Carolyn Ralph, BA, BSW, RSW, MSWc
Registered Social Worker/Psychotherapist
Developing a feeling of safety in the therapeutic relationship is key to working together. This is encouraged through patience, playfulness, and consent. The process of earning trust from the parts of us that are in stuck in survival mode can't be mapped out ahead of time because there is an organic progression of relationship building both with the therapist and one's own Self-energy. Meeting together on the trails or gardens of the Royal Botanical Gardens and Nature Sanctuary, and allowing for a client-centered process, clients are able to choose what they need in the moment. While some direction is offered with an invitation to connect to the body with simple, somatic mindfulness practices, the work is in developing awareness and a compassionate relationship with ourselves ( all the parts of us), and offering time for exploring and questioning/re-authoring one's stories. The forest, marshes, and gardens can be blissfully distracting and the wildlife often show up in ways that accent the experience -birds, rabbits, chipmunks, waterfowl, and even a rare visit from a beaver have all been known to accompany us as we walk or sit and talk. On days when the weather is inclement, we can revel in the indoor Mediterranean gardens at the Royal Botanical Gardens. However, using the weather as a tool, we can work through the potential discomfort in the body when the weather is harsh (rainy, cold, or warm). This is part of the process of developing an awareness that we can 'feel' discomfort and still know that we are safe in the feeling - and it doesn't necessarily have to connect to an emotional feeling or a story. Bridging folks to their inner wildness is usually an unexpected benefit of this work.
My journey to this vocational calling has been life-long. Growing up in an urban environment, as the youngest female in a large, patriarchal, mixed-culture family, and having experienced trauma and disenfranchisement in my youth, I sought emotional comfort in my connection to horses. I started my therapeutic journey rehabilitating abused ponies. After seeking support for myself, and recognizing the value of a strong therapeutic relationship in facilitating reconnection to my Self and all my parts, I changed my focus to supporting humans. While I strive to be in my wisdom when I am in the therapeutic experience, I bring many other parts of myself to the relationship. As an unschooling mother, I have learned humility, acceptance, and trust. As a social worker, I have developed a critical lens and released my inner activist. As an artist and musician, I allow expression for my vulnerability. As an academic and researcher, my curious parts can thrive in a beginner's mind. As a psychonaut and 'practicing human', I have felt my connection to oneness, especially in nature. An early introduction to mindfulness and entheogenic rituals have been foundational to my commitment to presence. I am drawn to folks who are also curious, expressive, and open.