Meet the Courage Scholars (Alex Jenkins)
Alex runs a psychotherapy practice (GET Therapy Ltd.) and specialises in working with adults struggling to live with their post-traumatic stress responses, mostly after experiencing violence or abuse. She loves animals and plans to get back to working with wildlife or rescue animals, if her feline overlords will spare her.
How did your journey in Positive Psychology begin?
Over the last few years I have integrated and adopted aspects of Positive Psychology within my psychotherapy practice. There are many articles shared by the practitioners, researchers and media that I follow that include Positive Psychology concepts. I also encourage clients to share what works for them these practices often come from Positive Psychology.
A lot of my beliefs seem to align with Positive Psychology concepts. I have never been a great one for labels if they limit people and naturally have always pursued answers outside the medical model whilst respecting what pharmaceuticals do well. I am naturally cautious of diagnoses that seem to just name symptoms and provide additional labels which may not always be helpful.
I am also cautious of diagnoses labelled as disorders and dysfunctions which can suggest something is fundamentally wrong with a person, when the issue is what happened to them, or their authentic selves do not fall into an expected testing range. I believe as a society in general we need to stop shaming people and employ a more compassionate and strength-based approach to empower them as suggested by Positive Psychology.
Clients with complex PTSD often feel ‘broken’ and ‘crazy’. I focus on the fact that their responses are natural and logical, when looking at them from a trauma-aware perspective. Helping them see survival as a strength, rather than a flaw is more useful. I also believe in working with the whole person as we are more than just our trauma or our label.
Psychotherapy needs to offer opportunities to go beyond just surviving day to day, if the client wishes to, and explore thriving and Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). To my mind, if a client has been in a -10 situation in life, getting to 0, although a huge achievement, may not be enough for them, they deserve a +10 situation. These ways of working, I am learning, fit in well with the fundamentals of the Positive Psychology approach.
I am seeing improvements to my clients lives when utilising the Positive Psychology methods I am aware of. In completing just the first lessons of the Positive Psychology Academy (PPA) Positive Psychology Fundamentals course I can see there is a lot more to Positive Psychology than I originally thought, and I am excited to see where this course takes me and my practice!
Why did you apply for the Courage Scholarship?
What were you doing at the time?
How did you think/hope it might be helpful?
Where did you think/hope the scholarship may lead you?
I have known Claire and Reece for a few years through Combat Academy and we have shared an overlapping interests in research areas. I have a huge amount of respect for the people they are and the work they do. I was incredibly honoured to be offered this scholarship recently and jumped at the opportunity!
The aspects of Positive Psychology I use in my practice are already impactful and important to my clients. I am curious to see what else I can apply in practice.
As an integrative therapist I believe in tailoring approaches to my clients’ needs rather than being a purist and using one approach. I believe it is important for Positive Psychology to be integrated into psychotherapeutic work. I hope to find ways of applying and adapting what I learn through this scholarship into my practice. I realise PPA have a Practitioner Pathway and if these applications proved successful, they could be shared more widely as part of an evidence-based practice. I have some early ideas for research formulating but am staying open minded this early in the course.
Why and how does strengthening Positive Psychology research on Violence & Post Traumatic Growth interest you?
As mentioned above for some people surviving is not enough, just minimising symptoms that fit into a diagnosis is not enough, the absence of a negative is not enough, there needs to be a positive. It is not enough for patients to exist without trauma. They want to thrive, to flourish and PTG is the process that allows for this. It can give hope and motivation for the therapeutic work, not just for the person who has experienced the violence but, I believe, for the loved ones that are supporting them. Seeing a client grow and thrive also adds meaning and motivates the therapist.
More research would hopefully mean finding ways we can successfully support people through their PTG journey and Positive Psychology seems a natural fit for that.
There is attention in this area at the moment, including the UK government’s ‘Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy’. Solid research in this area could lead to government strategies and funding for third sector organisations.
Supportive loved ones can be an incredible resource in the transition from PTSD to PTG. I co-wrote and currently facilitate an information workshop for Greater Manchester Rape Crisis for the loved ones of those who have experienced abuse to help them understand trauma and to support them in supporting their survivors. The research for the loved ones experiencing PTG currently seems to be limited to certain cancer survivors, I have not seen anything related to violence. I think this could be really important area for research, especially when you look at the rates divorce and relationship difficulties of people who are living with Post Traumatic Stress reactions.
What are you most looking forward to on the scholarship?
I am excited to see where this will take me. I am open-minded to the process and what I will learn. The key for me is application in my psychotherapy practice and my own life. What can I do with this knowledge? How could my clients benefit from this knowledge? And if we can benefit, could anyone else?
I have a strong belief in surrounding myself with people that energise and inspire me, that is when the quantum changes have happened in my life. Knowing the calibre of the PPA team and as I get to know the other Courage Scholars, the strengths they have, and the work they do I am already inspired. I am looking forward to getting to know them better on this journey. Let’s go!
The Courage Scholarship for Violence and Post Traumatic Growth is funded by the PPG Scholarship Fund as a priority research area. Four positions were awarded for the period, 2020-2022 and two for 2021-2022. The six Courage Scholars are each tasked with researching the relevance and possibilities for application of Positive Psychology to post-traumatic growth in situations of violence, conflict, and crime.