After his own experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cheshire Regiment Veteran, Garreth Murrell, began training as an NLP practitioner in September 2010. That same month, Garreth founded Veterans at Ease.
Eleven years on, we’ve supported hundreds of veterans, service personnel and family members; through our provision of free one-to-one therapy for those dealing with PTSD and other combat stress-related issues.
Veterans At Ease is still growing exponentially; taking on more therapists (all of whom are also veterans), increasing our geographical reach, and expanding into Veterans At Ease Enterprise Ltd, in a bid to fund the ever-growing support that we’re providing.
One thing that hasn’t changed though – and never will – is our ethos, our core value… the very reason that Garreth created the charity in the first place… because Military Minds Matter.
Today was a good day, not only for the therapist – though I’m sure they are satisfied that they’ve “done a good job” – but for one of our beneficiaries, as he realised that he no longer needs our help and support.
After having the honour of being invited on a client’s journey of recovery and growing resilience, some of the best words any therapist can hear are:
“I don’t need you anymore and, in the nicest possible way, I hope I never see you again.”
Of course, should they ever be in a situation that our knowledge and expertise could help in the future, we’ll always be there to help them (if we can) navigate a new set of issues.
As the lead therapist, this led me to think about our own journeys as therapists. Here are my thoughts:
In NLP, one presupposition (a kind of rule) is to accept the beneficiary’s model of the world, and to help change their non-useful behaviour.
To be able to accept someone else’s model of the world can be a difficult process, as one stage of that process is to literally try their model on for size. If some of our beneficiaries’ values and beliefs are misaligned to ours, this can feel and sound very alien and uncomfortable to us.
By dealing with our discomfort and possible difficulties in an objective way, we can potentially begin to glimpse what life is like for that person.
For a brief moment we feel their pain, see their pain… know their pain.
As therapists, this experience can give us a deeper understanding and empathy towards our beneficiary, and to envisage what path/s may be taken along their journey to obtaining a better level of mental fitness.
As the therapist we don’t have to ‘wear’ the beneficiary’s model all of the time, which allows us the privilege of being able to step back, and inviting our beneficiary to do the same. In doing so, in the safe space of the therapy room, the beneficiary is able to literally view their issue from a different perspective, and is able to see for themselves what needs to be done.
Not only is this an honour, it’s also a great responsibility for a successful therapist to develop. It requires skill, commitment, and compassion. A lot of the time during therapy, a therapist is both calibrating their beneficiary’s state and maintaining their own, to keep them in the most useful behavioural state for their beneficiary throughout the 1 hour session. To be able to do this, and of course to really hear their beneficiary, they have to practice what they preach.
To do that, clinical supervision sessions are attended, along with personal therapy sessions. Following this process allows a therapist to explore their own personal blind spots, which can sometimes be activated (either on purpose, or accidentally) by beneficiaries.
Yes, some beneficiaries test their therapist, either to see where the boundary of abandonment lies, to see what buttons the therapist has, or for some other reason.
Needless to say, it would be unhelpful and inappropriate for a therapist to react to a beneficiary pushing their buttons during therapy.
A therapist’s self-exploration and discovery of their own buttons allows them to recognise when a button is being pressed, and affords them the option of not reacting to it. This is the adult response, which can help the beneficiary to grow and mature.
In a situation whereby the button had previously been unknown to the therapist, they can still respond in an adult way; by noting that the beneficiary has identified a button they were previously blind to, thank them (internally) and take it forward to their own therapy to work through.
This is why it takes great skill, experience and inner awareness to operate at a therapeutic level.
It is also the reason why it is an honour to sit with someone and delicately and gently help them explore themselves and their place in the cosmos, and why it is so important to maintain our own journey of Continued Professional Development, and to adhere to the ethical guidelines and practices.
To remain reflective in our therapeutic work – and to also continue that reflectance on ourselves outside of the therapy room – will, and does, pay huge dividends. It paves the way for the results mentioned at the beginning of this article.
To note, this is just one of the many processes us therapists must look at whilst working with a beneficiary.
To end, I would like to repeat one of the sentences I said to the beneficiary mentioned above in his final session, which was apt on account of him having served with the Parachute Regiment:
“Minds are like parachutes – they work best when open”
To remain at our best as therapists, we must remain conscious of that statement ourselves, and not just feed it out as a cliched line.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope it makes a difference.