Explicit vs. Veiled Self-Care

When you’re practicing self-care in session, you may wonder if it’s beneficial to be explicit about the practice or discreet, and I would say the answer is – it depends. When I’m experiencing emotional challenges from a client interaction, it’s likely there are other group members who could benefit from regulation practices, so I will guide the group in regulating while allowing my nervous system to reset. There’s been a few times when the stimuli has come from an outside source, such as an earthquake or the example below, where I will explicit speak to what’s happened for me, eg I noticed my stomach tighten as the building shook, and guide clients’ to check in what’s happened for them.

There was one time when I was in session only a month after I had graduated. I was doing my best to be completely present in session and provide significant value to the client. Though for about 10 minutes I had been noticing this light touch on my calf; I assumed it was the draw string of my capris in the breeze. The sensation doesn’t stop and it’s been about ten minutes, I finally look down at my calf and can just glimpse a part of a very large cane spider crawling up my leg and underneath my capris. At this point in my life I still had a very active fear of spiders, and I don’t remember the next few seconds.

What I do remember is dancing around on top of the coach shaking the spider from out of my capri. This is quite an odd position to be in, especially as the therapist, during a session. What I was able to conjure up from standing on the couch, is explicitly walking through some regulation processes and describe what was happening and what to do about it. This went something along these lines:

  • I’m in the flight stage now. I’m going to shake my limbs to support in discharging the adrenaline.
  • Now that I’m slightly calmer, I’m going to step off the couch and will focus on taking deep breaths.
  • Lastly I’m going to stretch and check in with my body.

This experience turned out to be a significant gift to the client. In each case when you’re looking at guiding grounding exercise in groups and wondering about being explicit about your state, consider what’s best for all of the client/s.

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