection – creating fertile ground for growth

picture of many hands

As some of you will know by now, I have recently become a fan of Brene Brown’s writings and talks (check out Listening to shame and The power of vulnerability on TED). I love her straightforward presentation and honesty, and her steady handling of the truths of the topics of shame and vulnerability. One of the things she points to repeatedly in both her talks and her writings, is our need for connection and a place to belong, and how powerful our fear of disconnection from the people who are important to us can be, how it can interfere in every aspect of our growth and development as people. Of course, TA tells us the same story using different words – how we strive to avoid that visceral pain of rejection by obeying script messsages (drivers and injunctions), how we play our games and run our rackets rather than risk the exposure of intimacy and spontaneity, how we protect ourselves from vulnerability and shame (or try to) with our defences and our false selves.

Given all this knowledge and recognition of processes, it is strange to report that I was almost totally unprepared for the impact of the STAA (Scottish TA Association) “Unconference” event on 31st October in Edinburgh. If I’m honest I had not been looking forward to it, being a lover of imposed structure and personal passivity in large gatherings of people (a defensive set of behaviours if ever there were!). I took my slightly grumpy self and joined a table of people I knew in various ways, and prepared to endure the day (I have mastered the art of low expectation). However, several rather amazing things happened:

  • I (re)discovered the pleasure of taking part in challenging and engaging discussions on widely varied topics that were of interest to those gathered together
  • I spent time enjoying listening to people at every level of TA experience, from absolute beginners to qualified counsellors, to CTA psychotherapists, and PTSTA trainers and supervisors, and experiencing each contribution being valued by the group
  • I was overwhelmed by the energy of this TA community – 50+ people together in a room for the day, connected and focused, coming together to discuss their passion for this work that we do
  • I was deeply moved by the recognition of the successes of people connected to Physis, and by the personal welcome and celebration that was gifted to me, both as director of Physis and as a new TSTA, by this group.

For me, this day was strangely like coming home, only to a home I’ve sadly never experienced outside my TA life. There was something very special in the lack of hierarchy that emerged from the less structured format of the event, and a particular warmth and enthusiasm that was embodied by that wonderful, complex and diverse group of people. Laughter, profound seriousness, giraffes and “relentless curiosity” – a magical combination.

As a result, I have embarked on the training tasks of this new year of Physis endeavour with more energy, enthusiasm, sense of worth and acceptance, and positivity than I had before, and from what I hear from many others who were there, I am not alone in this. Long may this TA connection and community continue to nourish us all.

“Daring Greatly”

As I prepare for the start of another training year, reviewing the syllabus, checking reading lists, reflecting on how I will invite trainees to engage with different topics, I am pondering the question “What do I really want people to learn, above all else, what is therapy really all about, and what is being a therapist really all about?”. OK, yes, that’s questionS plural isn’t it so my Be Perfect driver isn’t as Be Perfect as it once was…that’s progress isn’t it?! Don’t think less of me because I made a mistake, please!!

And there you have it, the answer to my question(s), right in this moment, in my shame and my defence against my vulnerability.

I think this is what therapy is all about, and it’s the most challenging aspect of becoming a therapist – learning to live with my vulnerability, to face my shame and allow my defences to soften and occasionally dissolve, so that I am seen for who I really am. I love what Brene Brown writes about this process, (in the book whose title I have “borrowed” for this blog), suggesting that we are all battling with our sense of inner scarcity, our scripting that tells us that we’re “not enough” – not good enough, clever enough, beautiful enough, important enough etc, and how our vulnerability becomes shame when we expose these “failings” to the world and remind ourselves of all those messages about our lack of worth.

As for becoming a therapist, well, this journey often starts with the secret hope of having found a way to escape being vulnerable – after all, therapists are sorted, calm, balanced, together, no longer vulnerable to the disappointments of life……….aren’t they? As a therapist myself I can definitely say we are not! And I am wholeheartedly grateful for that fact. As a human being I believe that life is here to be lived in technicolour, and that means the challenging, devastating stuff as well as the joy. As a client, I need a therapist who will be vulnerable with me, will make mistakes and own them, will feel my impact on them, and sometimes be left uncertain what to do or say as a result. I need them to know the territory of shame that we are crossing together, from their own experience, not from a book or a course, but from having lived through this awful naked place in their own life, and survived it, and learned how to face these challenges without relying totally on defences and denials – the things we call Drivers in TA. I definitely do not need a clever observer who seems impervious to it all, and who offers only a model of getting away from vulnerability as soon as humanly possible to retreat behind the false safety of knowledge and professionalism, even if it is dressed up to look like new strategies to control and manage unpleasant feelings.

What I want trainees to know and experience is the value of vulnerability, the power that lies in being willing to feel uncomfortable and uncertain, and still find a way of being present and taking part in living. I think we sometimes talk about developing the capacity to “contain” difficult emotions with our clients, which leads to a misunderstanding – somehow we should be there to put walls round challenging feelings, and keep them under control. For me “containing” actually means “sitting in without being overwhelmed” and “discovering that I am ok even when I feel horrendous”. I have had moments as a therapist when I have felt disturbed and distressed alongside my clients, living some of their emotional experience in the very fibres of my being, feeling unsure about the best thing to do, and needing to work hard to stay open to the sensations and feelings that came up for me without listening (too much) to the voices that are trying to tell me that I have lost control and am proving that I am no good as a therapist. I’ve also experienced the results of this way of working – deep contact with my client, soothing and healing of distress, settling and dissipating of shame. This is being vulnerable and strong at the same time, refusing to accept those old stories of failure and lack of worth, noticing the shame that comes but remembering, with compassion if possible, that it is a misguided and outdated response to a real experience. When we can do this we have real deep strength because it is rooted in truth and humanity rather than “false self”, defence and Driver behaviour.

This is a life long process I think, learning to tolerate emotion, developing compassion for self and other, “showing up and being seen” even in the middle of feeling vulnerable and on the edge of shame. Engaging with it is completely worthy of the title “Daring Greatly”. So anyone up for joining me on this jagged and rocky pathway with incredible views? Go on, I dare you.

Barbara Clarkson TSTA 8th September 2015