Category Archives: Special Guests

My Therapeutic Journey

This month we are delighted to include a blog from one of our colleagues Paul Redpath, PTSTA about
his therapeutic journey.

Everyone’s therapeutic journey is different. Unique to them. As unique as their face or their fingerprint. There is no right way of doing therapy and there is no one reason for starting therapy.

I grew up in a very unhappy environment. My parents were unusually unhappy together. And so my training as a therapist started in childhood. I learned early on to wonder what the hell was going on. I tried to make sense of a situation which really didn’t make any sense.

And years later I copied the same dysfunctional behaviours in my own intimate relationships with the same level of success that my parents had achieved.

I needed therapy to help me understand what was going on and to start to think about how I could do things differently.

Therapy helped me make sense of why I did certain things and why they didn’t work. It gave me options…I learned that I could choose to do things differently. It helped me relate to my anger differently and express it in a more useful way. And it helped me develop a calm island in the middle of a stormy sea where I can rest and think about how I want to respond to life.

Therapy has helped me deal with anger issues and it has helped me deal with loss and grief. So much of life is about loss and how we deal with it… the loss involved in getting older and knowing there will be an end to this journey.

Therapy has helped me make meaning of the life I lead. It is not for the faint-hearted. It can be fun…after all…it is all about you…but it also can be gruelling…gut wrenching work. It involves taking a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and not looking away. There is always the possibility of laughter and tears and the delight in being surprised by yourself.

I am trained in a number of therapeutic modalities but in terms of learning to think about yourself and the world I would strongly recommend Transactional Analysis. It is unique in its theoretical framework which provides a way of seeing and understanding the world and it offers an alternative way of relating to yourself and others.

I have been in therapy for a long time but this isn’t necessary for everyone. Some people have short-term therapy and manage to get what they want from that. But if you are considering having therapy…I would say…do it. It is the best thing you can do for yourself. After all, there is no-one more interesting than you…you are the person you are having a life-long relationship with…you deserve to get to know who you are and to be living the life you want to live.


The Journey

This month we are delighted to include a blog from our Director of Training, Barbara Clarkson, TSTA

Everywhere, from Strictly Come Dancing, to the local gym, you can find people talking about their “Journey” these days. The journey to fitness, the journey of learning to dance, the journey of the Bake Off contestants etc. At the start of the new year of training for the Senior Training Group at Physis, I’ve been reflecting on the idea of the “Training Journey” in the world of counselling and psychotherapy, and how we are changed by it – all of us, including the trainers.

At the start of each training year a new group of people comes together to co-create a learning experience. The full year’s syllabus lies in wait, new notebooks and pens have been carefully selected, and the group notices what has changed since the previous year ended. Perhaps there are new group members, as well as familiar faces, and those returning after time away from training, (who are sort of connected but not known as well), and the sense of the empty chairs where people sat last year, who have now left the group, either having completed the training or having taken a break. And the trainer of course, familiar or foreign, known and experienced, or yet to be tried out. The sense of expectation and some hint of trepidation is palpable. We are all waiting to see what will happen this year.

Often, we settle quite rapidly into being “back” – the usual start of year administrative stuff seems to provide reassurance that not too much has changed, and provides the familiar backdrop against which we can tolerate “what’s new this year”. New assignments, new demands as placements and supervision need to be fitted in, and a new sense of where we are on this “Journey” – how far away is the Diploma exam now? What does it mean to be in the final year – are we the “big kids in the school” now? Are we meant to know stuff?

As a trainer, over many years, I have come to love the start of the year and the anticipation of what will unfold. I love Clarkson’s placement of Berne’s theory of groups alongside Tuckman’s model of the stages of development of a group – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing – and have come to believe, through lived experience, that groups really do have an energy, a unique personality and an identity all their own, with an organic need to grow, to enable the members to challenge and be challenged, to support and be supported, and to discover more of who they are and what they are there for. The new group will “do its thing”, the unconscious processes that each member brings into the space will help co-create the focus and the task of the group organism, which will then permeate the “how” of our learning together. What does this group welcome, what does it avoid, how does it tackle the bumps in the road, and how does it celebrate and support. I am the trainer, both part of and separate from the group at the same time. For me, each group I work with will become part of my “journey” as it enables me to see more of myself reflected in its dynamic, including those parts I am less comfortable with. I think this is what each new group offers to its members, in a unique and fragrant stew of many ingredients.

Of course, this training year too will come to its end. And this group will then have completed its work, both the external individual requirements of the year (essays, case studies, hours of practice etc), and the internal yet mutual process of being and experiencing each other and ourselves in our uniqueness. My hope is that each time the cycle turns, and the journey comes to an end, it simply makes it easier for us to move forward into a new stage, a new group, some new learning and discovery. For us, unlike the Bake Off and Strictly contestants, there is no final and no trophy. The continuing of this lifelong Journey of learning and personal growth is the prize.

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?”.