So it’s goodbye for the blog

In not making a decision, it seems a decision has been made. My year continues busy and not the easiest and whilst I do like the blog and the idea of keeping it and making it around other issues such as gender and sexuality, I’m not sure I want to be that person. I was happy with the identity of the trainee therapist blogger, and now I am happy with the identity of the therapist who runs the mentoring scheme, I don’t feel like I have enough space in my head to talk about gender and sexuality week in week, or not outside of my client work, anyway. 
My client work has, for the last two years, been about building a client base and creating a counselling charity that now has four counsellors (including me) and a waiting list of clients, and we are largely LGBTQ-based. We see whoever comes to us, but most of our clients are LGBTQ. All but one of my clients is LGBTQ and of those all but one, all but one of *those* is in some way trans (in that they are either binary or non-binary trans). Add to that my own transition to a formal non-binary position and I feel that I do a lot of my time around LGBTQ issues. 
There may be occasional updates- especially if I can get all of the mentor pages moved on to the pink therapy site and can change the URL here (some of the pages are already up there, but I have not yet been organised enough to ask for the rest to be done), but for now I just want to thank everyone who has read along with my trainee journey. 
I made it 🙂


The growth of my counselling service (creating your own placement)

I wanted to talk some about growing this counselling service. Except I’m not really sure how it happened. But what I do know is that I went from starting with one client a week in September 2013, and gradually moving up to two (My average was 1.5 clients a week for the first year), I was able to approach a counsellor I knew who also wanted to work in the areas of gender and sexual diversity and ask if she wanted to join me. I don’t actually know what her numbers were for that year, but I think from conversations, that they were much like mine. My supervisor spent much of my first year telling me that I should get a second placement, and eventually, in October of 2014, I moved my own placement down to one evening a week, and started working elsewhere one evening a week.


That seems to have mushroomed my service. From about November I’ve had an average of just under 4 clients a night here. My fellow counsellor averages about the same, and we have just taken on a new trainee who has started with two clients (and may move to more). From never having a waiting list, our waiting list hasn’t dropped under 5 in 6 months. I live in constant fear that it will.


Now we have left the umbrella of the service we were with and are applying to become our own charity. The paperwork is in, we have moved offices (to a much smaller room that feels much more cosy), and I feel like I’ve spent a LOT of money on chairs, room rent and electronic systems for us (some of these I have not yet spent – they are upcoming). There was clearly a need for this service in my local area given the wait – currently at four months, and the fact that in the last week I’ve had more than one person tell me they wish this service had been around for them when they needed it.


Not all institutions allow students to create placements. I’m lucky that mine did, otherwise I would probably not have been able to complete my course (I did not anticipate this complete lack of evening availability when I signed up), and I guess that this week what I’m saying is – if your course allows you to do it, and you have a specific area you want to work in that isn’t already covered locally, go for it! It helps if you have some marketing experience and the like, but my service has gone from non-existent to having seen well over 50 clients in two years (my numbers add up to just under 50 and I guess my co-counsellor’s will add up to less than that) and my average number of client sessions has gone up, from about 4, to about 10. I think that says something a) about my improving skills as a therapist and b) about the types of things that my clients feel able to bring. They certainly bring very different things now to what they were bringing a year ago. Maybe it’s just a standard thing – I don’t know yet, I’ve only been in practice two years. I saw my first client on the 24th Sep 2013, so just short of two years. And tonight, as my first night as ‘my own’ (there are four trustees; it is no longer ‘my’ counselling service, but it will always have been ‘my baby’) service in some way evokes all of that original process –How will it be? Will it work out?


I’m going with a ‘yes’!

Endings. More endings


So it’s that end of year time again. My (academic) year has ended. One academic year, anyway. PhD students don’t get ‘years’, they just get to work (if only we could be paid our stipend and still get six months a year off….). Anyway. My end of term on my MSc came around. And it’s all been a sea-change here. When I started this course three years ago, I was heading for a four-year MSc. But various things have happened, and when I discovered that I could exit this year with a PG.Dip, that felt like the best option for me.


In short, I’ve withdrawn from my course, I get to graduate with a Pg.Dip in Psychotherapy and Counselling, and QUALIFY this year. I’m very happy about this. I have to complete some counselling hours and then I’ll be done. It will be a tight squeeze, but I have an excellent therapist who has made me a lot of accommodations (double sessions, hello…)


I wasn’t going to write about it yet, because it hasn’t happened yet. But I figure I have to have some faith somewhere. As long as something (else) terrible doesn’t happen to me in the next three months, everything will be fine and I will be qualified by the end of September. Then I get to graduate in November in a very cold cathedral, probably much to the bemusement of the year above me, who will ALSO be graduating in a very cold cathedral and won’t have a clue who I am.


When I set out in training, I created my own placement. Since then my hours have mushroomed, and now there are three of us. We are about to become our own counselling charity, specialising in working with LGBTQ people, and being qualified will really help with that – I can register with people like Pink Therapy, so that I can be PT-accredited etc. My long-term colleague and I have big plans for our future (somewhere in there is ‘get paid’ although that isn’t a priority to be fair). But as they way (in the UK): The future’s orange…


I’m not sure what to do with this blog in the long-term. I will be blogging until I graduate, that is certain. What I do after? I don’t know. I could turn it into ‘newlyqualifiedtherapist.wordpress’, but somehow, that just doesn’t seem quite as catchy. Thoughts?

Feeling the pressure of using ‘skills’


I remember how metaphorically naked I felt. That first session. My face (which has a tendency to betray me, colour-wise) feeling somewhat scarlet in a building not overly warm. I should probably go back and look at that blog post for the first hour – see what I said. But one of my biggest thoughts was that i HAD NO TOOLS! JUST ME! and those tools were a potential armour. The stereotypical ‘tell me how you feel’ not quite seeming to cut it as a protection in the same way that a CBT worksheet might.


It was just me.  Alone. With nothing. REALLY SCARY! However, I should say that my tenth hour was with a client who went on to stay with me for over a year. They recently came back to help them through an unexpected situation for a couple of sessions, and somehow the topic of them first coming, came up, and in the conversation I mentioned that it was fairly soon (although I didn’t say exactly when) into my seeing clients that they came. They were surprised, not having registered that i was SO new. All my clients know that I am a trainee, but no-one has ever questioned my statements so I have never had to say more than I am comfortable with. But it was lovely to hear that I had not been seen as ‘rubbish’, even though I had nothing to ‘hide behind’, as it were.


But recently I spoke to a new client about the possibility of doing some focusing, because that feels appropriate for what has come to therapy. I’ve had training, I’ve USED focusing, but I don’t use it as part of my therapy, so to speak. I do it separately, and don’t use much of it in sessions. The discussion of, and desire of the client to try focusing sent me rapidly scrambling for books (noticing that one has gone AWOL and i haven’t the slightest clue where it is!), ready for the most recent session. And before the session, desperately trying to remember ‘these things are important. DO THESE THINGS!’. As it happened, we didn’t do focusing, as it didn’t feel the right time.


It’s a marker of how far I’ve come, that I was absolutely happy with just seeing a client, vs lots of panic! It was the application of tools that made the difference to me and has gone from being a ‘good thing’ (to hide behind) to something additive to my normal therapy. It’s also a reminder to keep myself up with the things that are important to me. I love the PCA, but focusing also speaks to me. And life – that has a habit of getting in the way. Must make/take time.




I drive an unusual make of car. It’s becoming more popular, but as it’s not a western european make, it’s got a pronunciation no-one expects from the spelling. Randomly recently, a client, as part of a point she was making, asked me what car I drove and I told her the make. It took her a while to understand the car I meant because of the spelling/pronunciation issue. It was an odd moment where I wasn’t sure whether to be explicit about the car (spelling it) etc or just hope that she got it (which she did after a couple of tries). But it made me think about some other clients I’ve had in the past, and a similar issue I have as a patient at my GP. Being the lucky owner of a chronic condition, I take a medication daily. Without it, I wouldn’t be working, or doing much of anything. But again, it’s unusual in spelling (not anything out of the ordinary for mediations – they’re all pretty odd!). I always always struggle to order the repeat, because I and the receptionist do not pronounce the medication the same way. I have just discovered (through google) that actually, neither I, nor ANY of the receptionists I’ve spoken to, have ever got that pronunciation right. But in my case it’s a two minute phone call and I can go away again.


In the case of some clients they will talk about medication conditions, or medications, and their pronunciation of those will differ from mine significantly; sometimes it’s down to a regional accent, sometimes it’s down to a misunderstanding (theirs OR mine) about what the generally accepted pronunciation is, and sometimes there is more than one accepted pronunciation (potato/potato etc). But it’s hard. and that feels strange to say. It’s a word. But on the one hand, I feel like I am not being congruent if I pronounce it the client’s way, and on the other hand I worry about the possibly of looking like I’m passing judgement by saying it my way. Thus far I’ve mostly avoided this by not directly referring to the client’s word, but it does feel like that might have to change soon. Do I yet know what I’m going to do? no…

Counselling whilst introverted

I’ve been seeing clients for 18 months now. I have over 200 hours of client work and that’s great. I enjoy it a lot. But I do notice that I spend a lot of time ‘making’ myself go- or dreading going. I sat down and picked it apart a bit and I came to it being an introvert. 
I find it hard to meet people- in a group, unless I know people well and have enough in common with them, I’m usually quite quiet when it comes to making conversation- work, I can do. The introvert in me is why I find conversing in sign language (a language I am learning) so hard – I am not a natural ‘joiner’ (unlike one of my partners who thrives on that kind of thing) and would much rather not be talking, but one cannot learn a language without practising – and one cannot practice outside of a classroom unless one has conversations with others- often people unknown. I would rather not do that – so the language-learning is hard. 
Back to counselling, I think what happens is that in my head the thought goes ‘now I have to go do five hours of talking with people’ and that’s *hard*. And it’s been this way since the start- I spent a significant amount of time wondering if I hated counselling, before realising that if I stopped thinking about it like ‘five hours of having to make conversation’ and instead thought about it like it was- ‘five hours of working as a counsellor’, then actually, it wasn’t so hard. Once I remembered that as a counsellor I’m not there ‘to make conversation’, I didn’t struggle as much. 
That’s not to say it’s not still hard to get out of the door sometimes, but that may be more to do with the fact that I also quite like being at home. 🙂