How I work - working with Mel

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Nervous about starting sessions with me? Then this blog is for you! (Read Sarah’s blog to find out more about her)

Every therapist is different

If you haven’t had therapeutic support before, every therapist tends to work differently: we all have different backgrounds (see my background/video in About Us), training and personalities. I work in a pragmatic way using talking therapy alongside skills and knowledge in disability, coaching, online work, trauma, pain and improving confidence and resilience. I am passionate about the connection between our body, mind and emotions. But, you come first and we will always try and work out a plan together and match my knowledge and skills to what you need.

What happens in our first meeting?

We go through a snap shot of your life, your past, what’s going on now and, if you know it, where you would like to be in the future. Be prepared, I ask a LOT of questions in this first meeting! You can also ask me about my background and experiences. At the end, we decide if we can work together and how, though this sometimes takes a few sessions to work out. It’s normal to feel a bit anxious as it’s the first time we are meeting: I feel a bit nervous as well!

The beginning

Depending on what you tell me that first meeting, I may provide practical strategies to reduce anxiety or increase coping skills. I may share things from my personal life and experiences of disability. If you have experienced or are experiencing traumatic or stressful situations, or live with chronic pain, we may plan to focus on this for our sessions together. I may give information on these topics if it’s helpful. If you like to, we can engage in some debate around what it means to be disabled in our society, the words that are connected to it and how it impacts on our identity, value, behaviours and relationships.

I use a post social model look at disability and distinguish between impairment and disability: impairment is the physical or biological condition, disability is about exclusion and the disadvantage caused by society. Unpicking what parts of issues are down to impairment and which down to disability can be useful in increasing control in your life and ease decision-making.

We may work in a life-coaching way towards helping you find relationships or work. If you’re not sure what you want from sessions, or have had very difficult relationships in the past, then our sessions will probably be less practical, and more around building our relationship, trust, and figuring out together what questions you have never said out loud. Who are you? Who do you want to be?

The middle…of our work is often about experimenting. Most of us need some encouragement to do this...venturing out of our comfort zone for example, by trying role play, imagining speaking to people in the room, using art or creativity to access our emotions, writing journals, exploring our bodies and what its gestures and postures can tell us about our experiences.  It’s about developing confidence, resilience, humour and assertiveness. If you think something would be helpful but feel a bit embarrassed I will do the activity with you so we are always in it together.

This stage can be more difficult because it can be challenging. Hopefully by now, we will know each other quite well and as a result I might observe and share possible patterns in your life. I might talk a lot about ‘us’ and our relationship which might seem weird, but the idea is that if I share what I observe in our relationship, you will also notice more what goes on ‘out there’ in your relationships and then be able to change them for the better.

Our sessions give you the opportunity to explore your thoughts, emotions and behaviours in a non-judgemental space without the consequences that might happen ‘out there’.

At this point you will hopefully feel more comfortable telling me when you disagree with me. It might sound strange, but this is a great moment for our relationship. A misunderstanding is actually inevitable at some point in therapy as we are discussing deep, sensitive or emotional stuff. There will be an upset or something will be triggered in the other. Sometimes it may feel easier to leave when we reach a sticky spot, but, as long as you are committed to working through it with me, you can learn so much about your life. If you can practice working through upset/disagreements with me you can then take this learning back to your life. Read more about commitment in my blog on this topic.

We review fairly often to see if either of us can do anything differently to make more out of your sessions.

Towards the end of the work…we usually start looking at ways you can take back what you have learned into your life ‘out there’. We may start planning steps you can take to reduce isolation and stress, increase confidence or assertiveness, meet potential partners, work or volunteering opportunities, education, art or other opportunities, whatever you brought as your goal at the start.

Our relationship is not an expert-patient one. I am not perfect and my family is not perfect, but I have learned a lot of information, skills and questions which may help you. More importantly though, it is not an expert-patient relationship because you already have a lot of skills and resources: you made it to this point so you survived somehow! You may feel ground down and have forgotten how you used to deal with difficult situations. You may need a hand to use your skills in a different way or develop different ones alongside it to give you more choice.

Can you ask me questions? YES! Do feel free to ask me any question, I may not be able to answer, but I will certainly try! I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and I hope it makes it easier for you to contact us or me personally on mel@spokzpeople.org.uk

Where am I?  I work mainly in Lichfield, though from Autumn/Winter 2017 I may also offer meetings in Erdington. I also work online via email or Skype or by telephone. Sarah works mainly in Birmingham South, Selly Oak.