|"I’m working with a very troubled young woman at the moment at the college where I’m on placement. She has a very uneven idea of who she is and where she fits into society" |
|"We’ve always been told throughout the counselling course that the journey each of us will follow during training will change us" |
|"I recently attended the BACP student conference in York where the keynote speaker in the afternoon gave a really engaging talk based around the concept of using three words to describe your practice. This made me think about the three words I would choose to describe my practice and how it has evolved and developed throughout my training" |
|"I was always a bit of a lost boy when growing up, not fitting the mould, never really sure what to do with myself, not really thinking about the future and what it might bring"|
Something that has really struck me since I started my training is the distance I’ve come from my own first session with a counsellor to where I am today, working with clients on placement as part of my diploma studies
In training – Back in the client’s chair
Something that has really struck me since I started my training is the distance I’ve come from my own first session with a counsellor to where I am today, working with clients on placement as part of my diploma studies.
I am currently based in a busy GP surgery in a large market town, where I am working with a wide range of clients from many backgrounds and across the age spectrum.
I recently attended a BACP Making Connections event. These are regional gatherings organised by BACP for members to meet others working in the profession and discuss issues of interest and concern. It was an enlightening experience.
We were seated in small groups around tables. One of the afternoon speakers led an exercise. He asked us each to write down on a piece of paper a particularly embarrassing confession – something we wouldn’t feel comfortable about other people knowing – and then to fold up the paper, write our name on the front and keep it in our sweaty hand. He then chose one person from each table to come up to the front and hand in their piece of paper. He would, he said, read one of them out.
The stress and discomfort were written across each of their faces as they stared out at us, and every one of the rest of us was right there with them, feeling their terror too.
The speaker then told us he wouldn’t be reading out any of the confessions and asked the individuals to go back to their places. However, he then chose a volunteer from the room and asked them to pick three people and announced that one of their secrets would definitely be revealed.
The atmosphere in the room again became distinctly uneasy as we all tried to avoid the eye of the person choosing the victims. One person who was picked said he wasn’t comfortable with this exercise and that he regarded it as psychological abuse. I admired him for having the courage to refuse to do something with which he felt uncomfortable. It made me wonder if I would be able to take myself out of the situation, or would I bite the bullet and go up onto the stage? I’m still not sure.
Three people did end up on the stage and once again the tension in the room was palpable. Then, as before, the speaker said no one’s secrets were to be revealed. This was, he explained, an exercise to help us think from the point of view of the client: to remember how it feels to be holding something you are not sure you want to reveal and being confronted in a situation where it may come out.
I found the whole experience terrifying. My palms were sweaty, I was sick to my stomach and I could feel the blood pounding in my ears. It took me right back to the waiting room where I sat waiting for my first session with a counsellor, the feelings bubbling away inside me and my unease at what was to come. You could have cut the air with a knife when we were all awaiting the fate of those up on the stage. There was an audible gasp of released tension when they were let off the hook. Their reactions were very telling, ranging from ‘I’m very nervous’ to ‘I’m OK; I’ve made peace with it’.
I had been deeply and totally honest in what I wrote on my slip of paper. Some of my colleagues around the table later said they had only written down trivial things or had left the paper blank. They thought I’d been too honest if I’d written down something genuinely embarrassing. But I had seen this as a genuine opportunity to push myself, to lay myself bare and risk the consequences. I’m not passing judgment on the others – an element of self-preservation is healthy – but I did ask myself: ‘How can clients be expected to trust in the counselling process and lay out their secrets if their therapist isn’t prepared to do the same?’
This was such a marvellous learning experience for me. Knowing the theory is obviously of the utmost importance in counselling. But, sitting in your nice warm classroom or hunched over your books, it can be easy to lose touch with what it feels like to let someone in and trust them with your deepest, and sometimes darkest, thoughts and feelings.
The Making Connections exercise was a visceral reminder of how much the process of counselling affects the client, and that I must never forget what it’s like to be sitting in their chair.