The Beautiful Risk

By Gerry Pyves

Playing with FIRE…

The thing I love about this photo is the fact that the stuntman is wearing all the right protective clothing. He does this for a living. He knows what he is dealing with. He can do this every day…

That’s what we need in our therapeutic work – knowledge and training in how to protect ourselves. With NO HANDS I have done my best to build up your protective clothing and teach you how to keep your mind and body safe whilst doing your important work. This started with protecting your hands form injury and it developed into providing the communication and psychological support that you need to do effective therapeutic Bodywork.

Let’s get one thing straight about our therapeutic work: it comes with BIG risks. If we are not careful we can get burned. Sometimes we even call it “Burn out”. We can end up in hospital with illness and disease from overriding our own needs so much that our immune system collapses. This could even lead to the morgue. Alternatively we can end up in the court room if we “get it wrong” so badly that a client sues us.

The demands of this work are considerable and often, they are quite invisible. At the end of the day ALL HEALING carries a risk because we never quite know what state our clients will arrive in. Now, if you don’t like risk, then its very simple – don’t get out of bed.

Healing is like building bonfires – sometimes we can get burned

Our work is always a delicate dance between leaning on our past training, following the rules and sometimes, just trusting our gut. In the world of psychotherapy this therapeutic potency is clearly acknowledged and mitigated through extensive training: a minimum of 3 years to qualify, followed by ongoing training – with supervision throughout. We have been building this same structure of development and ongoing support within NO HANDS through the Clinical Development Group (formerly Mastery) and Master Support Sessions.

Taking risks is one thing. But I want to address the topic of supporting our clients with phone calls or zoom calls and ABSOLUTELY NO TOUCH. By definition, if you are thinking about doing this, simply using contracts or guided meditations, then you are leaving the world of your ‘bodywork bonfires’ – a world that you know so well – and entering into another world entirely. You are entering the world of Psychotherapy.

The Psychotherapeutic Risk

The one thing that all Psychotherapy students learn in their very first year of training is the inherent risk of ‘just talking’ to clients. Some call it “The Beautiful Risk”, but when it burns you, there is nothing beautiful about it. The hard truth is that sometimes what comes out of our mouths can really ‘burn’ people. When we engage with the psychotherapeutic task of ‘just talking’ we are, in fact, dealing with dragons. The dragons in ourselves as much as the dragons in our clients…

Now the very first thing you do as a psychotherapist, when dealing with dragons, is make a risk assessment. How big is it? How old is it? What damage has it caused others in the past? This is why psychotherapy training involves so much personal, inner, work as well as understanding the various complexities of psychopathology.

When you start using words as your primary tool to help your clients,  risk assessment and mitigation is a bit more than just being 2m apart and washing our hands!

Even when Touching, getting the communication right is vital to the therapeutic potency and safety of our work. This is why at the Working With the Psyche (MASTERY FOUNDATION) level of NO HANDS we spend six days focused purely on this communication. We cover:

  • The psychological theory of ego states
  • How to analyse and make sense of our transactions
  • The different patterns of human interaction
  • The structure of life scripts
  • Why things go wrong
  • Effective protocols for the talking itself
  • What communications are needed to make touch safe

In all of this, the verbal communications are always secondary to our TOUCH. Six days of training just learning to say “hello” and “goodbye” and to keep the touch safe in your sessions. Six days. That’s a bit different from the bare minimum 3 years of training psychotherapists get!

Just imagine how you would feel about a psychotherapist who, having lost the use of his vocal cords, decides to buy a table and starts giving bodywork without a minute’s training.

“This NO HANDS looks easy enough,” he says to himself, as his elbow digs painfully

into the client’s ribs…

Now think about if the tables were turned: how is picking up the phone or booking a zoom session with a client, to “help them” with just your words, any different? So I wanted to share with you just five of the dragons that you might meet if you do this:

1) It’s not real. If you just take a contract and use visualisation, then you’re essentially playing a game of “let’s pretend” with your client. One type of psychological game often leads to others. Games are dangerous to both you and your clients. This could seriously damage any genuine attachment and rapport that you’ve built up with clients over all this time with your very real, grounded communication about touch.

2) It’s not safe. The biggest difference of any remote work to your normal work with a client is that you’re not in the same room with them. This means that you don’t have touch to help soothe the client to keep them in their window of tolerance. This not only means they are more likely to trigger into “fight”, “flight” or “shut down” but that you are not there to be able to bring them safely back into the ‘here and now’. They can leave your session (zoom or phone) at any time and you have no way to stay with them physically, to keep them safe.  You cannot follow them out the room to make sure they are staying safe. They could go anywhere and do anything as a result of something that was said.

3) It’s uninformed. Unless you have the necessary psychological training to identify their psychopathology, you are unable to properly assess the risk of working with them verbally. In addition, if you have not been trained to close their “escape hatches”, doing any remote work at all is especially dangerous. 

4) It’s not insured. Although the communication training at MASTERY FOUNDATION is psychotherapy-grade, it is delivered in the context that our verbal communication is a very small proportion of our time with clients. The rest is Touch. Even Masters who have completed the additional ‘Transformational Touch Therapist’ training are not insured for ‘verbal work alone’. The financial risk you place yourself under by working without insurance could have devastating consequences on your career.

5) It’s unethical. Working without insurance is also a breach of your NO HANDS code of professional responsibility. It would result in your loss of a supportive professional community – one that always has your back.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to fight dragons – but if you really want to use this pandemic to ‘up’ your game to this psychotherapeutic level, then I invite you to undertake the necessary training to become that warrior – so the poor dragons don’t stand a chance!

Comments ( 2 )

  • Gillian Higginson

    Thank you Gerry for continuing to offer support and thinking ahead for us all. To be honest I am a bit over whelmed with the possibilities of courses. I can definitely see that we should be properly armed with knowledge before launching in with consultations on line, I did think that it would be dangerous without support and actually don’t do this. I am not a natural scholar and can see that it will need a whole load of more stirring the mud. I am finding that my family and particularly my mum are taking up a lot of my time at the moment.

    • Tigger MacGregor

      Hi Gill – thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have plenty on your hands at the moment: the training Gerry is putting together is totally optional – it may not feel like the right fit for you, it may not be the right time. But it’s there as an option. If you ever want to talk through what’s available and what might work best for you, do give me a call in the office – 01524 415345. Great to have you on yesterday’s Connect Call

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