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Come Together and Grow

August 7, 2013

JeanAssembly TLC Guest Blogger: Jean West, LCSW, CTC-S, CT

I admit I am still on a training “high.” It’s that feeling you get when you have the opportunity to be around like-minded passionate practitioners whose goal is the same as yours, to learn more about helping others heal from trauma.

As I write this blog, I am contemplating why it feels so good to come together and grow. Maybe it is because the work we do can be so incredibly difficult at times.

I remember last winter two brothers were referred to me whose father had committed suicide. They had walked in with their mom and found their dad after he had committed the act. I went through the drawing process separately with both boys, one after the other. I often quote the movie “Warhorse” in trainings, where the mom is describing why the father who has returned from war is so silent on his experience. She says, “there are some things there are no words to describe.”

That is why drawing is such a powerful tool, enabling us to help the integration of the right and left brain, and helping others to be able to put their experiences into words. After going through these two sessions, I was emotionally, physically and even spiritually exhausted. I ran home and laid down in front of my fireplace and took a short nap, needing rest from the stories that spring forth from our children’s souls.

That is why I love the TLC Summer Assembly. It is rest, rejuvenation, excitement, relationship and renewed learning for me. This is crucial for the work we do. However, I realize that all of us may not be able to attend trainings as much as we would like. How do we stay positive, focused and continue to grow?

First, when we do have the opportunity to attend workshops or trainings from anyone, stay positive. I have heard so many coworkers lament the fact that they are required to go to this or that. They have “too much work back at the office” to be away. However, it is even more important when we are feeling that overwhelmed to have a time away to remember why we are doing what we are doing. If we lose our purpose and joy in our work, how long can we remain a positive relationship in our client’s lives? In Daniel Siegel’s book, “The Whole-Brain Child,” he states, “The kinds of relationships our children experience will lay the groundwork for how they relate to others for the rest of their lives.” Our relationship teaches those with whom we work important relational skills, such as communicating and listening well, interpreting facial expressions, understanding nonverbal communication and much more. Never underestimate the power of a positive relationship in regards to healing.

Second, find a system for using what you learn. It is too easy to file away new knowledge without applying it to our current work. I recommend a checklist for every learning opportunity you receive:

  1. What are three concepts I learned I don’t want to forget?
  2. What is one area I caught a glimpse of that I want to learn more about?
  3. What is one hands-on activity I can use right away with those I work with?

JeanAssembly2Third, I imagine we have all been to a workshop where we thought, “Oh no, I picked the wrong one!” (Hopefully not mine!) I have learned long ago that there is always, always something I can learn and take away. It has to do with having a teachable spirit and being open to new ideas that maybe are different from our own. Last winter I attended a breakout session at a conference where I kept thinking, “Oh boy, I’m not sure about this.” The majority of the presentation was not my favorite, but I decided to stay and be positive. At the very end, the presenters brought forth a concept that spoke to me. I immediately saw how it could be a tool in family therapy and have been using it with great success since. Continue to be open to new learning!

Finally, find the one main concept in each book or article that you read regarding the work that we do that speaks to your heart and write it down. I am an avid reader, and until I learned this concept I wasn’t quite sure how to decide what was important to remember from all that I read and how to keep track of it. What I do now is keep a notebook of what I have read and the most important concept for me from each book that I learned. Some books will have more then one idea, but I limit my list to no more then two or three. This has helped me to remember and use what I am learning on an ongoing basis.

However you choose to grow, continue to grow as a person and a practitioner. When we are whole, we have more to give.

Keep growing, my friends, and keep impacting lives every day.


Siegel, D. & Payne Bryson, T. (2011). The Whole-Brain Child Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. Delacorte Press.

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