Participant’s POV: Empathic Therapy Conference

Hello Anne,

Thanks for your reply, these conversations are so important and I am so happy to have met you and Dick—the dynamic between the two of you makes me smile. I love his style (and I love your fierceness!)—in one conversation he and I had about clients being their own experts, Dick said that he approaches clients with complete ignorance, and then he pointed his finger at me and emphatically said “You are stupid!!” to which I laughed and had to agree: “Yes I AM!”  Gotta love him!

I COMPLETELY agree with and love the idea of having a Sanctuary Room (brilliant!) for people who need to be heard and understood by people who care and want to listen, give support, and help people process the sea of emotions that come from these discussions. I think this is IMPERATIVE because academia (what I call academentia) is a removed way of talking about such intense human distress—I dislike school for this reason.  I see it as a business and I’m playing the game in paying for my piece of paper so I can do the work I want to do, and it’s so frustrating that my school teaches so little about being HUMAN with our clients and more or less tells us to shuffle “more serious cases” to the “experts” of psychiatry. I’ll be damned if I’ll do that to my clients. I asked one fellow student, who is a psychiatric nurse and pro-ECT, if she would get ECT on herself or allow her loved ones to get it, to which she replied without hesitation that she certainly would! I wonder if she’d change her mind if she attended this conference.

I applaud Breggin & company for recognizing and organizing this desperately needed part of mental health—if there’s no empathy, there’s no healing. I think the academics did a good job conveying this, and more needs to be done **for the survivors** of psychiatric horrors. I understand what you’re saying about not wanting to hear other people’s stories who are drowning in pain (in reply to my question about a space for only survivors). You have your own sea of pain to deal with; that would just be too much and not helpful to you or other survivors, especially with a history of NOT being heard, or else misunderstood, by the mental health industry (I hate to call it an industry but that’s what it is). One of my favorite discussions (besides yours and Dick’s) was Bert Karon’s because he was so real and nonacademic; he profoundly moved me and a lot of people in many ways. As you’ve said, the conference opens emotional floodgates for survivors, so a safe space to process it all should be a major part OF the conference. How can pain *not* come up in this environment? And what better place for survivors to get the support they need than a hotel full of professionals who “get it”?! I applaud you and Dick for getting this Sanctuary Room idea into motion! What a dynamic duo, you two should be the poster children for what a client-therapist team looks like!

I’d also like to have seen some workshops with music therapy, dance therapy, pet therapy, and any other so-called “alternative” modes of healing—they had one, Recreation Therapy, which was interesting, but we only did a 5-minute art activity and the rest was a talk about the theory and logistics of it all (good woman who put it on, her name escapes me at the moment). These are the kinds of things I want to incorporate into my counseling work.

Wow, this has turned into an essay! Have a good Thursday, Anne, and let’s definitely keep in touch.


Referral of the Day:  Regarding referring to the “experts,” see also “Wallenda on the Wire” and  “I have some pills!”

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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