How it feels to be a ‘new’ therapist

Image of a seedling in a pair or hands. from

A seedling

So, I’m into double figures of client hours now. In many ways, how I feel at the start of each session is how I felt at the start of the first session. I still worry about what I’m wearing, about the way the room is, about when *exactly* is the right time to walk down the (very long!) corridor to collect my clients, when to suggest that time is drawing to a close. And I could go on. And you’d probably wonder why, with this much anxiety about it all, I continue to try becoming a therapist. And to be honest, so do I…

But I guess, in amongst all of this, I see progress, in me, and some change in my clients. I cannot help but feel that the process would be easier if I were working for an agency and clients were picked ‘for’ me as being suitable but that’s not the path I’ve chosen.

I am still making mistakes – that will never stop – but I’m able to see where, and I can apply some of the theory to the process, which is a positive thing. It helps that my current assignment is a process report on a piece of practice work we did in class. Applying the theory after the fact seems strange, but it is useful to see that my ‘mistakes’ are actually congruent with certain aspects of theory, and where they are not, actually I’m often on the right lines – I just fail a bit in my application. I’m still very new at this, after all. If this was a full time job, I wouldn’t yet be at Wednesday lunch time in my first week.

I wonder when, or if, I will reach a point where I do feel more relaxed about all of this, and I suspect to some degree, that that will be when I have had my clients for longer. I’m not a big fan of beginnings and perhaps this is showing through here. When I’ve had my clients longer and it is a bit more relaxed for me, then perhaps I will be more relaxed about the process.

The big thing for me in all of this in all honesty is my supervisor Fred. He has been able to point out my person-centredness in my approach, and to see the PCness where I have tried but failed. Feeling heard is a good thing here, and I am fortified by seeing him. Before getting supervision I wasn’t sure of the effect it would have, and now, I am so so grateful for it. I wouldn’t change him (unless it was to make him live nearer to me!)

assignments over christmas (or ‘the sheer volume of time this degree takes’)

never-ending writing


Over christmas, I shall be writing my first process report. This is because we have discovered (to our dismay) that our course weekend dates and our assignment hand-in dates don’t always match up. It became apparent to us on our last uni weekend that our assignment (based on recordings we hadn’t yet done) was due – delivered by post or by person – 3.5 weeks after the weekend, which is not a lot of time. When we mentioned this to our tutors, they kindly moved our hand-in date to January 8th. So we are working over christmas. It’s not such a bad thing – most people on my course work at least part-time, so having a block of time off is helpful in many ways.

But I think few people really realise just how much time is necessary for this course – I certainly didn’t, so here’s my breakdown.

It is suggested that in order to hit the amount of client hours needed every year (120 minimum, 150 preferred) you should have 4 clients a week.

If you work full-time like me, that’s two evenings, because it’s hard work to see a client, make notes from that session and then move on to the next client a few minutes later, without finishing really late. I can do three in an evening, but not four.

We also have to have personal therapy once a week, which essentially takes up an evening.

Aside from this, the course rules are supervision at a rate of 1:4, so if I’m seeing 4 clients a week I’m having one hour of supervision a week. unfortunately for me, not on my therapy night (my therapist and supervisor live in the same town) so that’s four nights a week.

Somewhere in there I have to write my assignments, see my friends and most of all, my partner. My partner and I try and have one night a week just to ourselves, and I try and get work etc done on one of the other days.

To be honest, i had NO IDEA how much time this course would take. In my head I was sure I’d have one night for clients, and that I’d then fit supervision and therapy in to the other night, leaving me 5 nights free. I had my head in the clouds! Any thoughts of joining a choir, or continuing my sign language classes (or any other hobbies) have gone out of the window and will either need to wait until I graduate, or get a better-paying job (that would enable me to work less hours for the same money).

It will be worth it, I’m sure. Until then, I’ll be in the corner writing this process report!

For those of you who ‘do’ christmas, I hope that it is/was a happy one – or at least bearable. For those of you who don’t, I hope that the christmas all around you hasn’t been too bothersome.












The very financial cost of training

The cost of training...

British money – the cost of training.

When I first started thinking about training to be a therapist, I didn’t really consider the cost- it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to afford it. Not because I’m rich, but because I didn’t assume courses would be expensive. This was probably based on the fact that I started looking at training when the government was still subsidising counselling courses, so it was only around £150 for my level two, and over a year that seemed like a good deal!

My level three was more expensive, but still subsidised. The year after I finished that, the government stopped subsidising and the price.. rose.

Level four went from being about £600 where I live, to being about £1300x year (2 years).

Add in to that the cost of personal therapy and then supervision and suddenly the price rises significantly.

For me, I wanted to do a degree, so I found all of the degree courses near me and set up a spreadsheet.

Some courses are a weekday, which means if you don’t have flexible hours at work (and you work full time), you will be losing 20% of your income straight away. That was my first reason for not doing the degree in my city. The course is a Wednesday.

Undergrad courses are often more expensive than postgraduate ones. My msc costs £3500/year for 4 years, and I know one person who is paying £7000 a year for 3 years for her undergrad.

Another factor is travel and accommodation if you have to do this. I travel to my course and stay over. It works out to be about £100/weekend (and the course is about 1 weekend in 7-8). If i travelled daily, it would be 3 hours’ drive and cost about £15 in petrol. It’s worth it for me to stay over.

As an estimate, taking personal therapy at the required amount per year and supervision for the same, course fees and accommodation, I pay £600 a month for my degree. I haven’t added that up over 4 years!

It was worth doing a cost analysis on a spreadsheet however – even over a year it made it much simpler to see, when factoring in travel and course fees, just which would work for me (or not). Also, consider what’s available to you in terms of loans and grants. If you’re doing an undergraduate degree for the first time, you’re entitled to a student loan. If you’re doing a postgrad, you might qualify for a ‘career development loan’ and it’s worth looking these up – they might make the difference between your choice of courses.

It’s something that really needs considering before you begin, however. Sometimes you’re just going to have to take the cheaper option, because it’s that or nothing…

The difference between course levels

You can become a qualified counsellor these days through a level four course, a foundation degree (level five) an undergraduate degree (level six) or a postgraduate degree (level 7). There may be other ways- these are just the ones I’m immediately aware of.

At first, I thought I would do the level four course and be done in 18 months. But doing the level two and then three on the only course available near enough for me to get to, made me realise that I wanted more depth than the level four could probably offer me. I wanted conversation about theory; I wanted to be with people who felt equally passionate about person-centred therapy. Most likely it was just my particular level 3 cohort that I was struggling with- not anything else, but as most of the cohort were planning to go to the level four I felt I had to look for something different.

And wow, did I find it! I chose to do the master’s qualification as it was a) weekend-based so I could still work full-time and b) I had an undergrad degree so I was qualified.

Some people on master’s courses across the country have struggled with the ‘intellectualisation’ of the courses, but I love it. I feel that we get lots of experiential learning that we just wouldnt have *time* for on an 18month level four, and also lots of ‘book’ learning.

For me another positive is that the course is 4 years long. This means I got a bit more time to learn more before seeing clients than some level 4 courses have time to allow for (a year in my case) and also I know that I have the support of my institution behind me for 2 years more than most level 4 people get. It feels like a nice security blanket to have. If you don’t feel the need for that, and you’re not big into theory- you just want to learn how to do what you need to do, then probably the masters isn’t for you, although the foundation degree or the undergrad might prove a happy medium. But if you do like the indepth stuff, a masters (or again the foundation or undergrad) might well be the way to go.

When tough weekends are tough

Many Stairs.

Many Stairs.

When you start training, they do warn you that it will change you, but you think to yourself ‘oh, it will all be fine’ and I’m sure it will be. But on a course like mine, which is weekend-based, those weekends can be pretty intense and this weekend past was one of those. I couldn’t even tell you what happened really- a group of people that I know a little bit, trust a little bit more, met in a room for 7 hours on 4 days and, well, talked.

We talked about ourselves, and about our worlds. We learnt that our world view was not the other’s world view. We learnt to be angry, we learnt to cry in the presence of others. Of course- when I say ‘we’, I refer to myself. I can only make inferences about many of those things for my colleagues, but I know I did all of those things this weekend. I call this ‘growth’, and the reason I call it growth is because once upon a time it would have been impossible to tell you this happened- that emotions occurred, that I *gasp* cried, and proper messy tears, where tissues should have been deployed (but were not, although they were offered, because I seem to cry like a child), in front of actual people.

It’s probably not going to have been a seismic change, but it is a start and perhaps it will lead to more growth.

They tell you ‘this will change your life’, but what they should tell you is ‘this is really hard. It’s probably going to be worth it though’