How and/or why did you become a therapist?
I grew up witnessing people close to me really struggling with mental illness. From a very early age I had a desire to help people suffering in this way. I studied medicine and worked for many years as a general practitioner. I knew I was passionate about mental health but somehow never allowed myself to follow that passion. Eventually my body made me. After 20 years of general practice I suddenly developed very severe insomnia, to the point where I would stay awake all night before work and then have to cancel my session. This forced to realize I had to follow my heart. I have focused on mental health and mindfulness now for 6 years and I absolutely love what I do and my body is at peace.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?
I have often been reduced to tears watching clients move through fear towards love. It’s like watching a butterfly come out of its chrysalis. We are so privileged to be in this position to bear witness to the opening of another human and their discovery of love. Of course often the journey is very challenging and not everyone is ready to shift. However even seeing the tiny steps is beautiful. Sometimes there is no shifting at all but there is still an opportunity to offer love. I am learning this more all the time.
What’s unique or special in your background or approach to interpersonal relationships?
I see everything as an opportunity. Relationships offer the greatest gift of seeing ourselves truly. Inevitably whatever buried emotions or unhelpful patterns of behavior we have will be shown to us once we get into a relationship. This goes for all relationships parents, children, intimate partners, our pets.
If we have the courage to look at ourselves honestly and take responsibility rather than blame externally we will grow. If we discover real empathy and have absolute understanding of what the other is feeling inside we will be able to approach them with compassion. Sometimes love does have to be firm, or relationships do need to end. However there is always room for empathy and compassion. When we understand that everything that is happening in our lives is our choice, life becomes much more enjoyable.
What are your favorite or most interesting interpersonal relationship tips/or advice?
I often ask questions like “if this is happening so that your deepest self can learn something, what would that be?”
If someone is discussing an issue with their partner, along with acknowledging their challenge there is always value in asking “what does your partner feel deep inside?”
My mother is a student of A Course in Miracles. She once gave me the quote “We are never upset for the reason we think.” So often when we have tension or emotional energy occurring we are tempted to project it on to those around us. Sometimes our partners may need to address certain issues. However if we are upset with another person that emotional charge is always reflecting something in us (often our own fear).
Another valuable tool is to really treat other people as yourself.
What are some things about therapy that you want to increase public awareness about?
Many people have fear of coming to therapy, mainly because they don’t want to see their own challenging emotion or their own darkness. However we will never discover the light until we embrace with compassion our darkness. If we do not make our fears or behavior patterns conscious they will stay unconscious and will therefore totally control our lives. The only chance we have of finding our way home to the love that is inside, is to embrace every aspect of ourselves.
What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist can make?
I once heard Eckhart Tolle say something like (not an exact quote) “a therapist will do a better job when they forget about their book learning and sink out of their head into consciousness.”
If we are caught in our heads or worrying about doing a good job we will struggle. These days I aim to be as present with the client as possible and connected to presence within myself. There is a love and acceptance that goes with that. The greatest gift I can offer is acceptance and love. Of course we can guide people in a direction that is healing, teach them presence, help them see buried emotions or unhelpful patterns, however the real source of healing is always going to be love. This has been an ongoing learning for me. I have certainly made many mistakes along the way. However mistakes are really just a perfect learning opportunity.
You can learn more about Dr. Trish Quinlivan at www.livingmindfully.com.au and www.facebook.com/livingmindfullyperth.