by Chris Molyneux (April 2009)
I remember the really strong mix of nerves and excitement as I waited for my first client on my placement. I was sat on the couches in the reception, casually reading through a magazine, but really it wouldn't have made any difference if the magazine was upside down due to the little amount I was actually taking in from it! I then also remember the disappointment of realizing my client isn't going to turn up, and then experiencing this again the next week, and then again and so-on. I think it took 3 or 4 weeks until my first client turned up and I doubt that the session was up to much as I had so many emotions going round my head at the time. I was excited that someone had finally come, I was very aware of doing everything "right", making sure I contracted well and tried to almost cram everything I learnt into my first session!
Luckily, I have calmed down somewhat since then and having recently achieved my 100 hours needed for the course, it is a really good exercise to look back on my progress through the placement and see just how much it has had to offer me. I believe having a counselling placement and building up your hours is so essential to the qualification and can see its importance in everyone's development. I think that the issues that come up over my year on placement have been the biggest learning curve of my training to date. There are some things which could not just be taught in the classroom or acted out with fellow students. I believe that I had to experience the DNA's (did not arrives), look at my reaction and approach to these, to truly experience working with stuckness, suicide, abuse etc and to really be in those experiences with my client. I think that there is certainly a great deal that can be taught on the course but there is nothing quite like tackling these issues head on and really having to work through them in supervision or therapy.
I have to say that I seemed to have been very fortunate in my placement. I have found a team of hugely supportive counsellors and colleagues, a team that really is concerned with putting the people first and a group of people who work above and beyond their needs. I do wonder how my experience of a counselling placement would have altered, had I not been as fortunate as to work with this group of supportive people. I have had generally positive responses from fellow students' placements, although the initial difficulty of finding one in the beginning stages was shared by all.
To anyone who is about to embark on the diploma course or about to look for a placement I would only advise that they stick with it. All the extra work you put in and especially around professional and personal development set some really solid foundations for the future counselling adventure and I think this is highly important and also something which may be hard to re-build years down the line. As cruel as it may be, the struggling with DNA's, difficult issues and personal questioning is all essential to our time training as counsellors - Good luck! (It is worth it, I promise!!)