Out with the old, in with the new

Last week, after a day with clients I closed the door of the Wilbury Clinic for the final time; tomorrow, I will walk through the door of the Wilbury Clinic for my scheduled client sessions for the first time. After many years of the clinic being in Wilbury Road, it (and all of us practitioner-client ensembles) are moving to its new site in Church Road.

There is so much of this added 10 minute walk down the road that I am taking in my stride: in some ways, it is simply a geographical / physical housing shift. Its a different door, and yet so much remains – I imagine my clients and I will even sit in the same chairs, facing the same paintings, drinking from the same water glasses. 

And yet, there have been needed shifts and logistics to consider. The 10 minute walk further down the road means a different train journey time for my commute, to consider accessibility needs for my clients, a new breakfast venue to find…to name but a few. It isn’t just me and my fellow Wilbury Road practitioners in this equation – the clinic managers (old and new) have been busily dismantling and preparing both spaces so that no client misses their session; and clients will also need to consider the practical changes that come with such a move.

Change affects us all in different ways; and for me, I know change can affect me in many different directions and places, all at the same time. I feel a much appreciated buzz from the move at the end of long academic year and as I come to the last few weeks of private practice before a summer break; like a much welcomed energy drink, 20 minutes before race end! I also know myself well enough to recognise the activities of preparing (that could be construed as ‘transition easing’ from the outside) actually point to an anxiety lurking beneath. With the enneagram as a supporting frame these days, I see how much my Six process and an abhorrence to the merest hint of uncertainty is activated. I have to laugh how many times I have Google mapped the route from the train station to see where I can house my rituals across the work day!

There is also something significant about leaving the old clinic; not so much as a therapist, as I have only been there for 2 years. As I was leaving last Tuesday I shared with a colleague that this was also the site of my own therapy as I got started on the counselling and psychotherapy training path. This had not entered my mind much during my weekly visits, and yet it punctured my awareness literally as I was leaving the building for the last time. As I walked back to the station (along this route for the final time), I mused about the self I was then, the self I am now, the self-ing in between.

The Wilbury Clinic – the old, the new…would we say its the same?

Helen – the old, the new…am I the same Helen or a different one? 

At what moment does the old one become the new one?

And what of this Helen who has picked up the writing baton now and has since started work in the ‘new’ Wilbury? Of course, we can never pinpoint that ‘now to next’*, it is always relative. The Helen that is ‘now’ will soon be an older version of the next. Helen is a summation of many processes, not a static ‘thing’. 

A therapist friend and I are currently making our way through Eugene Gendlin’s text “A process model” as part of our continued professional development. This text is NOT for the faint hearted, full of philosophical ‘computations’ as Gendlin builds a model of ‘inter-affecting’. In his model, the ‘old’ Wilbury has always implied the ‘new’ – just like hunger always contains the feeding. Similarly, ‘Helen’ misleadingly denotes an object – the processes “I” am are just implying into occurring (note the use of verbs, not nouns). The Helen of 2012 always implies the Helen in between, the Helen occurring in 2024. This is not fatalistic nor deterministic; rather than it points to an endless aliveness, a liv-ing. Similarly, there is no Wilbury (as it is) without the Helen I was and I am (to even use time pointers of  ‘was’ and ‘am’ is misleading); no Helen (as she is) without the Wilbury 2012, Wilbury 2024.

The slow, heavy going nature of this text belies the aliven-ing that my intrepid CPD friend and I experience in this project. Whilst we both disclose the difficulties and the headaches in understanding Gendlin’s thought process(!), his writing does evoke something in bodily being, a felt sense (if we grab some of his Focusing terminology). I have noticed when I step back and stop trying to understand every word, symbol, definition and instead feel my way into his descriptions, it conveys something very powerful. Its that fractal of life that is a murmuration: each ‘unit’ in the system implies the ebb and flow; each bird (itself not an it but processes) inter-affect each other – and in a way that from outside it looks like one, seamless movement and entity. And, in our CPD sharing sessions, its as if my friend and I too are fellow starlings in a murmuration together – the dialogue, the dialectic mimics what Gendlin speaks to on the page.

We quite often look up at one another and ask that pertinent question – what has this got to do with therapy? The ‘move’ of Wilbury has been a case in point. I see the inter-affecting quality. My experience-ing, the clients experience-ing inter-affecting. My clients cannot be helped ‘picking up’ something in me, and vice versa – we are two starlings in the same moving landscape; we aren’t even IN the landscape, we are it. As we explore new spaces together, we recognise we ARE those new environments – a client’s preference for a window opened and the air it brings; my wish for it to be quieter and reaching for a jumper; and what gets felt in the between as we negotiate, re-negotiate time and space, together. We inter-affect; we dance.

What transitions bring however are snapshots – a physical, geographical shift is like a time stamp. This versus that, here versus there. Gendlin speaks of how an object only appears when the cycle of implying and occurring ceases*. And when Helen ‘appears’, there is chance to witness a reflection. Transitions are simply change made apparent (as change is always happening); and in the apparent hard edge of the step, change offers a moment of reflection – change gives an opportunity to see our hard edges; to see how we block ourselves to expanding, unfolding (or a word I saw psychotherapist Alvin Mahrer use in my recent book research, dilating).

Like I say, this week has thrown my enneatype Six process into full view – it powerfully shows my learning edges…

…and yet, is a double edged sword.

Imagine a starling in full murmuration being tapped on the shoulder and being interviewed “how do you know where to move, what speed, and not crash?” When we are objectified, we become self-conscious, we become an object in our subjectivity. Tim Gallwey, author of one of THE best book titles ever says in his Inner Game of Tennis – if you are being beaten by a player in great form, at the next change of ends, ask your opponent what is they are doing differently this week to be playing so well…guess what, they tend to fall apart.

Implying and occurring do not need help; they already are. Reading Gendlin reminds me so much of the Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism – the non-dual, the perpetual motion and inter-affecting. To go with, to enter the flow requires grace. In the move across town, there have been great lessons in ‘going with’ and not trying to nail everything down that ‘might’ go wrong or need thinking about. I recognise how often I am not present because I am pre-occupied by what is (not even) happening. As Mark Twain famously said ‘I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.’

Recognising inter-affecting challenges a world-view we take for granted – this and that, here and there becomes the flow inherent within and through. It conjures for me what Gestalt therapy throws into contrast – responsibility and response-ability. The latter is a dexterity, responding with living. Responsibility can be a role we take on, an identity that sits outside of what is happen-ing. Of course, I have a duty of care to be responsible TO my clients welfare…but not FOR their welfare. Therapy offers a chance to explore those positions; and the interplay of ‘to’ and ‘for’, the relat-ING.

This is one of those blog posts that felt more coherent in my mind musings than when I try to put those musings on to a page; that in itself speaks to the ‘trouble’ we get ourselves into when we try to make a linear model of life, when we interrupt flow and create false separations. But of course, we must try and articulate these experiences – we are meaning making beings, and expression through language is such a big part of that process.

I’ll keep trying!


* although Gestalt therapy process attempts to drill down to those small ‘now to next’ moments in the therapy room

**like a corpse appears when bodily processes cease

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