How to facilitate a therapeutic session
Many people lately seem to be struggling with ideas and ways to facilitate or support the facilitation of therapeutic sessions for both children and adults alike. As somebody who trains people to lead creative sessions as part of my job I feel like I am in a good position to offer good advice. I am keeping it really simple in order to hopefully help those who need it the most.
Also, that it is really needed! Many of the students whom train to be session leaders themselves have no experience at all facilitating therapeutic sessions and get stuck in many areas such as energy flow, embodied attentiveness, positive psychology, affective touch; body awareness, simplicity and being spontaneous amongst other things.
A first and fundamental point that I will start with this month is ‘Holding’.
Oftentimes I am working with a patient (here I am in my capacity as a movement psychotherapist with oftentimes challenging patients) and feel I could benefit from having another body in the room to simply hold the space with me. Be part of the session and enjoy the process and in the moments when it is necessary to step in and help diffuse an aggressive response for example, to do so in a really easy and playful way whilst I continue with the holding, attuning to the patient. So, this sharing is for that support person whoever they may be!
Donald Winnicott a British paediatrician and psychoanalyst speaks about the holding environment, the safe space which goes all the way back to what happens between mother and baby hence, the importance of this. The potential space or transitional space depends on experiences that lead to trust, a sacred place from where the baby experiences creative living. So, having compassion, empathy and being consistent and trustworthy will ensure that you are providing the necessary safe place.
So, you need to be able to HOLD the group. Hold the session from the opening ritual to the closing ritual whatever that may be and understand that creativity happens in between and all of this needs your embodied presence. When you can reflect back to your client what is happening in the space then they will learn to trust you and creativity will start to develop.
I have been working with a lady for a good few months now in a school trying everything with her to get her leading good therapeutic sessions! Her confidence grows each week as I praise and recognise her qualities but something has never quite connected in her ability to lead, deliver and awaken the spirit in the children. So, I am going right back to the beginning to find useful nuggets that may help you as the facilitator to lead good quality therapeutic sessions.
- Within the preparation we can imagine the safe space and how we will move in it to build trust in our clients each time (particularly I am referring to school leaders as the time frame for them to lead their sessions is so tight).
- The holding environment is not so much concerned with the ‘aesthetic environment’ rather your environment as the leader of the session.
“As with looking, so with holding. Not just the physical holding of the baby by the mother but the entire psychophysiological system of protection, support, caring and containing that envelops the child, without which it would not survive physically or emotionally”
- It is also necessary to imagine yourself as the mother with the responsibility of providing for your children good quality experiences where you are allowing exploration and expression as oppose to rigid rules and expectations. If you are not a mother this does not matter! Staying present with an open heart allows the safety base to be built.
- The client / child will pick up on your energy system immediately so, it is important that you are with ‘roots and wings’, grounded, calm and open to following the subtle, gentle and light nuances and gestures. That you sense with your bodies’ energy system what is needed to hold and be a container for whoever is in the session each time.
If you don’t provide a safe space for the child / adult to explore in, if you are unable to take the time needed in order to attune to your clients / patients from the very beginning then you have to understand that you will not be leading a ‘therapeutic session’.
Safety is a fundamental key to our clients / patients’ journey towards what ultimately must be more of a joyful connection with life.
“The suffering individual needs the presence of an empathic person, who can provide a temenos, a safe and secure space, within which unconscious fantasies and conscious dilemmas can be safely dealt with.”
(Chodorow, 1991, p.7)