In this series of blogs I talk a bit more about my background and who I am. Part 1 looks at my journey as a counsellor.
MY JOURNEY AS A COUNSELLOR ...
It may not come as a surprise to you that I had counselling before deciding to train as a counsellor.
In fact, this is very normal and I would be very surprised if I met a counsellor who had never had any counselling before embarking on it as a career.
I mention this fact as I feel it is helpful for clients to know that we are all human and we all have times in our lives where reaching out for some professional support can help. It helped me so much it inspired me to train to help others.
And so, back in 2011 when I was working as and International Volunteer Coordinator & Mentor for an education charity, there came the opportunity to go to college once a week to study a counselling skills course. I jumped at the chance, as it was a great opportunity for me to develop my own interpersonal communication skills.
The course, which ran for 6 months, covered NCFE levels 1 and 2 of counselling skills. As part of a group I learned some of the basics around active listening, congruence, empathy and being non-judgemental. It was a very hands-on course where we simulated a lot of practice listening sessions with each other as well as learning some basic counselling theory.
I loved this course so much that later down the line I decided to go back and do the NCFE level 3 course in 2013. Equivalent to an A-level, it was much more work and provided me with a deeper understanding of a range of different types of counselling. With a small group I enjoyed continuing to practice my listening skills through a series of assessed simulated counselling sessions with peers. The course also involved putting together a portfolio, writing essays and doing a group presentation about counselling.
I began to learn more about what it took to train to become a qualified counsellor and was very much aware that my journey was only beginning.
In 2014 I began my 2-year post graduate diploma in Humanistic Psychotherapeutic Counselling at The University of Brighton.
I was aware that there were easier ways to qualify, by doing a level 4 college course, or even a degree in counselling, however taking the most academic route felt right for me. I wanted to be immersed in the theory and pushed to think at master's level. To do this I wanted to study at a university which ran a postgraduate BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited course that had a reputation for pushing their students to excel. It really was a tough course and the tutors kept to their word of pushing us to flourish.
My training consisted of lectures and tutorial groups where I learnt about counselling history and theory. It also included lots of practical work in the form of 'triad' and 'fishbowl' exercises where we practised our counselling work in simulated counselling sessions with fellow students. We also had process groups where we explored how we were feeling in the moment and worked on how we cope in relation to others in different group dynamics.
There was a need for us to feel our own feelings and to take the time to process them. This is very important in developing as a counsellor; because, if we can’t manage our own feelings, how can we manage our clients’?
The course was very full-on, and on top of writing essays and case studies we also had to find a secure a counselling placement.
A mandatory part of qualifying as a counsellor is the completion of a minimum of 100 supervised hours with real clients. I was very happy to be accepted on a placement at the As You Are Counselling Centre, where I offered low-cost counselling to adults over 18 who were experiencing stress, depression and anxiety.
Another mandatory part of my course was to engage in weekly personal counselling sessions alongside the course. This was so helpful for me as it gave me a place to process the emotions that were coming up whilst going through such an intensive course.
To think I had thought that level 3 was intensive! That was nothing compared to this. As my post graduate was such an intensive course, sadly many people had dropped out along the way.
But I was reassured and supported to keep going and felt so proud when I qualified in 2016 with a Merit.
Completing my counsellor training is one of the hardest but best things I have ever done. I am so glad I did it and so happy to now be working in the field of counselling.
In 2016 I set up my counselling practice offering a niche service for LGBTQ people. I am passionate about offering a specialist LGBTQ service as I had seen how important it was for the people I supported in all my roles working in for LGBTQ services prior to qualifying. (You can read more about this in Part 3 of my 'Who am I?' blogs.)
Then in 2018 I embarked on a 93-hour advanced specialist training to qualify to work online. This course saw me learn how to work with video call sessions, email sessions, instant message sessions and audio/phone call sessions. Throughout this course I grew to love online counselling so much that I now offer a 100% online counselling service.
I wonder where life will take me next in my journey as I continue to learn and work as a counsellor for many more years to come.
Want to learn more about me?
– Read about my journey as a trainer in my blog here
– Read about my journey working in the LGBTQ community in my blog here
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