Richardson, C. (2018). Relating to illness in therapy: A pilgrimate through uncertain terrain. Murmurations. Journal of Transformative Systemic Practice, 1(2), 14-26.
In this article, I explore the subject of supporting clients living with illness in the context of my counselling practice. I weave this approach to clinical practice, informed by response-based practice and the use of metaphor, together with my personal story of illness and recovery. I contextualise my own history as a Metis woman and therapist into the life of my family, living in Canada’s north. There, my maternal family lived in the midst of uranium extraction, a form of mining that resourced the Cold War and fueled the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Canada’s implication in militarism had devastating effects on Indigenous community members. I explore the use of metaphor as a form of co-constructed meaning in therapy. I present my own symbolic journey through cancer and treatment as a sacred pilgrimage in Spain. The various key points in treatment parallel significant stops along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. As well, I explore how clients negotiate medical systems, impositions and negative social responses, as well as how they resource love, strength and care from family and friends. I apply a framework of response-based practice, seeking to understand the ways in which people preserve dignity and try to maximize safety and well-being. This includes the ways in which patients manage unsolicited advice and undesirable procedures with courage and grace.