Bringing to Life Self-Care: Who Are Your Co-Therapists?

Anyone who works with people who have experienced trauma knows that trauma can take a toll on the human heart, for both the victims of trauma and those that assist with the healing of trauma. For those of us who assist in the various capacities of helping with the healing of trauma, we, too, need support on this journey. Earlier this year, as I was preparing for a training, I thought about what constitutes a well-resourced therapist. In our work, we are invariably supporting clients with the mobilization of inner and outer resources. This work made me question, how do therapists mobilize their own resources?

While there are so many ways we may resource ourselves as helpers, one way of resourcing that I have used over the years is identifying what I refer to as my own “co-therapist” or “co-trainer”. While I believe our co-therapists or co-trainers can be as many and varied as there are helpers, I have found eight co-therapists that are particularly useful for my own journey with others. These eight include Compassion, Creativity, Love, Inspiration, Risk, Curiosity, Imagination, and Presence.

The Process of Creating Co-Therapists

Step 1 – Identification: The first step is to identify what kind of co-therapist would be most useful to you, as you assist others on their journey. Simply brainstorm and give permission to write whatever ideas come to you. Next, intentionally hang out with these ideas in your work in the coming week and notice which ones you are most drawn to. Then, select the ones you feel are most needed and begin to deepen your work with each of them.

Additional Co-Therapists to Consider: Intention, Kindness, Forgiveness, Ordinary, Mindfulness, Aliveness, Open Heartedness, Wholeheartedness, Accountability, Beauty, Attention, Challenge, Risk, Astuteness, etc.

Step 2 – Deepening: Deepening the work can be done in many ways, though collaging and personifying the co-therapist is what I will share here. When completing this activity, I use small 4” x 6” canvases, paint each canvas with colors that are pleasing to me, and then proceeded to collage each one with the theme of the co-therapist. Once finished, I sit with each and allow them to speak to me by personifying them. (Personification is giving an inanimate object human qualities.) This deepening/embodying process has the potential to bring the energy of each co-therapist to life, and assist you in your day-to-day work with your clients.

Step 3 – Intention: As with any resourcing we do for ourselves or those we work with, there is an essential element of using intention to ensure the successful integration of the resource. It can be a lovely process of creating a collage on canvas of “Kindness”, however, we then need to take a moment at the beginning of each day to take out the canvas and intentionally invite it into our space, and perhaps place it in a location that we see throughout the day.

A Co-Therapist Comes to Life

I will leave you with an example of one of my co-therapists/co-trainers who have assisted me over the years – Curiosity. I am so grateful to Curiosity for his years of loyalty, his reliability, and his power in assisting me when I truly felt lost or overwhelmed. He can be one of our greatest allies in our work with trauma and the arts, so we can move away from interpretation and show up in a more curious state – a state where we can see the world from our client’s point of view.

What does my Curiosity look like?

CURIOSITY has enormous cat like eyes that change colors, along with ears like forest elves. If you pay attention and lean in, Curiosity will show you how he takes his time, ever-so-slowly making his way to you… pausing, lingering, noticing even the slightest, smallest detail – a deeper breath, a shifting glance… tilting his head in wonder. You will come away from an encounter with Curiosity sensing his authentic act of truly wanting to know you… the who, what, why and how of you. And you will come to know yourself a little deeper after a visit with Curiosity.

Happy, blessed summer to each of you, and may you, too, pay attention to how Curiosity assists you with deepening your own knowing of yourself and others.

Carmen Richardon

By Carmen Richardson

Carmen Richardson is founder and director of Prairie Institute of Expressive Arts, where she offers supervision and training to professionals and community agencies. Carmen is a Certified Trauma Practitioner and a SGLN Associate Trainer. She is a Registered Clinical Social Worker, Registered Canadian Art Therapist, and Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. Carmen Richardson brings over 20 years experience to her private practice working with a range of issues with both adults and children/teens. She has specialized in the assessment and treatment of sexual abuse of children and teens offers individual, family and group therapy.

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