Insights & opinion

"Trust the Process"

Clare shares her transformative experience at Onsite, emphasising personal growth through a nurturing and supportive environment, highlighting the importance of vulnerability, connection, and trusting the therapeutic process.

June 13, 2024

As a newly qualified therapist in 2004, I was curious and fascinated by all aspects of psychology and was particularly interested in learning creative ways of accessing the unconscious to develop a greater insight and understanding of issues that might block or hinder my personal growth.

A colleague mentioned that he had recently returned from Tennessee having spent a week training at Onsite. I was super keen to learn more and my interest piqued when he really struggled to describe and articulate the process involved, just talking about ‘the power of connection’ and it being ‘a magical place’. I have a fairly pragmatic character, but the intrigue of this potential opportunity outweighed my cynicism and after what seemed like years of academic learning, mainly cognitively challenging, I was keen to experience a novel way of learning that might stretch me in alternative ways.

The written assessment process was thorough and brought up memories, feelings and hints of unresolved issues and I felt nervous yet excited at taking the time and space to pay attention to some of this material. I am a staunch advocate of the timeless premise that a therapist can’t expect a client to go where they haven’t been themselves and am a strong supporter of the importance of clinicians in engaging in continuous personal work to better inform their practise. I also kept reminding myself that this was a training, not necessarily a therapeutic experience.

I booked my flights and vowed to remain open minded and willing. I prayed for courage and flew out to Nashville.

The environment was familiar to me as I had previously lived in Kentucky, working with horses and the ranch at Onsite brought back some of those positive memories, the heat, the lush greenery and the genuine welcoming energy.

I was the only participant from the UK and a great suggestion upon arrival is that we only divulge minimal personal information to enable us to meet as equals, just bringing our true selves in the moment.

I had assumed that as I was enrolled onto a professional development training, there would be lots of theoretical learning, clever intervention techniques and general tips and tricks for working with a range of presentations. Instead, our learning was purely in the framework of bringing our personal material and being supported, experientially in working through it within a group, the exact same process that anyone entering any of the workshops would experience. We were encouraged to take risks and share vulnerably. I figured I had nothing to lose and it felt easier to be honest as I was so far from home.

The facilitators, in fact, all the staff at On Site created real safety, there was such a strong sense of nurturing, encouraging and warmth, all without any judgment and I was astounded that all our group members began sharing so deeply within a very short period of time. Within a day, it felt like we had known each other for years.

The warmth extended beyond the group, it permeated throughout the campus, at meal times, in the woods, in all facets. I can honestly say that I have never experienced such profound and consistent safety which seemed at times, at odds with deep pain, fear and anger as I explored unresolved issues and found courage to stay with the difficult feelings, have them witnessed and allowed myself to be supported.

This experience was the most powerful example of what I believe to be an inherent human condition - that, if we have a safe, nurturing environment, we can share our truth, feel seen and heard and heal.

Upon my return to the UK, I felt disoriented and alone, I missed the connection and safety and it took a while to adjust to ‘normal’ life. I stayed connected with people I had met out there and we continued to share our experiences.

In the last 20 years I have referred many people to On Site. Some with great insight and some right at the start of their  journey. It has often felt challenging as clients have asked,

‘What should I expect?’ ‘What actually happens?’ ‘What do we actually do?’

These questions are difficult to answer and I have been privileged to experience clients trust in our relationship as I can only answer queries and respond to anxieties with the words that to me, form the fundamental basis of the therapeutic relationship:


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