Why I decided to train as a therapist

Deutsch: Phrenologie

Deutsch: Phrenologie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a comment from a reader, commenting that my blog doesn’t say much about me, and asking why I decided to train as a therapist. I originally got interested in eating disorders around the time I was 19. A few years later, I had thought to train as a dietician, and applied to university to do a dietetics degree. At the same time, I spent a day following a dietician in a hospital, and realised form that, that I didn’t want to be a dietician. I wanted to help people with eating disorders, but I wanted to help their heads, rather than their eating plans. I spoke to a dietician I knew who specialised in eating disorders and she said that with very few exceptions, even as a specialist in a subject you could till expect to spend more than 50% of your working time working in your non-specialist subject.


That clinched it for me, and I changed my university application to be a psychology degree, with the aim of becoming a clinical psychologist.   I loved my psychology degree, and after I graduated, spent a little while working part-time as a research assistant, whilst applying to assistant psychologist posts. It was just about the time the NHS bottleneck got really bad, and despite having very good marks, and relevant experience, I wasn’t able to get an NHS position. I moved in to other roles – I needed to pay bills. I couldn’t let go of the idea though, and decided that if I couldn’t work in the NHS, perhaps I could work privately. So I did a level two counselling course. Then my life crashed massively and I couldn’t continue for a while. A couple of years later I went to a different college and did my level three. That tutor was going on to run a level four and I considered doing that, but decided I couldn’t do it ethically – I had issues with her teaching, and so I started looking around for other courses.


I chose person-centred because the closest course I could do that would let me work full-time had two courses, PC and integrative. The integrative course had too much Freud in it for me to be comfortable with as an LGBT person and I thought that I would find it too easy to retreat to a position of authority on an integrative course (having knowledge and theories to ‘retreat’ to), whereas the person-centred method is decidedly NOT about being the expert. That’s not to say that I don’t think the integrative course has value, just that I think the person-centred method is better (for me, at least!)

And here I am. I’m also about to start a phd in psychology, so I’m going to have my hands pretty full! The plan is to eventually work part-time as a psychologist in research and part-time as a psychotherapist. If I can ‘marry’ the two, even better.   I like people, and feel a desire to connect, although I sometimes struggle with ‘chat’. I know that I can form good and clear relationships with people and that some people find this helpful. This is the kind of people contact that I enjoy and could do a lot more of.


I still have that interest in eating disorders, but my interest range is much broader now and covers trauma, dissociation, eating disorders, and LGBT-related issues.


So this is what shaped my decision to train as a therapist 🙂

knowing myself


Oscar Wilde Be yourself, everyone else is alre...

Oscar Wilde Be yourself, everyone else is already taken up (Photo credit: symphony of love)


I was out running yesterday around my local park. It’s beautiful there. The weather was cooler – but just right for me and running in.


As I started my second lap, I saw a small child – about three years old and their caregiver. The child had no coat on, and long sleeves and trousers and seemed quite content – my running app tells me it was 18 degrees. But what caught my attention was the caregiver’s insistence that ‘you need to put a coat on. It’s cold and everyone else has one’. The child insisted they were not cold and the caregiver insisted it was cold and so the child needed to put a coat on.


Even at my slow speed, I was past this little dyad before I saw the end of that play out, but I imagine that not many three year olds win that battle. And it made me sad. For me, it’s a prime, and very basic example of Rogers’ organismic valuing process (our valuing system). The child is being told that its valuing process is incorrect (MUST be cold) and then (assuming this pattern continues throughout life) learns that many other things that it thinks are somehow ALSO ‘incorrect’. And before you know it, we have clients in our therapy rooms who don’t know who they are or what they feel, or what they like and need.


As trainees also – we are confronted with a LOT of things as trainees – from spending days (by the end of training) with each other in group process, trying to manage the way we feel in response to several people’s feels. Yet, when you are told something as basic as ‘You are cold’ and you do not think you ARE cold, how can you trust in yourself for the big decisions, when you ‘know’ you were wrong about the small ones? This follows on to our ‘experiential learning’ also – in may places throughout our training, we are experiencing things that are very different to what we have experienced in our lives so far. In my family, you didn’t talk about how you felt. That’s not going to get me far in counselling training (or in therapy). So in training I am constantly looking at theory, at conversations, and trying to ‘get at’ my feelings around these things, as well as trying to make academic theory make sense, so I am doing ‘double duty’ here (as I suspect, many people are).


But this not TALKING about feelings then often leads to not having them, because what’s the point of having a feeling if you can’t talk about it? – if as a small child, you are alone with that feeling, both good and bad. There is a difficulty then as an adult, when people say to you that as you use language like ‘gut feeling’ that you MUST then be having a feeling. In my case, it doesn’t SEEM like a feeling, it seems like knowledge, but just as the small child who was told they were cold, when they did not feel they were, I am told I have a feeling, when I do not feel like I do. I accept that other people in my position might experience this as a feeling, but at the same time, I think that I need to do much more work in my own therapy before I can get to that stage for myself. Unlike that child, I can choose to reject the assertion, and know that their experience of those words is just that, and mine is mine. After all, Rogers – proposition two: The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This perceptual field is “reality” for the individual. I think I just reached a new level of personal acceptance there.


“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”

A correction to the PCQ article


The drawing dates to 1760, when the Sade was n...

The drawing dates to 1760, when the Sade was nearly 20 years old. It’s the only known authentic portrait of the Marquis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I wrote a piece (linked here) for Person-Centred Quarterly (the magazine for BAPCA). I was very excited because it was my first ‘proper’ article. Ok, so it was for a practitioner magazine and with a fairly small readership, but it was my first one.

PCQ and BAPCA in general, is trying to make itself more diversity-aware and as a result of that is trying to include articles about more diverse ways of being. When one of the people in charge asked for articles, I thought I might expand on some of the things I’ve written here, and in my letter to therapy today on BDSM. So I did, and ran through a couple of minor amendments, and it went off to print.

When the magazine arrived and I was reading through, I noticed that my (correct) acronym explanation for BDSM had been amended to be incorrect, without any consultation from me. So, if you are on this page because you’ve read my PCQ article, the correct acronym explanation for BDSM is Bondage, Domination, Submission/Sadism, Masochism, not Bondage, Domination, Submission/Sado[-]masochism. If you already knew this and are wondering why I wrote incorrect information, I didn’t. It was amended without my knowledge.

When I contacted the editor and asked what happened, it seems that he thought I had the acronym wrong, and so he changed it. It was only on my explanation that he realised that ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ existed as a separate construct to ‘sadomasochism’, and unfortunately, it was too late then. He told me that if anyone wrote in to complain, that he would ‘own up’ and issue a correction, and I responded asking him to consider MY email such a complaint – after all, it is a researched piece of work about a little-known part of the population (for most therapists, anyway), and as such is intended to educate. Only now it is mis-educating. He has agreed to issue the correction for August, which I am pleased about.

I decided to put it here in my blog, because my blog is my voice, and because otherwise people won’t see the correction until August-September, which either gives three months of knowing ‘I’ got it wrong, or NOT knowing ‘I’ got it wrong. Hopefully some people who will/have read the article will come read this. 🙂



Openness – the results



20-open-frame-rhombicuboctahedra-02 (Photo credit: Ardonik)

The results of ‘trying to be more open’


I’ve posted here the last two weeks on being open to experience, and showing my workings. Perhaps ironically, the post i WANTED to write today is one that feels TOO open, and so I am choosing not to post it. It’s hiding in a private post, waiting for me to become braver.


But also of note are what I’ve noticed as a result of trying to put in to practice the things I blogged about. We had our training weekend, and it was tough on many levels. There is a tutor on my course that in day to day life, I get on fine with; I like them. In class, I often feel left and misheard by them. It is an experience witnessed by members of my cohort as well (by which I mean it’s not just in my head, which is always a possibility!). They were my tutor for this weekend, and in all honesty, I was dreading it. The topic for the weekend was ‘trauma’ and that’s not usually an easy weekend a- we all have our own traumas that cause us to view life through various filters, and when we are asked specifically to look at trauma, it is very hard not to look at OUR trauma. Like many people, there are aspects of trauma that resonate deeply with me, and it was difficult to see this ‘ending well’.


Also this weekend, I knew that it would be interpersonally hard, as some issues had arisen that needed resolving, and as one of the people involved, I was finding the idea of that hard. But all through the weekend, I kept trying to think about being open, about showing my workings; about not just ‘delivering’ pronouncements, but letting people see where I was coming from.


You would not believe how hard that was…..


I’m not saying I succeeded all weekend, but I was trying hard. And then towards the end of the weekend, someone commented that they were finding me softer than normal. I felt more heard by my tutor also – certainly there were no instances of being ‘missed’, and there was a point in class where it might all have gone disastrously wrong, but perhaps because of this, when a decision had to be made, the ‘right’ decision was made. After my fellow-student commented that they found me softer, my tutor also commented this, and that having seen the ‘softer’ me made them look forward to seeing the ‘spiky’ me.


I found it spill over into my ‘normal life’ also. I have a new person in my life and we met on Saturday evening for a few hours. We spent a couple of hours just wandering around Nottingham talking, and as I saw them off on their train they commented ‘thank you for making it easy for me to talk’. We hadn’t talked about anything massively in depth, but I had again been aware as we were talking that I wanted to say where I was when I was speaking, and I wanted to be open to whatever came from them. I digested what landed and tried not to ‘react’ to things, but instead to wonder about how they were arriving. My immediate quip was that ‘at least psychotherapy training is good for something’, but it is true – this training is showing me how to calm down; how to experience. It seems to have take a couple of weeks to sink in – I’m not yet aware of it specifically in my relationship with my partner, but actually, I see bits of change there also, and I’m pleased.

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