Framework Fundamentals – Compassionate Collaboration


& the Therapeutic Fundamentals of Practice

Outcome is enhanced when the therapist uses modalities and defines goals consistent with the life experiences and cultural values of the client. No single approach is equally effective across all populations and life situations

Collins & Arthur, 2010

Compassionate Collaboration

Compassionate Collaboration is the Self (therapist) instigated and Other (client) agreed upon use of the emergent energy and information flow that exists within the micro-World of therapy.  Such deliberate use of time and space depends on a reasonable level of vulnerability and availability from both the Self and the Other, which together creates a new relational dynamic for exploration and change.

Based on the premises of psychodynamics, humanism, and interpersonal neurobiology compassionate collaboration involves the innate integrative capacity of the mind-body that emerges when we, as a human species, find ourselves in authentic, respectful, and reciprocal relationships (Cozolino, 2002; van der Kolk, 2018).  Indeed, when psychobiological conditions are apt, the inherent self-organising systems of the mind-body begin a process of restoration and growth whereby intuit and intelligent sensibilities begin to integrate what has previously been chaotic or rigid (Schore, 2014; Siegel, 2012).

Such apt conditions for integrative well-being, expressly within the Co-Regulated Connection of the therapeutic dyad of Self (therapist) and Other (client), could easily be attributed to stratified interventions based on a medical model.  Yet – as much research has indicated (see, for instance, Norcross, 1999), it is not the interventions themselves that open space for client change.  Rather, it is the capacity of the Self (therapist) to connect from a quality of being that, whilst intentionally attentive to how the energetic informational flow within and between the Self and the Other unfolds and affects the ever-emergent interpersonal dynamics, is a quality of being that allows the Self to instigate an agreeance with the Other as to the reasonable usage of time and space.

That is, Compassionate Collaboration requires the capacity of the Self (therapist) not only to create Co-Regulated Connection but so too to facilitate a joining that manifests a reciprocating relational vector unique for the Other (client) that desires change.  Most importantly this joining, whilst fundamentally reliant on the use of Self in relationship (Badenoch, 2018; Siegel, 2012) is ultimately grounded in communication and the compassionate offering of meaningful awareness.  Such meaningful awareness begets the Other’s capacity to weave together a diachronic sense of Self within and between time, space, and place, and requires a variety of resources that assists in the process of conceptualising underlying ways of sensing, perceiving, and interpreting as they relate to reactions and the emergence of contextual coherence and thus the opportunity to create new ways of responding.

With this in mind, below are some of the theories, approaches, and resources I often utilise, alongside co-regulated connection, in a compassionate collaborative manner.

Reasonable Usage of Time & Space

If you are seeking support for the impact of trauma, I offer a space of co-regulated connection where together we will re-establish your internal and external sense of trust and safety.

With compassionate collaboration I will support you in exploring the various nonconscious ways you have learned to cope including repeated patterns of Self-protection.

This exploration will also seek to uncover themes of internal dialogue, and/or beliefs about Self that have developed in response to your trauma.

Further to this, I will support you in building a stronger sense of who you authentically are now with care and compassion; this is a space that acknowledges the impact of your traumatic experiences within the context of your life.

We take the time to make sense of how the past impacts the present and to create a grounded sense of Self with secure authenticity.

Incident(s) of trauma are subjective however may include:

  • Overt or covert abuse & neglect,
  • Violence including physical assault or sexual assault,
  • Moral or spiritual exploitation,
  • Relational betrayal, or
  • Adverse childhood experiences.

Trauma is often identified within the medical field as:

  • Complex Trauma (C-PTSD),
  • Acute Trauma (PTSD),
  • Attachment / Developmental Trauma,
  • Intergenerational / Collective / Historical Trauma, or
  • Vicarious or Secondary Trauma.

This is a hidden form of trauma that originates from repeated developmental experiences of emotional neglect or abandonment and stems from what was missing throughout development or that which has been lost over time. 

This form of trauma is ambiguous as it is not what happened, rather it is what did not happen.

Rather than overt abuse or clear incidents of harm, ambiguous trauma is  a form of emotional isolation within a time where being seen, heard, understood, accepted, valued, and even delighted in is imperative to one’s sense of identity and belonging; the overwhelming feeling of emotional separation and the felt sense that one does not make sense, that one is ashamedly ‘different’ or ‘wrong’ when acting from an authentic sense of Self. 

If you have ever experienced this form of ambiguous suffering I offer a space of co-regulated connection where together we will, after establishing a sense of safety and reciprocity, collaborate in a manner that allows us to explore the elements of your past that may have left you in a state of alarmed aloneness

With compassion my role shall be to support you in exploring the various nonconscious ways you have learned to cope, including repeated patterns of Self-protection.  This exploration will importantly seek to unfold your most authentic Self in care and with courage; I offer space for you to know what it means to be truly seen, heard, understood, accepted, valued, and delighted in.

Together we shall reconnect you with your authentic sense of Self (identity-significance), Others (relationship-communication), and with the World that surrounds you (meaning-purpose).

If you are within a position where the demands of your work have begun to impede on your quality of live or your sense of Self, you may be experiencing compassion fatigue.  This fatigue may stem from long-term work-related stress, vicarious trauma, or moral distress.  No matter the causation of your burnout, I offer a space of co-regulated connection and compassionate collaboration where together we begin to understand and address the roots of this overwhelm.

Such may be an internal journey or a Self-exploration into the various pressures that push you beyond capacity and into spaces of exhaustion or a lack of motivation.  Together we may also seek to unpack any parts of you that feeling a denigrated sense of hope, or parts of you that may have noticed changing beliefs about Self, Other, and the World.  Within this space I offer compassion-based support that assists you to unravel any past and present situations that have left you without the professional or personal quality of life you desire.  We work together in relational collaboration identifying, conceptualising, and ultimately making sense of the different aspects of your role (including relationships with superiors, peers, and/or clients) or of certain situations (including, but not limited to, witnessing or experiencing incidents of trauma or intense suffering, violence, or behaviours that are conflictual to your moral beliefs or assumptions of human nature) occurring within your role that have arisen over time creating heightening levels of stress.

Our work together may include working with concepts of attachment, authenticity, boundaries, power dynamics, and communication patterns; this is a collaboration that co-creates an understanding of who you are in the context of others and learning how to manage the pressures that impede your quality of life, whilst also extending that quality of life in a manner that is more congruent to who you authentically are.

If you are a parent, sibling, or primary carer (past or present) of someone with a chronic and significant mental health condition: ASD/ADHD/AuDHD; Developmental trauma/CPTSD; Pathological Demand Avoidance or a Pervasive Drive for Autonomy, Conduct and/or communication disorders; Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders; and/or the like, I offer compassionate support for you in your role in caring for others.

I provide safe meaningful connection where you are heard openly with non-judgemental validity and acceptance of your subjective experiences; our connection is open for exploration of the impact these experiences have on who you are as a person.

With compassionate collaboration I also offer support to you in the process of demystifying behaviours of both neurodiverse and neurotypical children. This process is based in understanding the nuances of the nervous system, the purpose and regulation of emotions, and how to identify feelings as they relate to our innate needs and motivations.

Further to this I will support you in re-connecting with an internal sense of Self.  To restore the aspects of your authentic Self that may have been lost over the duration of caring for someone with high needs.  This is a space that offers time for Self-expression and for you to re-establish your Self-esteem, whilst also rebuilding the Self-efficacy that so oft becomes disorientated amidst caring for others. 

If you grew up in a home where a lingering of unease infused the spaces, where chaotic or rigid ways of interaction or relating left you feeling emotionally unseen, unheard, and misunderstood, or a home where you felt an ongoing sense of not truly belonging or connecting, or if your family home has left you feeling emotionally lost, confused, or struggling within your current relationships, I support you in understanding how a dysfunctional or disintegrated family home or parent has affected you or is impacting you now as an adult.

I can journey alongside guiding you toward understanding any past or current interpersonal issues.  Such may be coming to fathom why at times you non-consciously react the way you do or why others may react the way they do at certain times.  This is a making-sense of interpersonal interactions and how they have been impacted by the experiences and influences – including the definable and subliminal expectations – that our culture, society, families, and friends have had on the development of who we are.  Explorations will seek to unfold understandings of Self, Other and the World as they relate to any embodied or relational sense of:

  • Instability and/or unpredictability.
  • Vulnerability and/or inability to trust.
  • Social seclusion and/or isolation.
  • Disconnection, rejection, and/or abandonment.
  • Deficiency and/or deprivation.
  • Inferiority and/or ineffectiveness.
  • Subjugation and/or sacrifice.
  • Impulse and/or inhibition.
  • Punitiveness and/or hypercriticalness.
  • Recognition and/or approval.
  • Entitlement and/or privilege.
  • Control, power, and/or competitiveness.

Our work together may include working with concepts of attachment, authenticity, boundaries, power dynamics, family dynamics, and communication patterns; this is a collaboration that co-creates an understanding of who you are in the context of others and learning how to relate in a manner that is more congruent to who you authentically are.

If you are in a time of overwhelm, confusion, depression, and/or anxiety; if your life is at a point of crisis or disarray due to separation, divorce, death, friendship/relationship breakdown, infertility, pregnancy/parenthood, or if there is an underlying sense of not knowing who you truly are, I welcome you to connect with me to explore notions of Self-concept, Self-efficacy, Self-esteem, and Self-expression.

I can support you in making sense of any crisis or situation that may have left you feeling uncertain in your sense of Self and/or trust in your future.  This is an open exploration and an honouring of who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming. 

We shall seek to stabilise your sense of self in safety – looking toward an appreciation of virtues, and values alongside your vulnerabilities – making sense of them in the context of your development, identity, and spirituality.

So too our explorations will journey toward a new sense of empowered being that holds that capacity to trust the inherent knowing that is within; this is a restoration of Self in health and wellbeing, in flexibility and resilience no matter what the milieus of life throw your way.

If you have been working with a team of mental health professionals – psychiatrist’s, psychologist’s, social worker’s, counsellor’s, or coach’s – and have found their modalities are not your “cup of tea”; or perhaps if you have felt a desire to look deeper into some of the aspects of your Self as a relational being, I would love to offer you a connection that looks to explore your suffering in a different manner – through a window of integration: the differentiation and linkage of the various motivational parts within you.

Based on tan understanding that there is an inherent level of multiplicity in the mind (see Dr. Janina Fisher and Dr. Richard Schwartz), together we seek to unfold that which you feel is impacting your health and wellbeing through understanding the unique composition of your body and mind.  I will guide you through an exploration of your past as it plays into your present – looking at the parts of you that, over time, have begun to take away from who you feel you truly are. 

In this manner we can begin an exploration of compassion that seeks to make sense of the various ways you may have learned to cope with adversity and stress – be those modes of protective avoidance and/or modes of protective anxiousness.  These modes or patterns of protection may appear as the implicit urge to put others needs above your own, to never truly say what you want to say, or to avoid conflict no matter the cost; these protective modes may appear as a proclivity toward intense reactions – an overtaking of emotion that seems uncontrollable no matter how much you attempt change; or they may also appear as propensities to feel as though your efforts are never quite good enough, to push yourself far beyond your capacity, to think things through methodically and rationally ensuring there is a reason or solution for each concern, or perhaps you have even noticed that sometimes, when things are extremely overwhelming you tend to shutdown with a sense of dissonance or disassociation…

No matter the proclivity or propensity to protect, we look at these beautiful multifaceted ways you have learned to cope, and we join with them as parts of you that, along the timeline of your life, simply learned to survive in the only way they knew how. 

Theories and modalities I may draw from in Compassionate Collaboration

Based on the work of Dr. Daniel J Siegel Interpersonal Neurobiology is an interdisciplinary field that integrates principles from neuroscience, psychology, and various other disciplines to understand how relationships shape the development and function of the brain. It explores how interactions between individuals influence brain structure and function, emphasizing the importance of social connections in shaping mental health and well-being.

Based on the work of Jaak Panksepp affective neuroscience is a multidisciplinary field that studies the neural mechanisms underlying emotions, mood, and motivation. It explores how brain processes contribute to the experience, expression, and regulation of affective states, shedding light on the biological basis of emotions and related phenomena.

Attachment theory is a psychological framework developed by John Bowlby and later expanded by Mary Ainsworth, focusing on the dynamics of emotional bonds between individuals, particularly between children and their caregivers. It posits that early interactions with caregivers shape the quality of attachment bonds, influencing an individual’s emotional and social development throughout their lifespan. The theory categorises attachment styles, such as secure, anxious-ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganised, based on how individuals perceive and respond to relationships.

Polyvagal theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, proposes that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) plays a crucial role in regulating social behavior, emotional responses, and physiological states. It suggests that the ANS comprises three interconnected pathways, with the vagus nerve playing a central role. The theory posits that the evolutionarily older parts of the vagus nerve (dorsal vagal complex) are associated with immobilization and shutdown responses, while the newer parts (ventral vagal complex) are linked to social engagement and connection. Polyvagal theory provides insights into how our physiological state influences our social interactions, emotional experiences, and overall well-being.

Psychodynamic theory is a psychological framework that emphasises the role of unconscious processes, internal conflicts, and early childhood experiences in shaping personality and behaviour. Psychodynamic theory posits that unconscious drives and desires influence conscious thoughts and behaviours, and that unresolved conflicts from childhood can manifest in adult psychological problems. Therapy based on psychodynamic principles often involves exploring unconscious dynamics to promote insight, self-awareness, and emotional healing.

Compassion theory revolves around understanding and cultivating compassion as a fundamental aspect of human behaviour and well-being. It encompasses both the cognitive and emotional aspects of compassion, emphasising empathy, kindness, and a desire to alleviate suffering in oneself and others. Compassion theory explores how compassion influences relationships, health, and societal structures, and it often intersects with fields such as psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy.

Emotion theory encompasses various psychological perspectives that seek to understand the nature, origin, and functions of emotions. It examines how emotions are experienced, expressed, and regulated, as well as their roles in cognition, behaviour, and social interactions. Emotion theories may focus on physiological, cognitive, behavioural, evolutionary, or socio-cultural aspects of emotions, providing insights into their complexity and significance in human life.

The three-phased trauma approach is a therapeutic model that utilises three phases:

  1. Safety and stabilisation: Focuses on establishing a sense of safety and stability for the individual. This phase involves building coping skills, enhancing emotional regulation, and creating a supportive environment to manage symptoms.

  2. Processing trauma: Involves working through traumatic memories and experiences in a structured and safe manner. Therapeutic techniques such as exposure therapy or cognitive processing therapy may be utilized to help process and integrate traumatic memories.

  3. Integration and reconnection: Focuses on integrating the healing work done in therapy into the individual’s daily life. This phase involves building resilience, strengthening social support networks, and reconnecting with meaningful aspects of life.

The three-phased trauma approach aims to address the complex needs of trauma survivors, promote healing and recovery, and support individuals in rebuilding their lives after traumatic experiences.

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a therapeutic model that views the mind as composed of multiple “parts.” Developed by Richard Schwartz, IFS posits that each part has its own unique perspective, emotions, and motivations. The aim of therapy is to facilitate harmony and healing within the internal system by fostering compassionate understanding and communication between parts. Through compassionate connection and communication individuals learn to identify, engage, and understanding the intention of their parts, leading to greater self-awareness, integration, and emotional healing.

Dialectical thinking and feeling refers to the ability to hold seemingly contradictory or opposing perspectives, emotions, or truths simultaneously without dismissing or invalidating either side. It involves embracing complexity and recognising the nuances inherent in human experience. Dialectical approaches, such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), emphasize balancing acceptance and change, rationality and emotionality, and validation of one’s own experiences while also considering the perspectives of others.

Transference refers to the unconscious redirection of feelings and attitudes from one person to another, often arising from past relationships or experiences. In therapy, transference commonly occurs when clients project emotions, expectations, or reactions onto their therapist, based on unresolved dynamics from their past.

Countertransference, on the other hand, refers to the therapist’s unconscious emotional reactions and responses to the client, often influenced by the therapist’s own experiences, biases, or unresolved issues. It can affect the therapeutic relationship and the therapist’s ability to provide effective treatment if not recognized and managed appropriately.

Somatic awareness refers to the ability to perceive and attend to bodily sensations, feelings, and experiences. It involves being mindful of physical sensations, such as tension, relaxation, warmth, or discomfort, and recognising how they are connected to emotions, thoughts, and overall well-being. Somatic awareness is often cultivated through various practices of mindfulness, body scanning, or simply drawing attention to the body at specific moments throughout the day.  Somatic awareness can enhance self-awareness, emotional regulation, and stress management.

Mindfulness is a state of present-moment awareness, characterized by non-judgmental attention to one’s thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. It involves intentionally directing attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, and acceptance, without getting caught up in past regrets or future worries.

Meditation, on the other hand, refers to a diverse set of practices that cultivate mindfulness, concentration, and emotional well-being. These practices often involve sitting quietly and focusing attention on a particular object, such as the breath, a mantra, or bodily sensations. Meditation aims to quiet the mind, deepen self-awareness, and cultivate qualities like compassion, clarity, and equanimity.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a communication approach developed by Marshall Rosenberg that emphasizes compassionate connection and conflict resolution. It involves expressing oneself honestly and empathically, while also listening with empathy to others. NVC focuses on identifying and expressing feelings and needs, rather than judgments or blame, in order to foster understanding and collaboration in relationships. The goal of NVC is to create mutual respect, trust, and empathy, leading to more authentic and satisfying connections with others.