Person-centred progress

Work in Progress

Work in Progress (Photo credit: blumpy)


At the ADPCA conference, there was a moment where someone was talking about the person-centred approach, the true person-centred approach – of not directing the client at all, of letting the client talk about what they wanted, whether YOU thought it was relevant or not. So you might know that a client has been sexually assaulted; that may be the reason they gave for coming to your office, but week to week, they talk about what they have done that week. The person speaking never asked further – they let the client lead the direction, and that was how it went.


I had two strains of thought. Part of me was thinking about just how person-centered it was, and part of me was thinking ‘but if you’d just asked the client about WHY they were there, they might have talked about it – they might have moved on from the place they were in when they came’. I was lucky in that the person who was talking wasn’t at all defensive when asked about why, and was able to talk further. I have nothing but admiration for that person, but still couldn’t move that small niggly feeling.


Until recently, when someone said to me that they felt it was a good thing that they were going to therapy, even if they were just talking about their week, because just having someone there to talk to helped them to feel better, to know that they were listened to, and it reminded me of Jerold Bozarth’s pre-conference talk about how HE found the person-centred method because he was giving inpatients space to speak, and found that they were getting better ‘of their own accord’ (better in the eyes of the hospital – I’m not making any kinds of claims on what ‘better’ or ‘worse’ might look like).


So there – two ‘big’ names in the field, suggesting that ‘giving clients space, *works*’, and now I have my own experience to back that up. And it’s something I need to hold on to, the next time I am with a client and I am inclined to direct the flow in any way; it is person-centred not to direct. I will make ‘progress’ if I don’t direct (even if this is just my own learning).


Encountering encounter

To change my wild river?... Never!!! / Changer...

To change my wild river?… Never!!! / Changer ma rivière sauvage? … Jamais!!! (Photo credit: Denis Collette…!!!)


Developing the person-centred approach – at least locally!

A couple of things came out of the ADPCA conference for me, but the over-riding feeling was that I wanted more community. I had previously gone to the most local group to me but it’s a way away, and I haven’t made it back. But I decided that what I really wanted, was more of that. So I hope that two things will be happening:


I am creating, together with someone else, a Coventry-based person-centred group. It will run on the second Sunday of the Month and is open to anyone interested in the person-centred approach. It will cost £5 and that will cover room hire and tea/coffee donations, with anything extra going right back in to the group (either to look at paying for other CPD for the group, or in the form of a lending library or similar). Claire and I are trying to run this on person-centred lines and so we don’t want to make a great many decisions for the group without the group. We will run from 10-12.30, but the room will be open from 9.30 for anyone who wants to come beforehand and have a drink with us. If you’re interested, please feel free to comment here and I’ll get back to you 🙂



I hope, in the near future, to hold a national day of encounter. I have an accessible venue (also in Coventry) that I can hire for the day, and the idea will be that there are no workshops, no facilitators, but a day of encountering. At the ADPCA conference I realised that this is what i like most about the approach and this is what I keep looking for, hence the development of the small local group. I like the large group atmosphere also, so would like to recreate this more often than once every two years.  I don’t have all of those details sorted yet – I have in my head ideas of outlays, and I think that I can make it viable, but it will be a definite learning process as I go along. I’m also aware that I’m just a trainee. I’m learning. I haven’t got there yet. I have more reading I’d like to do before I fully commit myself and decide on a date/pay for a room, but in all honesty, I’m 90% decided. I just need to learn a little bit more. There will be 2-3 months’ notice on this, and if it works out, I’d love to do it quarterly – if people will come. I have in mind that there will be two prices charged. One for working people, and half prices for unworking/trainees, with a limited number of free places for people who can’t afford to pay. IF enough people come at full or half price to give me money left over, then I will be able to offer some travel costs too – whether the ‘price’ for that will be asking people to be official volunteers or not, I don’t know, but what is really important to me is that people don’t stay away because they can’t afford it.

If people book far enough in advance it’s possible for example, to get a return train from London for £13.50 and in an ideal world, I’d be able to cover that. I recognise that that’s not the only cost that people have in getting to these events, but this is a start.

As part of the national event, I’d also like to stream one of those meetings. Whether it’s done as a section – we stream a morning but not the afternoon (and not the first meeting!), or whether as a group we decide that we will build up some community first and stream a full day of the third (choosing a random number) meeting, I don’t know.


What do you think? Would you come? What would need to happen for you to be interested?

ADPCA – the rest




People have been asking me to write the rest of the conference up, and I didn’t do that last week, as I wanted to write about my mid-training point. But this week’s post is about the rest of the conference.


I wasn’t able to go for the first day (my leave year runs August to August and my training takes a LOT of days), and that was the day that things were decided. I was only able to make Thursday, as fri-sun was a training weekend for me.


In some ways, I was disappointed. There was one workshop that i REALLY wanted to go to (with many others that I would have been happy to go to), and I emailed the person organising it to put in a request for that Thursday, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. It might not have happened if I’d been there anyway, but there was a disappointment for me.


So Thursday morning I turned up, met a few familiar faces from BAPCA last year, grabbed a coffee and headed in to community. Community was a bit ‘bitty’ – I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t been there the day before, so there were organisational things to share with the group, and feelings to be heard. Early on, someone came in with an idea that I understand didn’t come off, and I have THOUGHTS about (and from), which I’ll share probably next week.

After morning community I went to a workshop. I don’t actually remember which one it was. So I feel bad. I might actually have stayed in community to be honest – I have a memory of three lots of community, and it’s all a bit fuzzy!

After lunch however, there was nothing in particular that I wanted to do, and I ended up wandering around with another trainee (just finished!) and then we met someone else and the three of us sat and talked for a session. It was great. Hard work, but connection (or the attempt to connect) deeply with other people for an hour was good and nourishing. It made me realise that I had been missing something in the morning community, and that was what I had come to conference for. I also knew that there was one other workshop and then as a day participant, my time was up. So in the break I spoke to an organiser and asked if it would be ok if I stopped for dinner and evening community. They graciously agreed I could (I certainly wasn’t the only one, and even then the venue massively over-catered), so I headed to the last workshop, which was about fledgling counsellors and helpful advice. It was a great session and I enjoyed it a lot.


Then dinner, and I got speaking to someone who is local to me. We spent dinner talking over various future plans (more of those next week) and swapped details. Then we headed back to community. It was due to finish at 10, but I left at the end at 10.40. THAT was the thing I had been looking for – the connection. It was interesting; I shared something very personal to me, because it became very present and wouldn’t leave, and then I could feel myself disconnect from the group, and then suddenly reconnect some time later, but I felt part of something. I felt like a something that mattered. *this* was the community I was looking for. This was the bit I enjoyed.

ADPCA was a difficult conference for me, as I like to be told what I’m going to and when, and just go. It is an entirely different concept to think about a conference that’s based a) around community and b) that is self-directed. I am trying more and more to come to terms with it, and I think that I am and I think that I like it, but it is taking some getting used to.


A couple of future things have come out of it that I look like being involved in, and I will update with those next week 🙂






Training mid-point

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

This is a “thought bubble”. It is an illustration depicting thought. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



I was going to do a recap on the little of the conference I was able to attend, but I’ve just reached the mid-point in my training, and as that’s most present in my mind, that’s what I’ll be talking about. Conference recap next week!


So – half way. Kind of. Half way through uni classes. 2/3 of the way through this format (weekend meeting for 3 or 4 days at a time) and 1/3 of my way through cinical hours (at least in terms of dates – I’m behind in my hours).


Where am *I*?

I struggle with my course, a lot. I haven’t yet written about it here, because a lot of it seems to be relevant to me as an individual in particular, rather than me as a trainee in general. I’m also aware that my classmates read this (some of them, anyway) and I would suspect that some of my tutors do (some of those know I’m having a hard time also), and I don’t want to upset anyone, or come across as any kind of ‘passive-aggressive’.

I have spent the last three workshops pondering whether I was going to withdraw at the end of this year, for a year out. I’ve decided not to – at least for now.

Training has been far harder than I thought it would be. I feel like somewhere along this course, I have lost myself. I am full of theory, and knowledge about what a person-centred counsellor ‘does’ (or you know, ‘doesn’t do’). This recent weekend we had a conversation with our trainer who was talking about the ‘rules’ and his comment was along the lines of ‘who says you have to follow’the rules’?’ In some ways, I think it’s a fair point. In others, I suspect that *breaking* those (often unspoken) rules would soon land me in trouble with my supervisor. In losing myself, I’m aware that I am clinging tighter to the me that’s left. Don’t get me wrong, I don’tmind this losing myself in part – I have faith that somewhere along the line, I will find me. But it is disconcerting.


I don’t feel like I fit. Generally, I spend a lot of time feeling like a fish out of water; wanting to challenge things, wanting people to see a different side of things. I suspect this stems from having to be more critical of things in my general life; I was at a wedding yesterday. Someone I care about was making a ‘backs against the wall, lads’ joke. He did it without thinking, and with no malice intended. And that’s the problem.It was done without thinking and with no malice. That makes challenging it much harder (I didn’t) than if it was maliciously directed at me; but perpetuating that stereotype, that way of thinking is insiduous and also dangerous. I make these choices (to challenge or not) almost on a daily basis throughout all of my life. I think that I hoped that my training environment would be different and there is certainly a higher level of awareness and that’s great. But I still feel like I stick out somewhat when I challenge. Or when I don’t, but it seems like I am the only person who thinks it should be challenged. I accept and understand that there are areas that my classmates might have that are the same – where *I* am the person not doing ‘the right thing’, and I would love to learn more about that, but at present, I’m a bit of a sore thumb, in training at least.

The question then, is ‘do I want to be a sore thumb for another two years?’

In my everyday life, I have friends both online and offline who are part of ‘my’ community and who have a shared experience to a greater or lesser degree. I work alone (in that I am the only person who does my job and my boss works in a different office to me) so I don’t really come across it there, and I am about to change job (in actual fact, I’m starting a phd) with LGBT-related issues. My therapist is queer also. I’m so grateful for that. I’ve been through two other therapists in two years, and I chose them (rather than go to my current therapist) because I wanted that other experience. It was somewhat disastrous for me. Therapy now, feels somewhat like ‘coming home’. There is something in the quality of being met at *my* level that I haven’t experienced with my other counsellors (and believe me, I wanted to – they were somewhat cheaper than my current therapist! They didn’t in the end, prove to be ‘cost-effective’, however).


I was hoping I would get that in my course, and there have been moments of that, and this feels very ‘doom and gloom’. In truth it has not been all (or even ‘mostly’) bad, but it has worn on me. I am currently sitting with a big part of my identity that is unacknowledged within my class by and large. I have referenced it, but I’m not sure it’s been noted by anyone. In staying, I feel like I have no option but to ‘out’ myself next year (I have been in so many cloests that it’s not true…). I don’t want to. I don’t want no reaction, because that will mean I haven’t been received, but I don’t want a negative reaction either, so it feels like 2/3 of the possible reactions are negative. So I have that to go back to. I don’t know if these reactions are inside me, or outside. This is a bit of the problem with losing myself.


As a therapist – how have I improved? Well, I’m less nervous. I started my own counselling placement, and it has grown enough that I have asked another counsellor to work with me. I do two days, she does one. As a service we aren’t full, but we have 7 clients between us, with another three possibles on the horizon (which would then make us almost full). I have much less in my head about what to ‘do’, and I trust the therapy process a bit more. I know more now, what is ‘my’ response, and what is a true reflection. My clients tell me that their therapy is helpful, and that pleases me. I know that it is them doing the work; what their comments tell me is that i am not *negatively* impacting on them (or not much, at least!)


As a person? My partner tells me that I am more open to people now. That I don’t jump to sarcasm as fast as I used to. That I am more open to other points of views. I see this for myself – I used to be very definite about the views I had, and now I am much more likely to actively consider several views. I listen more. i *hear* more.


As a student? No idea. I have no idea if I’m improved or not. This is another one of my ‘lost’ problems, and I’m not going in to it here.

One thing that hasn’t changed for me is the knowledge that I definitely want to qualify. I have more of an idea of the client mix that I would like and I can see that having more clients would help me to be the counsellor/psychotherapist that I want to be.


I think this post is possibly the most confused one that I’ve ever written. It’s not altogether unhappy, but it possibly has more of me than most if not all of my posts so far.

Question for anyone who has got this far (and a medal!): If you experience a difference between yourself and your classmates (race, sexuality, disability, mental health diagnosis, class, etc), what is that like?

ADPCA Pre-conference




Today was the ADPCA pre-conference day. The conference is every other year and this year (for only the second time I believe) it’s in the UK. It happens to be in the same town as I train in, and whilst that means that training the same weekend as the conference means that I can make some of the conference with little hassle, it also means I have to miss most of the conference. Still, there is the pre-conference that was today, and I’ll be able to make Thursday also.


The conference this year is run by ‘community organisation’. That means that tomorrow is the first day, and might (MIGHT!) be when decisions are made about the rest of the conference. But they may decide not to do that. I personally won’t be doing any of that deciding as I only had a finite amount of money and annual leave and simply couldn’t afford to take half a day of leave (and pay for a full day of conference) to help decide on a plan of events that will mostly happen when I’m NOT there.


The pre-conference had Jerold Bozarth speaking this morning and a panel this afternoon. Bit of this morning were extremely interesting. I very much liked some of the things that Jerold had to say about Rogers and his (Jerold’s) own ways of working. I made several notes that were really relevant to me as a practitioner. The event was streamed by online events and (i think) will be permanently available online later. There were moments in both the morning and the afternoon where I felt the same spark that started me on this journey, the spark that perhaps my fellow trainee would call ‘spirituality’. Bits of it ‘made sense’ to me in a way that I couldn’t quantify. By the same token, bits of it were more of a disappointment – I thought that I was getting something more.. decisive. But I think that it wasn’t helped by accesibility issues. Jerold had problems hearing questions form the audience, and in the moment we didn’t manage to find a really successful way to address that. I think that it was just one of those things, and I’m not attaching any blame anywhere. I could see lots of people including the ‘organisers’ were frustrated though, and it was a shame. It didn’t take away from some of the great things that were said – it was just a shame that it couldn’t have been the more interactive event it was intended to be.


I got to speak to other trainees and meet other trained therapists, as well as saying hello to lovely people I met last year at BAPCA and a group of trainees sat and had lunch together before the panel discussion in the afternoon. I found that interesting to a large degree – it was useful to see different viewpoints from various ‘professional’ therapists and to hear their reassurance (for anyone reading who was listening – I asked the question about being a trainee) and I was really drawn in by some parts of the discussion.   I’m back on Thursday for the only other day I can go to, but looking forward to whatever events are happening that day, and no doubt next week’s blog will also be on a related theme 🙂