Between the world of academia and professional mental health counseling, I have received a lot of training. It wasn't until after finishing graduate school that I realized that school taught me a lot, but I needed to really focus my attention on certain skills and techniques with which I'd become proficient. I immediately noticed that all trainings and certifications were not created equal: Some left me walking away with real and definitive skills and others left me feeling overwhelmed by cost and the plethora of hoops to jump through (usually each hoop had yet another additional cost attached to it). Furthermore, on top of the before mentioned overwhelm, there was often a feeling of underwhelm when I would be given lots of theoretical rhetoric, yet an in-depth and experiential process was often non-existent, or so sterile and generic it had little to no practical application. The level of real life application, in-depth experiential understanding and the emphasis on being willing to do the things we ask our clients to do is the hallmark of my experience being trained by Spirit 2 Spirit!
We've all heard, probably hundreds of times, that the most important factor in a clients success in their therapeutic journey, is the relationship between said client, and their therapist. However, what fosters that rapport? What fosters that relationship which then becomes the foundation for interpersonal growth? Recently I was speaking at a conference where a renowned professional in the field of trauma and sex-addiction discussed his research into this relational process between client and therapist. What he reported was that the most indicative factor to indicate whether or not a client perceived a therapist as trustworthy and safe to connect to, was the perception that that therapist did, or would be willing to do, the things they ask of their clients. Essentially, practicing what we preach!
Trauma survivors are very perceptive; they had to be to survive, and they can tell if we are comfortable holding space with them! I've worked at one of the premiere trauma resolution and addiction treatment centers in the world for the past 5 years, and I have seen many therapists come and go. The reason they go is rarely because the work is too "heavy", and almost never because of issues within the organization. Instead, the biggest reason we often hire three therapists to fill one position is because many therapists still have way too much unfinished business and they will struggle greatly and almost immediately. They will be unable to hold space and unable to take the client where they need to go (Fancy degrees will not give us the ability to help a client navigate the dark forests we ourselves are too afraid to explore!) While getting my certified trauma therapist certification (CTT), I was given both the skills and the knowledge to effectively work with trauma at a high level, but the most valuable piece for me was learning the practical application of the approaches being taught and being given the opportunity to explore my own darkness, thus ensuring that it would not limit me personally and professionally, with my clients.
The training was a beautiful mixture of experiential and didactic. Amazing speakers from all over the country and from the top programs and practices would come in and give us a diverse array of perspectives on top of the already incredibly knowledgable and skilled Spirit Two Spirit team. When I describe the training to other professionals, I often say it was a 50/50 training: half the time we'd be learning why something worked and the other half of the time we'd be doing it! We'd be learning the science and rational behind the "why and how" of the modality and/or intervention tool, and the second part of the day we would be seeing and feeling the impact of real comprehensive trauma work at a core level. This journey would take place within the already small group, and sometimes even smaller breakout groups to make room for further exploration and understanding!
I've been to numerous trainings where there were literally not enough seats for all the participants and the trainings with Spirit 2 Spirit were small and intimate. When I wanted a question answered, it was never ignored; instead I was given individual attention that often turned into a lively group discussion and debate. Due to the size of the training group, my peers became friends and professional colleagues that contributed just as much to my personal and professional development as anything else (many of whom I still collaborate and consult with on a regular basis years after completion!)
After I completed my trauma therapist training, I joined that before mentioned, high intensity trauma and addiction treatment program, and I was expecting to be support staff for at least a year. However, what I found was that my training had me years ahead of most of my post-graduate school colleagues. I found myself intuitively knowing how to handle clients and situations that seemed to baffle some of my peers. It was an amazing experience to realize that I had an arsenal of therapeutic tools to call upon when working with my clients, and most of the skills I had came directly from the training.
On top of discovering that my CTT prepared me regarding my skill and technique with clients, I found that it helped me to feel more comfortable, even when sitting with some of the saddest stories and most intense pain one could imagine. I found myself being able to develop rapport with clients that had long histories of being kicked out or running away from treatment: The difficult clients. I believe that I was able to meet these clients, many of whom had such severe attachment disorders that their brains were now literally wired not to trust, with an authenticity that they may not have received in previous programs.
I consider my experience with Spirit 2 Spirit to be one of my greatest personal and professional experiences. It has undoubtably made me a better therapist and helped me to understand not just my clients wounds, but my own wounds as well. As a result, I'm able to help clients see the beauty in their lives, not in spite of their past trauma, but because of it!
Brennon P Moore MS, CTT, CADC-II