Can you quickly introduce yourself: who are you, what has been your career path and where are you today?
My name is Caroline Intrand and I am a lawyer by training. I first started out doing corporate and business law, then I continued in human rights and more specifically in migration issues, notably by working in collaboration with NGOs or international organizations.
Little by little, I found myself confronted in the exercise of my profession with beliefs, inner blocks and projections on foreigners, sometimes preventing me from carrying out my mission as I intended.
“Be the change you want to see in the world”. This quote from Gandhi inspired me to evolve professionally. At that time, I decided to start a big work on myself, through a psychotherapy training in Belgium, which used a Rogierian and humanistic approach, i.e. non-directive interviewing, as well as an energy therapy tool, the EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), combining a double action on the cognitive and limbic brains, to positively influence the regulation of the nervous system. I then trained in the Internal Family System (IFS – Richard Schwartz) and Relational Intelligence (IR – François Le Doze).
Today, I have had patients for 5 years and I have been working full time for 3 years, through a cooperative of independent contractors.
Why did you choose to become a psychotherapist?
Choosing this path allowed me to enter a process of personal transformation, because I personally decided to engage in therapy.
The concept of therapy that I work with today, and that I have personally experienced as a patient, envisions that our psyche is made up of “parts” or “sub-personalities” that have beliefs and emotions, and that this has an echo in the body.
In other words, what I feel is an echo of what I believe and a therapy focused on my inner system is likely to allow me to unload the negative charge contained in some of my parts by going through the body, i.e. by helping me to see the wounded parts of myself. This is what the IFS (Internal Family System) proposes, since it is based on an inner systemic, with an inner “Self”. The idea is to bring the patient to see that each of his or her sub-personalities has a positive intention towards him or her and to offer them, by approaching them in consciousness, a harmonious place. In the end, we do not have to identify with these parts of ourselves, because we can free ourselves from their influence and become benevolent witnesses to them. In order to do this, we must first be safe and my work consists of working on the regulation of the nervous system in the first place.
Moreover, my journey has given me a strong motivation to change the world, which would necessarily involve an inner change, my own change. If I were to pacify myself, by evolving towards a profession in which I would find more meaning, only then would I succeed in pacifying those around me. Indeed, the patients come to confront us permanently with ourselves. The work of the psychotherapist consists in opening up to be able to deal with the patient’s problem as best as possible. There have been times when I didn’t feel ready to take on a patient with a particular problem, and I told him to come back a year later, when I would be able to take him on. As an anecdote, it happened that a patient actually came back a year later, and both she and I had finally evolved, which facilitated the therapy.
Do you have one (or more) specialty(ies)? If so, why did you choose this one in particular?
I work with adults from the age of 18, but without any specific themes, so in a multidisciplinary approach. My patients have potentially diverse problems; however, I sometimes encounter certain limits in the therapeutic application, particularly in the case of certain psychiatric disorders.
My approach, which consists first of all in regulating the nervous system, proves to be very useful for patients with attachment and developmental disorders. In fact, since most of the time they experience psychological suffering that remains confined to the mental space, and whose repercussions are felt in particular in the relational sphere, it can be interesting for them to enter into the Co regulation of the nervous system according to the Polyvagal Theory of Steve Porges, a therapy that aims to relieve and treat stress, anxiety and trauma through the body. It has been noted that there is a link between addictions and attachment disorders; in fact, an attachment disorder occurs in childhood when there is an emotional deficiency. Now, by definition, addiction is the expression of the activation of a compensatory mode that has found satisfaction in the repeated use of a product or the regulation of some harmful behavior. In these patients, one would expect to observe a compensation for a particular affective deficiency through addiction. The POS is therefore generally very relevant in the case of major addictions, where the emotional deficiency is such that it becomes difficult not to take into account, in the healing process, where the trauma is reflected: the body (because it has lacked certain physical and emotional attention). The tool that is used here is that of Relational Intelligence which, among other things, synthesizes the IFS and TPV approaches. By re-establishing a certain relational connection, in this case through the psychotherapist, by regulating the nervous system, we allow this wounded/traumatized part of ourselves to regain security, because we have created a new association in the brain between this space and a feeling of security.
Of course, in the case of an addiction to a substance that is too harmful, for example, I do not hesitate to work with a specialist addictologist.
What do you think of the current paradigm of psychology? Do you follow a particular trend or method? (psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral therapies, EMDR, hypnosis, coaching…)
IR is part of a neurobiological approach, and more precisely a polyvagal approach to the nervous system.
When I meet with a patient, I first take a history of his or her difficulties, to better understand who he or she is and what he or she has experienced, and I explain how the therapy will unfold. We begin the session by sitting face to face, then, if his system accepts it, I lead my patient to try to connect to what is painful in him, to gradually enter into a dialogue with the wounded parts of himself, while distancing himself. The objective is to invite this presence, this emotional substratum, to a co-regulation by reinjecting security where it is lacking. I carry out a form of holding or handling, in particular by placing my hands on the patient’s back, on his shoulders, by taking his hands… It is a holding that recalibrates, that allows at the same time to become present to the deregulation operated in childhood and that gives a new information, a different and repairing information
Do you think that psychologists have something to gain by working with health professionals of different backgrounds? (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists…)
Of course! I also think that hospital staff would benefit from working in collaboration with psychologists and psychotherapists, because they have a lot to contribute in terms of emotional management, limits, non-violent communication, accompaniment, and even rhythm in care (knowing how to stop, how to take a breath…).
Collaboration is therefore for me an absolute advantage and even appears to be essential in a certain way, because the psychologist needs to know that he is surrounded by a team, especially in psychiatric cases that require medication. The skills of health professionals, as diverse as they may be, have everything to gain by exchanging them because they are complementary most of the time.
What advice would you give to a young person between 18 and 25 in a state of psychological suffering? How can you distinguish between normal and pathological difficulties in the adolescent’s passage to adulthood?
You have to react as soon as negative emotions settle in your system on a continuous basis (sadness, dark thoughts, anger, isolation). If these emotions are present even for a week, it is not OK. It’s okay to feel bad for a day, but a week is a red flag. I would also say that you shouldn’t stay alone with your unhappiness, which doesn’t necessarily pass by itself (e.g. depression, addiction…); it is therefore important to ask yourself questions about the impact it has on your daily life. Asking for help has nothing to do with being weak and it is very tempting to try to get out of it alone when we know we are strong. But if our wounds come from relationships, we would be wrong to deprive ourselves of the other to heal our suffering, because the other is directly part of our problem, and as we have suffered through him, we need him to get better; this time, it is simply a different otherness, that of the psychotherapist. It is necessary to know that we are relational beings: the baby is the best example, since it builds itself directly in the multiple contacts that it establishes with its environment, and even the Hermit, in his own way, is in relation to another, in his case to a transcendence. To have taken the step of seeking help is already to have gone 50% of the way and to have made the courageous decision to open oneself to the benevolent gaze of another. If psychotherapy does not suit you, there are a number of alternatives (through the body for example).
Mental health is a necessary care, no matter which way it takes us. It is about not being alone to meet your demons and to overcome them.