As well as the training, I also work one to one with individuals. I never work with more than three people at once because of the time commitment involved. The people I work with may have been referred to me by psychologists and psychiatrists or I may get a request from a family member. I always try and be honest with people. I sometimes have to say I can’t make the time commitment at the moment but I’ll give you some information that might be helpful. I am conscious of being fair to the individual. It wouldn’t be fair for me to start working with someone and then say I am sorry I can’t see you for six months.
With everybody I work with I start with narrative. Its very very important. It's the most important thing to aim to get form a person. If there are problems in the narrative then there are solutions that can be gleaned from the narrative. Its not as difficult as people make it out to be.
I think there are two elements that can make an interaction successful. Firstly a person has got to want change. They have got to want the help. They’ve got to be ready to change. Another is an understanding of why they perhaps don’t want change or won’t discuss certain issues. I am really interested in the work of Dr Bob Johnson, and he looks at something called infantalism. 73% of people who currently receive psychiatric care have been sexually abused as children. Now they are the disclosers – what about the non disclosures? What happens in childhood when you get sexually, physically or emotionally abused is that you take the fear, which is the most powerful emotion we have, there isn’t a more powerful emotion than fear. You put it in the box, close the lid, never to go there again. That’s where psychiatry will say ‘don’t open the can of worms’ well that’s absolute nonsense. A can of worms is a can of worms whether its closed or its open. Except that if the fear is closed off its not just hidden in a box it's a landmine that goes into the mind. Its there. When a child is abused and they put that fear in a box, emotional development stops. They continue to only be able to relate to that box through a child’s eyes. So when something reminds them off their abuse – it might be a smell, a sight, a comment in the media. They regress.
So my starting point when I am exploring the narrative, perhaps in the first session, is I will say to them…emotionally how old do you feel? You get the response. I’m 6, I’m 7, I’m 9. So you are working with an adult child. So then we explore what happened around those years and prior to those years but I try and get them to see it through an adult’s eyes. I have to work around the person they won’t speak about, or find it difficult to speak about, because that is the person they most fear, and I have to work to prepare the person to go there. That’s the person that's in the box, that is the fear. But when we open the box we can discover that it is empty. When you see it through an adult’s eyes you can frame what is in the box as an irrational fear because its out of date. But if we don’t open the box then the person can never verbalise their experience and they cannot explore or make sense or get over the fear. For voice hearers, refusing to open the box means not being able to make sense of the contents of voices and continuing to relate to the boxed off fear through a child’s eyes.