Find a therapist who works for you

English: Sunrise at North Point Park, Milwauke...

English: Sunrise at North Point Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Français : Lever de soleil à North Point Park, Milwaukee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My course is accredited by UKCP. UKCP rules say that students on MSc courses have to have 40 hours a year of personal therapy. That therapy must be delivered by a therapist who is ‘UKCP registered or equivalent’. My institution has added another layer of complication to that and requires that students’ therapists must also have masters degrees. If you live in an area not massively close to an institution, (as 2/3 of my cohort do) then it can be very hard to find someone locally who fits those requirements AND your requirements.

From the beginning I knew I would struggle. There were two people locally that my insitution would accept ‘on spec’ for me. I didn’t get on witht he first one (although I know someone else who thinks they are amazing, so it just goes to show!) but luckily for me, i got on ‘ok’ witht he second one, and figured I’d give it a go. That relationship broke down within six months. I managed to find another therapist who didn’t have an MSc, but who did have a postgrad qual, and I was able to see her for a while. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t feel very heard in the counselling session, and didn’t feel like I wanted to continue.

This has been going on for me for over a year now, and my institution were good enough to recognise that their ‘MA/MSc’ rule was causing me problems, so they let me bend it, and lo, there were 25 counsellors within a 10mile radius who fit UKCP criteria. So I returned to a therapist that I was seeing several years ago (and who I would have gone straight back to if I could).

I have gone from thinking ‘oh grief. therapy again’ to ‘hurrah! therapy!’. it feels SO much better – i feel ‘got’, I have someone whose style meshes with mine, who makes me feel heard. and I think ‘THIS is what therapy is about’, and also, it helps me to feel better about my OWN workings as a therapist.

So, to any students/trainees (or indeed, ANYONE) out there who are ‘grinning and bearing’ therapy, CHANGE THERAPIST! Getting your hours in is a waste of your time if you are seeing a therapist who’s the wrong fit for you. Getting a therapist who’s on your wavelength will feel so much better, and will make you feel so much better about being a therapist also.

As a related note- if you’re struggling with requirements, talk to your training institution. You might well find there’s leeway.

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When theory gets in the way


sky day 341

sky day 341 (Photo credit: maureen_sill)

I’m a person-centred (trainee) therapist. To me, that means that I don’t rely on elaborate theories about the human condition; I rely ON the human condition. For me, it’s about communication (or not!) with the person sitting opposite me. Still, we have to do SOMETHING with our four-year MSc outside of the person-centred ‘necessary and sufficient conditions’, or it would be pointless, and so we do learn some theories from both our own, and other approaches (if just for information).

Recently I had a training weekend. I learnt a lot about shame – or so I thought, anyway. Shortly after that training weekend, I had a client who was talking about shame. It went like this:

Client: …shame… things.. shame

Me (in my head): Shame! client is talking about shame! I’ve just learnt shame! There are theories. What are those theories?

Client: Keeps talking

Me (in my head): Should have paid attention to those theories. what WERE they?

Client: Still talking

Me (in my head): Shut up brain, and LISTEN!


So, the theory (or at least the fact that I had been present for some doesn’t appear to have gone in. Perhaps I have shame issues and this is a defence. One to bring to my new therapist when I see her this week..) REALLY got in the way of listening to the client. Luckily for me, the interchange in my head just took a second or two before I was able to apply the OTHER bit of theory commonly referred to as ‘bracketing’ – where you recognise that the client has provoked something in you that is about YOU, not about THEM and you say ‘hello stuff, now please move over so I can listen to my client’.

Theory – it’s useful, but in small doses. Also, should have paid more attention in class.


Finally – finding an image for ‘shame’ or ‘preoccupation’ is hard! Have a cloud. It’s not mine, but if it was mine, the best I could do right now would probably be my cats, and the only thing they’re preoccupied with at present, is sleeping.



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Seeing clients when you’re sick


Cold? (Photo credit: foshydog)








I have a cold. It’s not the end of the world – I am not usually someone who has to retire to bed when a cold happens upon them, so I wasn’t that phased by the thought of a full day’s work, followed by an evening (two nights in a row) of clients.

So I merrily trucked up to my placement and sat down to work, having first done a LOT of nose-blowing and cough-sweet-sucking, and thankfully got through both sessions without an awful lot of either sniffing or coughing. What I DIDN’T realise however, was just how HARD it was going to be. I spent my evening feeling like i was a long.. long.. way away, and whilst I did stay present in the room, I was very much aware of how much harder it was to stay there. It felt to me, like the client and I had good sessions (hopefully they will feel the same!), but my goodness was it hard work!


I count myself lucky at this point: I have a chronic condition that flares up every so often. Thus far, it hasn’t flared up (badly) on a client night, so it hasn’t impacted me, but this has opened my eyes as to what it might be like, and has forewarned me to make sure I give myself extra space and time to recover, so that my clients don’t suffer.


It was an odd feeling – to have something present that meant it was harder for me to connect. I wasn’t distracted at all – there was nothing else i wanted to think of, but I felt like I was struggling to pull myself in to the space, where I wouldn’t usually. I was aware that it was there – it felt a bit like looking down a toilet roll tube, and I could just about pull myself in, certainly in the case of one client, to enable some work to happen that felt very good for them. It shows me at least, that i CAN work when I’m sick, but that possibly I just need to pay more attention to that fact, and go in ‘armed’ as it were (probably with more tissues…)


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Settling in


comfy cat



I’m a few client hours in to this counselling thing now, and I’m finding that I have a regular amount of people who just stop coming shortly after starting, but what I am starting to notice is that with me ‘core’ clients (anyone I’ve seen for more than 5 hours or so), there is a ‘getting comfortable’ kind of feeling around them. I was beginning to think this wasn’t for me – all these beginnings (that I’m bad at), but when I sit down with my clients and I hear the things they’ve done and the movement they’ve made, it’s really.. nice. It’s an honour to be part of that, and as well, I just feel good, that my clients have made movement, and that in part it’s probably because of the work we’re doing together.


It’s also nice to see the changes they make in the things they tell me. I see that I am trusted. My clients are telling me things they wouldn’t tell other people, in the same way that i tell my counsellor things I haven’t yet told other people.


I’m proud to be part of that path, and really happy that I seem to be creating the kind of atmosphere that is helping my clients to do this.

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