Calling LGBTQIA+ counsellors and trainees – mentor list

Rainbow flag.Trans flag.Leather flag.Bi flag.Asexual flag.Intersex flag. Genderqueer flag. Poly flag.Bear flag.
(I’m aware that I’ve missed some flags, and that some are more contentious than others, but I wanted to put up a selection)

 

Do you identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, genderqueer, pansexual, non-binary, asexual, intersex, polyamorous, ethically non-monogamous, kinky, or with some other alternative gender or sexual diversity? Are you a supervisor, therapist or a trainee?

As a psychotherapy trainee who identifies as queer, sometimes, I am glad of the opportunity to be able to talk with experienced therapists who identify in similar ways to me. I was recently at a Pink Therapy event and was part of a conversation where it was suggested that it might be a good idea to create some kind of mentor program to help trainees in similar positions. I’ve volunteered to organise it.

So,  for Pink Therapy I am co-ordinating a mentor scheme for those people who identify in the above groups (as well as others I haven’t listed here that are along similar themes – please let me know if I have missed yours out!). It will also hold supervisor details, so if you don’t wish to mentor but are willing to offer supervision, please also complete the form. This list is open to anyone working or training as a counsellor, psychotherapist (of any modality) or clinical or counselling psychologist.

 

If you’re in some way LGBTQIA or ‘beyond the rainbow‘ and are a qualified counsellor or counselling/clinical psychologist who could offer some advice/support to a trainee, or if you’re a trainee who could use some support from a qualified counsellor or clinical or counselling psychologist, or if you’re able to offer (or are looking for) supervision please go to this page to fill in the form that goes directly to me.

As a general rule it would probably be short-term via email, but it would be negotiable between you and the trainee/therapist you’re matched with.

 

I am maintaining two lists, one of mentors/supervisors and one of trainees. When trainees contact me with the type of person they feel they would benefit from talking to, I will send their email address to a relevant person and ask that person to get in touch. If you’re a ‘senior’ trainee (someone who feels they could mentor newer trainees), please feel free to ask to go on the mentor side. Click this link to get to the page with the relevant information or email me: rainbowoftranquility@gmail.com or leave a (screened) comment below.

 

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counselling: what’s the point?

 

A client recently asked me at a counselling assessment: “what’s the point of counselling?’ and I think that whatever answer I gave wasn’t good enough, as I never saw them again.

 

As a question, it caught me off guard; a client has not asked me that before. As a client, I have answers, and I suspect that’s where I went wrong; I was trying to reply from my own point of view, without making my answer ABOUT me. The resulting amount of hesitation probably suggested to the client that there was no point, and that’s a shame. So I thought I’d put it out here – my own real answer on why, so that next time I’m asked, I do have some kind of answer.

Counselling (in my opinion), especially in the person-centered world, where we don’t aim to give any advice, or tell you what to do or think or direct you at all, is a space that is just for you. It gives you a non-judgemental person who is skilled (or at least *trained*) in the art of listening (rather than waiting for the pause so they can speak). Counselling gives a place for reflection, and a place to talk things out. Whilst as counsellors we don’t usually give advice we are able to reflect back nuances in things that clients tell us, and clients often don’t even realise they’ve said it (many is the time I’ve echoed part of what a client has said and the ‘I hadn’t thought of it like that’ always surprises me, as I had thought that I am reflecting their thoughts).

 

So it’s space; it’s a place to be heard; it’s a place of reflection.

 

It’s also a place to test things out. To look at future options and test them with the counsellor – to look at hypothetical situations: ‘what would my life look like if I tried X action?’ ‘How would it feel if I thought about Y?’

It’s a safe place – a place you can be the best of yourself, and the worst of yourself (unless of course, it involves harm to a minor, or terrorism or money-laundering), and not be judged. Even if it did involve those things, there is still no judgement (so we strive for), but there may be a breaking of boundaries.

 

It’s yours, and no-one else’s. Above all, it is for you to make what you wish of it.

 

Hospitality

My apologies for no blog last week – I was at a conference and I thought I would write it on the 3hour train trip home, but as it happened I was too ill to write, and the moment passed.

This week, it seems to me to be relevant to write about counselling narrative arcs, as I’ve experienced it both as a client and as a therapist.

 

A few weeks ago I’d been talking about something fairly in-depth with my therapist and the week after when she came in, I made a comment that was completely unexpected to her and unrelated to my arc. She was visibly surprised and commented that whatever she had expected me to say, that was not it (and let’s face it; she’s heard some fairly unexpected things from me!). It absolutely wasn’t a problem, and was lovely to hear that I had been unexpected (as opposed to the poker-faced therapist, which she isn’t usually anyway).

 

But it made me think about my own client work. Clients often come with stories, and ongoing situations, and their ‘stuff’ is a continuation of the week before, or at least has relevance to it. Much like the time I learnt that you never make throw-away comments in the corridor in case it has relevance for a client, I do objectively know not to expect my clients to follow particular arcs. In practice however.. A few months ago, a client had an important interview coming up that she was worried about. I had wholly expected the session to be about that interview and how it had gone, and i ALMOST made a throwaway comment about it in the corridor (but decided not to). I was glad, because as we sat down and she started to talk, it became clear that given the multitude of other things that had happened to her that week, the interview was actually the lowest thing on her radar. In fact, as she opened her mouth and delivered her first sentence to me, I felt very much as I suspect my own therapist felt; I was not expecting THAT.

 

And you’ll wonder perhaps where the ‘hospitality’ comes in? It is a concept from Derrida. The law of hospitality is to ‘expect anything’ and I like that very much. Invite in what comes, and accept whatever that is. He says however that although that is all you need, that humans are good at overlaying that with ‘the laws of hospitality’. Those laws- things we ‘must/should’ do, detract from the LAW of hospitality.

 

I read this as a concept when I was researching for something else, and it strikes me that it sits very well with counselling and psychotherapy. Clearly here, I have let my laws of hospitality overwrite the law, and thus I almost subject my client to a less than hospitable welcome, so concerned am I with the laws of hospitality and ‘getting it right’.

 

Over the xmas break (haha – I have 25 undergraduate papers to mark and my own dissertation proposal to submit) I want to read more on Derrida and hospitality and see if I can get something published on it. Watch this space.

 

When to look for a placement (and what to look for)

It shows me how far I have come, when twice in the last week I’ve had calls from trainee/student counsellors looking for a placement. I’m not in a position to take trainees at present, but it got me thinking about placement and what it was like when I was looking. So I thought I’d do a quick ‘how to’.
  • When to start looking

Basically, as soon as possible. If you’re on a four year diploma or msc then you probably won’t be looking at doing any counselling in your first academic year, but you would normally expect to get your fitness to practice certificate between may and July, and once you have that, then you can do counselling hours. If you’re on a three year course, you usually get a year before clients, but if you’re doing a level four, you’ll be seeing clients within six months.

 

I first approached the place I wanted to counselling for in May. Everything was done and ready in *september*. I was certain it wouldn’t take anything like that, but once you’ve applied, been offered an interview, had an interview, sorted out your college/uni forms and had a DBS, well; it adds up. I’ve just applied to do a second placement. I applied about 4 weeks ago and I have an interview in 2 weeks. Added to that is the fact that some places might well want you to do in-house training first: one local rape and sexual abuse centre to me asks for twenty four days of training over six months before they will let you start. So – it’s never too early to start looking. Another thing to bear in mind is that the bigger counselling places might well have ‘hiring’ seasons, usually twice a year in May and September. If your options are limited, you don’t want to miss out based on not applying in time.

 

  • What to look for in your placement

Firstly – will your course let you do it. Besides some placements not taking you unless you have a set number of hours already, your college course may not want you to do certain types of counselling straight away.

Secondly – supervision. Some courses require your supervisor to be approved by them (mine does). If your placement offers supervision, you will need to check if your course allows this. if it does NOT, you will need to check with the placement that they are happy for you to have supervision elsewhere. Also bear in mind that if you are registering with BACP and the offered supervision is group supervision, you cannot count all of those hours towards your required ratio (I’m UKCP and it does allow that, and I don’t know what the BACP ratio is, but I know from fellow trainees that it exists).

Check the modality of your placement. It might be really hard to be the only person-centred person in a psychoanalytic placement – especially if you’re required to have in-house supervision. Other things around modality include the types of placement: every trainee I’ve spoken to who has done a prison placement has found that the prison have tried to nudge them towards being more directive than they might wish to be. If you feel you can be ok with that, then great, but if your inner being resists that, it may not be the type of place you want to go.

Thirdly, availability. Both yours and theirs. Check whether they will let you do hours at a time you can do. There’s no point applying and needing evenings if they are 9-5 (and I discovered this was far more common than I thought it would be, which was the reason behind making my own). Secondly, check that there are clients for you. I COULD take a trainee right now, but they wouldn’t have any clients (both of us currently working have spaces) and I know other people in my cohort who only have one client, when they need four. It might mean doing more than one placement, or it might mean just aiming for a different placement that has a better availability of clients.

Fourthly, check that your views mesh enough with theirs. For example, there is a christian counselling centre near me. It wasn’t immediately clear that it was a christian centre but something about the name gave it away (it was fairly obtuse as a christian reference, but made me dig deeper). I have no problem with christians, but I have a small suspicion that as a person in several minority boxes, that it wouldn’t necessarily be the easiest to live with theoretically (both in terms of my theory clashing with christian theory, and christian theory clashing with me), so for me, it was a better idea not to apply. Other people in my position might have applied and done well, but for ME, it wasn’t the best of ideas.

Lastly, payment. It surprised me when looking for placements that several placements in the UK CHARGE YOU for being a trainee with them. some up to £40 a month. if you don’t have spare money, check what that payment will give *you* – for some it’s supervision and bacp student membership, for others it’s just bacp student membership, but it you already have that, it’s a expensive enterprise.

 

I started creating a list of places in the UK that offered person-centred placements. It’s in no way complete but is available here: https://sites.google.com/site/studentsandtraineespca/placements

 

 

 

 

Guest blog: John Threadgold – Should we love our clients as we love ourselves?

 

This month’s blog (a day late – sorry. wordpress wouldn’t let me post it yesterday; it kept hanging before it would finish uploading) is from John Threadgold who is a London-based psychotherapist. You can find out more from him below his article. Which, without more ado, is as follows, here:

 

Should we love our clients as we love ourselves ?

Trainee and qualified therapists, and teachers may cringe at the idea that as therapists we are here to love our clients in the hope that they will heal. However we are called upon by Carl Rogers, to offer a relationship characterised by the core conditions, unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence. And is this not a call to love?

But what exactly does this mean, in terms of our relationship with ourselves, and our clients? Today I am just going to write about Unconditional Positive Regard, although I recognise that this quality cannot be seen in isolation.

One of my all-time heroes of the therapy world, Eugene Gendlin, wrote:

There is often so much unlovely stuff in a client, which cannot genuinely be regarded positively.  But I see no contradiction because, as I formulate it, unconditional positive regard is for the embattled person in there, not for the stuff.  The person in there is up against that same stuff, struggling to live with or in spite of it all, all the time.  I do not mean that it is always easy to feel for every person struggling inside, only that there is no contradiction here’

As a counsellor – as a human being even, I am to have that unconditional positive regard for myself – the person that I am. And what a battle that is. We as counsellors are no different from our clients. Who has not experienced to varying degrees, trauma, hurt, pain, bereavement and loss, abuse of some kind. Hopes and dreams shattered. Physical emotional and mental pain. ?

Part of my own journey, my own healing, is to be able to step back, get a little space between myself and all those hurting feelings. To treat them with compassion. And I can do this more easily, when I, as a person have someone treating me with that love and compassion, or as Rogers puts it, ‘unconditional positive regard’.

And my own capacity, as a human being, as a therapist, to hold a space, and to respect and cherish and nurture and encourage the embattled person within, is also linked directly to my ability to offer this to myself. I cannot offer to another person, what I do not have myself.

So my journey is a journey of self-acceptance. And as Carl Rogers so wonderfully observed‘ the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change’.

More About John Threadgold.

John is BACP Accredited for Counselling and Psychotherapy. He holds a MA in Focusing and Experiential Psychotherapy, and runs a private practice in London called New Focus Therapy. He also offers supervision to counselling students at LC&CTA a college in Deptford. He is a focusing-oriented person centred and integrative therapist, Focusing Teacher and Supervisor. You can find out more from his web site www.newfocustherapy.co.uk .

 

When clients stop coming

 

This blog started off as a blog on challenging myself, and I realised that it was somewhat akin to a previous post I wrote in July about my training mid-point, and as I started, I realised that I was thinking about my therapy, so I decided to go there instead.

 

I suspect any trainee or counsellor reading this has had an experience (or several!) where a client who has previously seemed very interested in coming to counselling suddenly stops, with no reason. This is a bit about my own experience (as a client) of that.

I’m a firm believer in layers of therapy (like an onion. Or a parfait). I first went to counselling when I was 19, for a very specific reason. Therapy kind of worked around this issue and when i was ‘better’ I stopped therapy. A few years later I went to see another counsellor about unrelated issues that had come up for me. And there came a point in that therapy where I felt that i was ‘done’. I was there, with nothing really to say, and nowhere to go. So I stopped going to therapy and apart from a brief return when a couple of traumatic thing happened within a week, I didn’t go back.

 

At the start of this course, I had to get my own therapy of course (it’s a UKCP course and that’s mandated). I saw two therapists over the course of a year, but therapy felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t for lack of trying, and eventually, my counselling insitution let me go back to the therapist I was seeing in my early 20s (over 12 years ago). It’s really interesting for me to wee the journey I am on with that counsellor; I was so convinced at 25 that I didn’t have anything left to talk about, and now, a decade or so later, I find that I have barely scratched the surface.

 

I’m fairly sure that my COUNSELLOR could have told me back then that I’d barely scratched the surface – but she like me, is person-centred and that isn’t in her job description. I was at the place I was at, and that place said I was done. I was at a plateau, or a gathering place. I suspect that I’d had quite a lot of restructuring to do in therapy, and that I simply wasn’t ready to start building again – I had to spend some time being the ‘new’ me in the world before I was ready to start building again.

 

Now – I see that I am building again, that therapy is of tremendous use. But the stuff that i’m doing now, I simply could NOT have done then. I wouldn’t have had a place to start even and it would have thrown me into confusion and led to me not coping in life. I was lucky that I was able to verbalise that to my counsellor and we worked together to an ending, but I suspect that there are many more clients who aren’t keen on endings and they just leave, with no warning, and don’t answer calls or return messages. It’s frustrating as a person, but as a (trainee) counsellor I recognise completely that the client is doing what is best for them and that it’t not for me to impose my will onto a client and instead, I wish them well in my head and hope they find what they need in life.

 

 

Guest blog: Neil Loffhagen

My first guest blog comes from Neil, who is a person-centred, focusing-oriented therapist. His website is available here.
Without more ado:
As counsellors in training great insights are gained concerning ourselves. Yet of all the things that I learnt about myself, I yearned for the day of completing the diploma or other qualification we are seeking. I certainly had a feeling of great relief obtaining my counselling diploma. Yet, there was and still is a feeling of never quite knowing enough. I propose that such a feeling is beneficial for ourselves and in particular our clients. Let me share my thoughts.

Recently I started re-reading “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Susuki. In the first chapter, for me, a most significant phrase is:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I wonder, as in any field of expertise, as we learn more, as we study more, if there is a danger that we can become too “expert” or fixed in our view of things? I think this can happen almost unconsciously. It is not that we really think we are better to know more than our clients. Yet, if we are not careful, we may inadvertently come across that way. Perhaps, we may start to see all clients in the same light.

Whilst training I was privileged to have a placement with a youth counselling agency. I still remember vividly my second ever client. A woman in her early 20s sat down. We went through the agency contracting process. Then, calmly, the lady said she’d had an abortion six months ago and couldn’t get through the acute self-blame and shame she felt. My immediate thoughts ranged from “Why have you chosen to see me, a man?” (the agency always asked a client if they would prefer a female or male counsellor) to “I can’t do this, I don’t know anything about abortion”. Add to this our first child was still-born. What was I to do?

I felt in quite a difficult situation. There was really only one thing I could do – put aside everything I had previously known, learnt and experienced, to simply be with the client, to be “good enough”. I had been taught much, plus had some wonderful experiences gained through triads, goldfish bowls, etc., about congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy. Now, obviously theory is good and crucial. However, being congruent, being empathic and having unconditional regard in the room with a client is very different compared to reading about another person’s experience and theory. Academic learning is never wasted, but it had to be put aside to be with this client.

I had to be with her, not with something I thought she ought to be. I had to be alongside her as she came to figure things out. Which she did. this blog post is not about what went on in the room between us. It is more about how I had then a “beginner’s mind” in a real and quite literal sense. It is how I seek to maintain that state of mind when seeing all new clients. As I keep a “beginner’s mind” I feel it helps the client be more open to “many possibilities” of change that can come.