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The aim of this essay is to critically evaluate my readiness to start counselling employment. There will be a number of key issues integrated into this essay that will explore my learning needs in the context of my professional counselling. These will include personal reflexive and reflective practice where I will introduce Argyris & Schon’s ( 1974) Increasing Professional Effectiveness Model, self awareness, issues of difference, placements and supervision.
I will discuss the values and moral qualities of the BACP ethical framework in relation to experiences of my placement. I shall discuss and explore the importance of professional boundaries along with contracts within the counselling setting. I will introduce Kolb’s experiential learning inventory and apply its elements to how it has influenced my learning since starting my counselling degree and how it has become a part of who I am. In relation to placement and supervision I hope to discuss some of my experiences with clients in therapy, the organisation in terms of policies and procedures, as well as how I found the experience of supervision to be.
In relation to this I will also discuss beginnings and endings, my feelings around both and how I manage these. I will discuss the topic of stress and burn out and strategies for preventing the risk of this as I prepare myself for a career in the field of counselling.
The end is near, my counselling journey I mean and although I am full of mixed emotions revolving around the end, I am at a stage of this journey where I feel comfortable in relation to who I am and where I am going in terms of a career in counselling. All endings bring mixed emotions, for some it is change, rebirth and goodbyes, for me it is the question of what is expected of me next and will I meet these expectations. Schon (2001) states that change is a fundamental feature of modern life.
I never had many negative experiences around beginnings and I think one of the reasons for this is because of my top character strength which is social intelligence. I always seem to be aware of the motives and feelings of others and know what to do to put people at ease along with knowing what to do to fit in to various social situations. Although in saying this I found making the contracts with my clients a difficult task.
It wasn’t that my clients didn’t want to make the contract, the difficult part was collaboratively working together on a contract that best fitted each client, bearing in mind two of them were under eight years of age. I successfully managed to make a contract with each of my clients and it was a great experience, for two of them were pieces of clay. According to Molteni and Garske (1983) contracts may increase compliance with the processes of the therapeutic process.
Endings on the other hand are not as easy for me, I understand they are part of life and sometimes we need to end so we can grow and develop as individuals. This course and especially this module has helped me to bring these fears and emotions into awareness and reflect on them so I can understand what lies behind them. It is important for individuals to let go and move on as this is like the child leaving home for the very first time.
The child needs to leave to gain independence and knowledge about the world. I seem to be experiencing quite a lot of endings this year in particular. I have just recently finished a placement where I was working as a trainee counsellor with children.
I have been working with three clients close to a year and was quite worried at how these endings would go. Along with the ending work with my clients I was also ending with my supervisor who has been very supportive of me during my time there, I never once felt isolated or alone. I am quite pleased to say that these endings went extremely well as I have been working hard for a number of months with my clients on them.
During these months I would make small endings at the end of each session as it was like a countdown for my clients so when we got to the final session it wasn’t a big dramatic ending, they were well aware and ready for it. I feel extremely proud of the therapeutic work I have done with each of my clients. It was not easy at times but I persevered and learned a lot from my struggles. It is not easy to hear a child introduce erotic material but I coped well.
On reflection of these endings in particular, I was surprised at how well I managed my own, I have come to the understanding that I managed mine so well because I knew my clients where ready to end and move on. This allowed me the incentive to then manage mine so well. I love the metaphor that Dallas and Stedman (2009) use to describe reflection. They describe it as a mirror reflecting our own image back to us (Dallas and Stedman 2009). Dallos and Stedman (2009) suggest that reflective practice is best seen as a process of analysing and reanalysing important episodes of activity.
The term reflection in action is used to refer to the spontaneous act of reflecting in the moment (Dallas and Stedman 2009). I have had a lot of these spontaneous acts and found myself at times getting lost in them. When working with children, metaphor and symbols act for a lot of the communication. I have often found myself questioning something in my head while I am reflecting in action and at times had to snap myself out of it as I was aware my focus was coming away from the client.
Reflecting on action which Dallas and Stedman (2009) call reflexivity is a great way to question what was going on for me at that time and what was it about that particular episode that I lost my focus. I find reflection is a great strategy for promoting self care. For me this means quiet time for myself to reflect and get lost in my own cognitions without being disturbed. I feel it is important to look after ones self as this can prevent the cause of stress and burnout. Also by having quiet time to yourself to mull over the day or week that has passed is an excellent way to manage ones stress.
The feedback from supervision has been outstanding with reference to how quickly I built trusting relationships with my clients and the depth I was able to work at despite this being my first year of any placement. The experience around ending with my supervisor was another healthy ending. I think the biggest reason for this is after all of the positive feedback I received from her I knew I was then ready to end.
This brings me to the conclusion that it isn’t really the endings I have trouble with, it has more to do with how I end. What I mean is that I may not deal with a spontaneous ending as well as one I know is coming, which makes sense. Although saying this I know I would handle it better than I think I would. My counselling endings remind me of personal endings I have experienced in the past. The ending that comes to mind is when I left my family home in Ireland for the first time. I remember how lonesome I felt after moving away as myself and my family are very close. It was like the end of an era and even though I visit them quite often, every time I leave them to come back to London, its another ending in itself.
In relation to ending with my clients, if I ended and seen that they weren’t ready to end, or that I knew I hadn’t been doing all I could to apply emotional support to my them, then I am sure the endings would not have went so smooth for me. I have learned a valuable lesson from these ending experiences, although they went well, its ok that I feel sad, it shows that I care. The feelings I have are quite calm and peaceful , of course I wont forget my first clients and I will think about them from time to time but the important thing for me is that I don’t have any emotional ties with them so It is ok for me to think about them and move on. I really don’t think these endings would have gone as well if it hadn’t been for all of the support I received from supervision.
My supervisor and I jelled straight away and because of my honesty and openness in supervision it allowed us to examine my work in depth and maximise my learning. I feel the greatest compliment I have received from supervision is being told that I have begun to develop my own internal supervisor.
Ongoing supervision is a requirement of the BACP (2010). The BACP (2010) believes that supervision can positively contribute to the maintenance and development of ethical professional practice. In my opinion it is a necessity for all counsellors to have ongoing supervision to support counsellors, to enhance effective practice and a supervisor can act as a safety net for the counsellor. According to Feltham (2010) supervision is mandatory for all counsellors regardless of their experience even if it is difficult to find a suitable supervisor.
The atmosphere always seemed quite calm and relaxed which I enjoyed. I like to avoid confrontation at all costs, a negative atmosphere in the work place doesn’t just effect who is involved in it but affects everyone. This can have quite a negative effect on the job that one is doing and the clients whom we are working with. It can also lead to stress and burn out as research has shown that people who don’t feel supported and are not happy in the work place are more prone to stress (Salami 2011). I am quite lucky as I have very rarely experienced confrontation in the work place.
On the rare occasion that I have, I dealt with it by discussing the problem and having it out in the open. We were then able to keep our professional heads, get past it and focus on the job at hand. Money could not by the experiences I have had on my placement. I followed all the rigorous procedures for dealing with a child protection matter which I dealt with very well and in context to the BACP (2010) ethical framework.
When placing myself in the context of values, moral qualities and personal boundaries of the BACP (2010) Ethical Framework I feel that I am ethically mindful when delivering these services required by the BACP(2010). My moral qualities include empathy, resilience, respect, Integrity and courage. I believe one of the reasons I am so mindful comes from my therapeutic core model which is person centred (Rogers 1961). The emphasis is on creating a safe environment to discuss issues in a warm and non judgemental way. By using the core conditions effectively I feel there is little chance of harming my clients.
I followed all of the Place 2 be policies and procedures from the no touch policy to holding the boundaries firmly. It was quite difficult at times to avoid my clients trying to hug me but after a while I was able to use my body to my advantage of avoiding my client hugging me as I would intuitively know when it was going to happen and was able to move my body to the side so it would be avoided, keeping in mind that I didn’t want it to come across as rejection.
I understand that life in general can be suffering and we don’t have all the answers to our issues but it is about managing that suffering so it doesn’t take over our lives. Becoming a counsellor may have different meanings for many individuals. It can be the lust for power to sit in the power chair, for others it may be the need to feel needed, for me it comes down to supporting clients emotionally so they can end as much of their suffering as possible.
I believe self awareness to be one of the most significant skills I have learned during this degree. Over the duration, my self awareness has developed and I have a greater understanding of my inner and outer self. I think self awareness is crucial for understanding my own feelings as well as the client’s feelings in the therapy room. I believe it is extremely important to be mindful of the diversity in the counselling profession. I am well aware of my biases towards other individuals but I will leave them outside of the therapy room.
My mentality is that I am here to provide a service and why should I let my own values and beliefs get in the way of applying emotional support to an individual. I also feel that a lot of my biases come from being uneducated around a certain culture or race. I feel it is my professional duty to educate myself around these different culture so I am not creating unnecessary boundaries. Lago (2006) states that counsellors should educate themselves about the specificities of different cultures in order to develop competence for working with what has been classed as the culturally different.
I have found reflection to be very useful in relation to areas of the Johari window (Evans 2007). The area in which I seem to struggle with the most is giving constructive feedback. The reason for this is the individual may misinterpret what I am saying if they feel the feedback is negative. I have enjoyed learning about the johari window (Evans 2007) and have used it in a number of different areas of my life.
I found supervision to be an excellent way of acquiring my blind spots. I think personal therapy would be fundamental in relation to the johari window (Evans 2007), not only would it help to discover areas within myself but I feel talking around them may to become more aware of them.
I believe this is sufficient for all trainee counsellors before they start to practice. I don’t believe it is fair to start counselling without having experienced what it is like to sit in the clients chair. My plan to access a counsellor will be through a professional body such as the BACP (2010) because anyone can advertise themselves as counsellors. I believe this is the safest way as the counsellor will be an accredited member of a professional body. Personal therapy enhances professional development and relational capacities aswel as increasing personal development capacities and well being of the counsellor (Orlinsky, Schofield, Schroder and Kazantzis 2011).
In conclusion of this essay I am very pleased with my development thus far, both personally as well as professionally. I feel I am shifting every time I learn something new. I am so enthusiastic about the work with clients and I feel I would benefit from fully recognising my strengths and letting my confidence grow still further. I would also benefit from further reading of a variety of different theoretical approaches which I plan to do as should every counsellor regardless of experience. I am proud of the feedback I received from my supervisor, this has influenced my competence levels as a counsellor.
For further training and professional development needs I would like to work with adults using symbols and metaphor. My greatest influence has come from the work of Carl Jung’s Archetypes (Jung 1961) and the magic of metaphor through working at the Place 2 be. I would also be interested in more work with children as I would like to gain more experience in this field. According to my supervisor I seem to have a natural style of being with children. I have really enjoyed working with them, it has been very experiential and exciting. I go from here in search of a new placement where I hope to get a similar experience although knowing if I don’t I will learn something knew.
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