Summer Schoolfrom Pink Therapy therapist Jo Russell
In July 2013 I attended an “International Summer School” run by Pink Therapy? Why?
I was a therapist of 10 years’ experience. I had trained as a therapist while living ‘by faith’ as a Christian Missionary on a faith-based diploma course. We had one day on ‘talking about sex with clients’. That was it. Nothing on LGBT ‘issues’. I didn’t even know what Q meant. By 2013 being a therapist had changed me and I was no longer a missionary, although I hadn’t walked away from my faith. In supervision I recognised that I could no longer excuse my ignorance, I needed to confront myself.
And that is something I like about myself: when I make a decision I go all the way. Where would my ignorance be most confronted? Where would I be most confronted? Google directed me to Pink Therapy (I never did like the colour pink), and I began to explore training possibilities. London was too far away for short workshops (I live in Glasgow), but a week… A week would give me the opportunity to learn, not just to catch a glimpse of something, to build new connections.
The International part of Summer School was significant for me. That aspect of diversity I was comfortable with. I had travelled the world. I was accustomed to different cultures and languages; I felt at home with them. Perhaps that helped me to feel less defensive, more open to new things?
I had to raise the money; friends and family helped. But that week was career changing. It was life changing. I still work in private practice, and 90% of my clients have stories of diversity in gender, relational styles or sexuality. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I was afforded, and for those who believed in me, accepted me, and allowed me to move from where I was, without pressure.
Since then I have found the confidence to do more than I believed possible. I completed the 2 year Pink Therapy Post-graduate diploma in working with gender, sexual and relational diversity, and am now part of the faculty for the Foundation Certificate course. I still attend (and hopefully contribute to) Pink Therapy conferences, and recently presented a paper for the Psychology of Sexualities section of the British Psychological Society. Since Pink therapy is London-based, and since the experience of being GSRD north of the border is different, I have started a group (www.rainbowtherapyscotland.org.uk) which meets as a peer-led networking and CPD opportunity for those working therapeutically in a non-pathologising way with GSRD clients. We will have our first national conference in May 2019.
Below are some extracts of my journal, written during That Week. They are unaltered, and I hope they give a flavour of my experience of summer school.
Day One: “I realised just how cloistered I have been and in some ways how naive and inexperienced I am. But during the course of the day I noticed a subtle change in myself, reminiscent of my first trip to Central Asia. “They” went from being labels, categories, types to being “thou” in the old use of the word, someone I know, respect, and identify with, a fellow human being with a whole lifetime of a story to tell, and with whom I have far more in common than I have different.”
Day Two: “If day 1 felt rich, day 2 stirred a much deeper personal commitment to engage in this work therapeutically, and an emotional response to those who have lived through deeper and more scarring experiences than I could have imagined. May God be my helper.”
Day Three: “This week is changing me on the inside. It seems to me that as humans we can feel intimidated by the things we know little about or have little experience of. The unknown can be scary; at the same time we feel drawn to it and hold back from it. We need not fear. Human is human; it just may sound different on the outside.”
Day Four: “The diversity within the group of life experience and of background and personality added to rather than strained the dynamic. We were all able to listen to each other and so no-one felt constrained to shout over any group consensus to make their individual voice heard.”
Day Five: “To all of you who made it possible for me to be here, please know that not only am I grateful to you for your generosity, but I hope my future clients will also be grateful without knowing it. You are investing in them as well as me. Thank you for believing in me and valuing them!”