The Counselling Muse

The Counselling Muse is a blog I would like to share with you about all things counselling and psychotherapy. The bits and pieces I have learned.

I believe many areas within counselling and psychotherapy cannot be separated. Yes, we need therapeutic models. But with the subjective experience of sitting in front of a client, face to face, and working with them, no one size fits all. In other words, people are unique individuals and should be treated in this way. We are organic human beings, not text books. These are my personal beliefs and need not be yours.

I began my training journey back in the early 1990s. Firstly, learning and qualifying in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Then, after a 7 year eye-watering, unethical experience, in my late 20s, early 30s, I began training in Person-Centred Counselling and Psychotherapy, taking a particular interest in professional boundaries and appropriate ethical behaviour of the therapist within the therapeutic helping relationship. I fully qualified in 2006 as a Person Centred Counsellor with Psychotherapy Skills. (Then we moved to Lincolnshire in 2007, and I started writing books.)

During those 10-12 years of training, it was a compulsory requirement for students to attend sufficient personal therapy. This was to gain a good level of experience in the true role as a client. To sort out any issues occurring during learnings and happenings in our personal life, and to gain a professional experience of how the counsellor/helper should treat their clients - showing respect, through integrity and respect at all times.

I thoroughly soaked up my studies, the learnings from each lesson, my experience at two placements (one being a women's centre, and the other, a mental health charity called MIND). I also developed both personally and professionally through writing reflective journals. The complete experience helped me develop better relationships within my own life too. Learning to truly and congruently listen, feeling comfortable enough to be my true authentic self - this made a huge difference in my conversations. Actually, in some ways, it quickly sorted out my true friends from the pretend ones. And sometimes, I had to be a diplomat within our family. Try mixing a huge personal change with being autistic. Gosh, it was kind of like a marshmallow hurricane on a sunny day. Because, I am also diagnosed autistic: Very literal, blunt, focussed, well-motivated when focussed, very structured, and that is just the start. Oh, and intelligent, I have been told- maybe even with Super Powers (but let's not get carried away). I'm a good problem solver, can feel colours, metaphorically taste them, and am deeply empathic. I often know the phone is going to ring before it does, and the words people are going to say before they do, ...and so much more. But this is another story for another time. The last thing we need is for me to get sidetracked. I'll talk forever about something irrelevant to you, but highly interesting, because I bothered to research every single detail about the subject. And the next problem, I will forget appointments and to feed myself!

 Although many people find ethics a mundane but necessary part of training, I took valuable learnings from boundaries, driven from my own past experience. The research project I chose was named - 'Intimacy, Role Conflict and Boundaries'. My healing process continued until I wrote 2 books (still in draft and not part of any course), one for the Seeker and one for the Helper. Something tells me I am still on that healing journey, and one day soon, I will self-publish those two books, and finally send them out to sea. The odd thing is, when I published my second book about the unfortunate experience, called, Jaynie, the very last words were, 'tis done. Somehow, I am not sure we are quite there yet. But there is no rush, all in good time. I am a Christian, and believe God has this in hand.

If you are considering training in counselling and/or psychotherapy, I would thoroughly recommend the diploma and/or degree experience. However, be prepared for the roller coaster of change. If you are going to do something, do it properly. I assure you it will be a better experience, and for your clients too, especially if you sort out many of your own problems. The process of change is helpful in many ways. Darn-right challenging in others.

I recommend plenty of subjective experience, both as a therapist and as you being a client. Focus on the process. You just cannot get the same learning with studying and reading lots of text books and writing papers. It is impossible, in my opinion. And it is obviously okay for you to disagree with me. But people are human beings, organic, unique and individual. We should all be treated with respect and integrity. You wouldn't read a book on how to swim!? Or would you?

To explain further, any therapy training course teaching you to work one to one with another person that does not insist on a fair amount of personal therapy and/or practical experience for the student, in my opinion, is not worth attending. Any course that trains you to be a people helper without having you work with real people and real experiences, deserves to be given extra scrutiny (again, my opinion). I suppose it depends upon how much you want to help another person congruently recover, or whether you want to listen and reflect, forever going around in circles. Getting the subjective experience all adds to you becoming a better person throughout, a better people helper, a healthier person, a more grounded person. But most of all, the process helps you get a better understanding of true empathy and compassion. Not a forced, patronising and sympathetic ear, whose voice parrot replies a helpee's phrases and listens to them from anything but the vulnerable persons map of the world. Empathy is very different to sympathy. Very different. And non-verbal communication is 97% of how we communicate. How can you do this through a computer or on the telephone? I have strong feelings about the available on-line trainings to become a people helper. I also have strong feelings about those who boast they can fully help another human being through a Zoom meeting or through a telephone call without admission of the intermediaries limitations preventing a proper encounter - the true difference a face to face, in person meeting provides.

Someone once told me, when you embark upon a journey of change, it is like being taken apart, piece by piece, and then, eventually, carefully, gently, being put back together again. Only during this process, you gradually learn how to re-build yourself rather than it be 'done unto you'. However, I am not saying that after qualifying as a people helper, you are never going to need therapy again - take off those rose-tinted glasses and get real! (I say this with a light-heart.) Life chucks some right **** your way, and will continue to do so. I think Barrie calls it, 'character building', so soften the each experience.

With the tutor(s) on your course(s), and your therapist, as the facilitators. and your objective external supervisor (if you are seeing clients), the personal and professional change process is worth every teardrop, every sound of laughter, and every valuable gold nugget of learning. These are all my thoughts and feels. Like I said earlier, you are welcome to agree or disagree. We are all different and unique in our beliefs and experience.

Finally, I would like to share this short clip with you about empathy. It kind of conveys true compassion and empathy from my world. It depends upon your professional and ethical intent and what level of helping another person you may be at. But getting your tough boots on and stepping into the clients mud with them, is something which often needs to be done in order to encourage your client to find a way out in their own good time. Again, these are my beliefs and need not be yours.

The Good Catholic (COMPASSION SPEECH) - YouTube