Discovering ways of thinking I never knew existed

Dandelion Time

06 August 2019

Written by Jess Duncan, Therapist & Course Leader at Dandelion Time

The Nature, Craft and Family Systems (NCFS) course has opened my mind to theories and ways of thinking that I never knew existed. Systemic thinking has changed my practice. I always thought I, and my colleagues at Dandelion Time, were quite good at thinking holistically and not just looking at the child in isolation. But my new knowledge of systems theory has deepened my view of how family roles, boundaries and functioning are organised within systems and subsystems and how the relationships between these are interconnected and interdependent. Yes, some of the theory is complex and challenging, but so it should be – the children and families we work with share with us the complex and intimate details of their stories; their trauma, their relationships, their pain and their joy. I feel our clients deserve our best knowledge and expertise, grounded in the multiple perspectives offered by systemic theory and practice. As practitioners, we are privileged to walk alongside these courageous families in their therapeutic journeys.

I now think much more deeply about the cross-generational influences on the child and family, the family scripts, the influence of social constructs and meaning.

The course has introduced me to a range of tools that support the practical implication of the theories of change, such as circular questioning, enactment, metaphor, reframing, genograms  and many more to try to help our clients see that there are possibilities for new ways of being that can lead to meaningful and sustainable change.

Connecting with nature and craft

You might assume that having worked at Dandelion Time for nearly 4 years that I would be quite well in tune with the natural world and nature-based craft. Wrong! The NCFS course has made me think really deeply about our place as human beings in the system of the natural world. The course digs much deeper than ‘being outside is good for you’ – to really explore why this is. What is the healing power of nature? What is the power dynamic in our relationship with the natural world? Why do some people (professionals and clients) connect with nature and craft easily and for some it is far more challenging? What is it about engaging with the rhythmic, sensory craft-working that connects us so deeply to our emotional states? The NCFS course takes you to the fundamental basis of these questions, on a personal level, and then builds layers of practical knowledge and theoretical understanding of how to communicate, share and utilise these remarkable experiences therapeutically with children and families.

Self reflexivity

For me, the greatest challenge of this course is also its greatest gift; personal development and growth.  The NCFS course has challenged me to my very core – primarily as a practitioner but also as a mother, a wife and a daughter. It has made me examine more deeply than ever before my own story, my family values and history, my parenting, my professional knowledge, skills and decision making. I believe that being an analytical thinker can be both a gift and a curse and for me this hasn’t been an easy journey. It has however been fulfilling both professionally and personally. Yes, sometimes the course content has hit a nerve and made me feel that my vulnerabilities could be exposed. But I always felt safe and cared for in the group, surrounded by fellow learners and tutors who I suspect felt exactly the same. I can see now that this is exactly why this course has changed my practice, my way of thinking and will have such a lasting impact – it has helped me to locate the professional within myself as a person.

When I was first asked to write this blog post about the Nature, Craft and Family Systems (NCFS) training I was guided to focus on what I appreciated about the course. If I’m honest, in the midst of trying to write my final essay, this really made me chuckle. Looking back over the past year I asked myself did I appreciate having to recall my sketchy knowledge of Harvard referencing? No. Did I appreciate having to remember how to format an assignment into double line spacing? No. Did I appreciate the mind boggling theories of Gregory Bateson (who, by the way I consider to be an academic sadist – someone who, like Steiner, wrote in riddles for his own amusement knowing that students for decades to come would have sleepless nights over what is actually meant by the term schismogenesis and whether in fact this is even a real word?!) Somewhat surprisingly, yes, I did. Because the NCFS course has opened my eyes, my head and my heart. My ultimate hope is that as my professional journey continues (because once your eyes have been opened to systems thinking you realise that nobody can ever fully learn it, which is simultaneously inspiring and intensely frustrating!) I will be able to connect with children, families and nature in the unique and beautiful setting at Dandelion Time more deeply, more skillfully and more systemically.

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