Training alongside fellow therapists who are, like me, passionate about their work with gender and sexual diversity clients always feels like a homecoming. It's warm, and yet refreshing. I value and relish every opportunity I get to think with others about gayness and queer folk with a view to serving their needs inside the consulting room. It stems partly from the priority I place on ethical practice. But it goes beyond this, too.
As a therapist, I take very seriously my own blindspots. Education doubtless counts for something, but knowledge is not nearly as powerful as wisdom, and I am eternally grateful to all that I have learnt through the embodied teaching of those who have trained me at different times and in different settings. As someone else put it so neatly; insight is but the popcorn, preceding the main attraction of relationality in the therapy room...
Let's talk about sex...
And what a way to 'do' training. Jumping straight in at the deep end. Watching explicit material projected onto a wall in a room of relative strangers at 4 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. With the lights on! It was deliberately provocative. We were investigating any 'squicks' (moments at which it became uncomfortable, or 'icky' to watch). We entered unusual territory, and set about exploding myths and misconceptions whilst stumbling across our biases, prejudices or plain simple ignorance. We deconstructed narratives. We had the opportunity to get intimate. With ourselves and how we think about gender, sexuality, and relationships, personally and professionally.
Who, where, when and how. Nothing was to be left to the imagination. It was a good reminder that assumptions are where it gets really messy. Whilst metaphor certainly has its place in my practice, there are times at which it is essential to get back to basics and call a spade a spade (although while there is often plenty of digging to be done, it's probably quite rare for either myself or a client to be referring to garden tools). We got busy wading through the sticky stuff, and thinking about where we can get stuck in therapy, with individuals, or couples, or... wait for it... trios.
The more the merrier?
Yes. Call it a party. The etiquette and ethics certainly get interesting when there are more than two partners. Who to ask, and when should they come? Food for thought is always the hallmark of a worthwhile training.
And, amidst the study was much humour. After all, what is normal, anyway?
And then a night out at the circus to see professional freaks. Looking at the contortionists as they bent in ways I had no idea the human skeleton was intended to, I marvelled at the differences between those on the stage, and those of us captivated by their performance. The awesome talent only metres away from our seats. Yet miles away from the experience we have of our own bodies. The stunningly beautifully choreographed acts once again defied the boundaries of what we might imagine to be physically, or psychologically, possible.
I have no reluctance in my admission that I have become something of a Cirque fanatic. Seeing them perform live for the fifth time, this time at the Royal Albert Hall, was a real treat. The spectacle they create remains breathtaking, but somehow repeated exposure means that there is now space to value and appreciate the artistry on a different level. I connected with such a powerful sense of joy, and of wonder both during and after each act. For me, the circus brought to life something I'd been reflecting on all weekend - the value of difference and complementarity.