On October 8, we’re hosting the second annual Symposia: An Intersection of Conversation & Innovation, a forum in which alumni of The Seattle School present the ongoing work they are pursuing at the intersection of text, soul, and culture. Integrative education does not end at graduation, and our alumni are proof of that. Symposia highlights the ways that Seattle School alumni are continuing to wrestle with big questions and big dreams in theology, psychology, and culture.

This week, we’re featuring a presentation by Christine Hutchison (MA in Counseling Psychology ‘11) from Symposia 2015, “When Your Own Sh** Hits the Fan: How to Survive as a Therapist When You Are in Crisis.” Christine works as a therapist in California and is pursuing a PsyD at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. This presentation is grounded in her own experience of struggling to know how to continue her work in the midst of personal crisis.

Christine talks about the confusion, awkwardness, anxiety, and despair that come in crisis, all of which affect life in general and therapeutic work in particular. “If you are having a hard time attending to your basic needs and you feel like the way the world works is not the way that it has always worked before, it’s very hard to be a therapist for other people.”

When in a state of crisis as a therapist, there are practical issues to consider (Can you afford to take a break? Do you have a trusted colleague who can contact your clients if you are unable to?) and, more importantly, emotional issues: Can you be present and listen? Do you have the capacity to offer attunement and empathy?

For therapists who continue working while in crisis, Christine shares about what she learned from her own experience: the vital need for consultation and supervision, intentional consideration of disclosure and self-care practices, and awareness of how you are shifting as both a person and a clinician.

You will be in crisis, and grief takes a lot of energy.

Christine also argues that it can be helpful to lean on different techniques and modalities, even for therapists whose primary treatment asset is the self. “When you are in crisis, the thing you don’t have is your self, because your self is changing. You don’t feel like yourself, you’re not acting like yourself, you don’t recognize yourself, and you don’t even know who you are anymore. So in order to not suffer like I did, I want to give you all permission to use modes of therapy that are not so relational.”

Finally, Christine reminds us that crises eventually end, that one day you will realize that you feel like yourself again. “So you can start to welcome yourself back, and you will both recognize yourself and you will be a new person, because going through crisis really changes us.”

This is hard to believe, but Symposia 2016 is only a couple weeks away, on October 8. We hope you’ll join us as we once again witness the bold, thoughtful, creative work of our alumni. Learn more and register here.