How the Caravan taught me the true nature of the transpersonal

Working at the Caravan was what made me decide to become a psychotherapist. Until my placement there, I had some serious reservations.

I cannot underestimate its value, or the value to me personally working there. I was so proud to be part of the team. I love its ethos. Many of my original clients worked with me after I left there, and one still does.

I loved the Caravan’s openness, the way anyone might turn up. That was what made it so alive: it epitomises transpersonal. Supervision was the very best. Many sessions remain vivid in my mind. And the Christmas lunches… they were such fun!

Some other memories, less good, also stick in my mind:

My very first session remains vivid. I was terrified. The client, assuming I must know what I was doing, came in and started unloading. From that second it felt like the most natural thing in the world to be there, with another human struggling to find his way through life.

There was another lovely, stuck, depressed client, very lonely, who came regularly to moan, and one day I challenged him, saying: “I wonder if this is a fear, Keith, about what would happen if you allowed things to change.” He looked at me in affront and said: “I’m not Keith, I’m Brian.” Talk about transpersonal: what was it about him I was not seeing!

The Caravan was my first experience of negative transference. It was shocking to be told: “You are the worst therapist. All the other Caravan therapists are much better than you.” It followed a challenge I’d made, of course. Before she stormed out, 20 minutes before the end – leaving me pretty shaken and ashamed I’d got it so wrong – I’d just managed to say it would be good to talk this through and she was always welcome to come back. She left.  Then within five minutes she was back, saying could she come again same time next week… (Following this, Zak generously gave the most wonderful and essential emergency telephone supervision. This client continued for many years.)

There were people who came just once and wanted to hug me, saying it made all the difference; people who verbally abused me for not giving them coffee and tea on call; people who said they were therapists and wanted to understand how this place worked, as it seemed so cool; and people who came and stayed.

I dont know what impact it or I had on their lives. I remember every client (and usually their names!) and wish them well.

It’s an inspirational idea, a magical place = I love you Caravan!!!

Mary Mulholland

A Caravan for all seasons

What strikes me when I think about the van is the flow of the changing seasons.

The summer sunshine, reflecting off of red striped market stalls,

The autumn leaves collecting in the plastic window frames,

The hot cups of tea and precarious electric heater in the dead of winter,

Then spring, with its sense of promise and summer flowers beginning to push up through the soil.

 

And how with the seasons clients came and went,

And how with the seasons some clients stayed,

And how with the seasons I changed and grew,

And how with the seasons some of me stayed the same.

 

Jared Green

Lost and Found

A small green caravan sits inside a walled garden in a city churchyard. Surrounded by old buildings and the sounds of traffic and passers-by, it looks forgotten and vulnerable. The vehicle that brought it here is long gone and there is no road to travel onwards. It is stuck. Quite lost. Left behind. Delivered to the wrong destination. What a waste. Just think where it might be. High on a hill in a beautiful landscape, overlooking the sea perhaps, instead of next to an ivy-covered wall and a metal container filled with market stall equipment. Who would ever have thought a caravan could have found itself in such an awful situation?

However, isn’t the Caravan just perfect as it is – a totally fitting place for clients when they come to its door for the first time? They feel their own lostness and stuckness too. They also feel separated from something. Fragile. Transient. Out of place, without a road and without a direction. To those in need the Caravan must appear an approachable kindred spirit.

Even though it looks out of place, the beauty of this particular caravan is that it doesn’t look that unhappy. It is unapologetically painted bright green and it stands proudly. Despite its predicament, it is somehow at ease. Does it offer a strange kind of hope – a hope against expectation perhaps? Perhaps life can’t offer all you once dreamt of, but it might be bearable. Like the lost caravan, you might even find your own place.

Our role as counsellors is to introduce its visitors to an uncomfortable truth – one that we are learning ourselves by coming here. That is, unless a traveller truly knows where they come from, they can’t move forward purposefully at all – and the only way to find that out is to journey inwards. Only on this kind of expedition can someone find out where they are truly at and what has brought them here.

So the Caravan not only represents being stuck, it also represents the possibility of a journey back to ourselves. A journey where after a time the landscape will start to look familiar again. A journey home.

But first, the knock on the door.

The Caravan also reveals something else. The potential of a relationship – that sharing our travels with other people can be worthwhile. This place is made for two, for the journeyer and the guide – a temporary companion for the first part of the trip, until an inner guide is found.

The Caravan also represents us as counsellors. We hold the potential of relationship too. The Caravan gives me a template for my practice – to provide a temporary space to witness the stories of others – a purposefully designed space to support the emergence of true voices. A humble presence fulfilling a powerful purpose.

Andrew Lockhart

Secret supervision

In memory of John Fentiman, my caravan supervisor 1997, I enclose the lovely reference he gave me on my leaving.
I will also remember the one month’s supervision I missed because John wanted the group to meet “in the secret garden in Regent’s Park”.
I never found it!
Barbara Stevens

Happy memories from 2003

Mick Kasmir

Catching a falling star

My fondest memories of the Caravan centre around my meet-up with ‘Brad’ (not his real name…) on a cloudy, rainy Sunday morning.

I remember that day as being a typical London cold day. Brad doesn’t want to come into the Caravan, but invites me outside to join him in a rendition of Catch a Falling Star. So there we are singing and dancing to “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Save it for a rainy day. Never let it fade away.”

Truth is, Brad gave me a lot more than I gave him on that cold, cloudy, rainy morning. And, of course, that is true of the encounters at the Caravan.

Now this song still brings joy to my heart and memories of my time at the Caravan.

Pauline Medice

A mirror to myself

I’ll never forget doing my first slot at the Caravan. It was daunting to say the least. But walking away from it that evening, I was struck by a tremendous sense of love and open heart.

There is something very precious to be there for another person who seeks to be heard, who is willing to risk opening up to a complete stranger, to share their burden so that they can go lighter.

The Caravan teaches humility and humanity. It’s a humbling and enriching experience, and it is a road of self-discovery, for many of the clients hold mirrors to ourselves.

Elena Shaftan

Connecting on a different level

I spent an extraordinary three years at the Caravan. This placement lives on in memory – and folklore – long after other aspects of the training have begun to dim.

Why? Well, it was certainly a baptism by fire, particularly as the whole business of therapy was completely new to me. But it was the extraordinary range of visitors that made it so special, memorable and much discussed. Even though it rapidly became apparent that many regular visitors were not seriously seeking therapy, this did not detract at all from the deep-end learning.

One ‘professional client’ remains at the forefront of my mind throughout my time at the ‘Van. He was as entertaining as he was melancholic, with wonderful artistic skills. It was apparent at one point that he was ‘seeing’ almost every Caravan volunteer. But there were many other notables over those years, from those living on the street to everyday people, from schizophrenics to musicians.

It was, and remains, one of the most profound experiences of my life, and such a privilege. I learned so much, so quickly – especially about myself.

However, the most wonderful aspect of the Caravan was the supervision, carried out at that time (back in 1995) by the late John Fentiman. I looked forward to these sessions with such eagerness. Again, why? This man was unique in my experience and brought so many skills to bear. He was able to ‘give permission’ to us to open up completely, to overturn conditioned responses, to illuminate the much deeper processes taking place – and all in such a spontaneous, light, insightful way. He also taught me what love is, and for that l can never thank him enough.

Leaving there was extremely sad for me. So, some time later, when l was asked to help maintain electrical and other aspects of the ‘Van’s welfare, l was thrilled. Reconnection! (no pun intended – or is there . . .? )

With grateful thanks,

Keith Wolstenholme

Memories of love and new life

The Caravan has been – and is – important to us for many reasons, not least because it was after Caravan supervision that we met, fell in love, got married and gave birth to our lovely daughter Lily, who is now two years old!

We got much more out of the Caravan than we ever put in, and are eternally grateful both for the opportunity to learn that it gave us both, and the gifts we have taken from it.

Long may she/it flourish.

Simon & Michelle Matthews