Not A Lonely Journey
by John Coburn (May 2009)
Hi there, my name is John Coburn. I am thirty-one years old and live in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. I started learning about counselling around four years ago initially as a hobby and then took a beginner course at a local college course lasting ten weeks then eventually onto a university accredited three year Higher Diploma. The diploma has been described as ‘integrative' combining person-centred, cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic approaches into one intervention utilising mainly Gerald Egan's skilled helper model.
I chose counselling because I have a real interest and passion for people. I love to be around other people and help when and where I can. For me, counselling seemed the best direction to go in.
My first two units on the diploma were foundation skills and the person-centred approach. Scott Peck and "the road less travelled" soon became essential bedtime reading. We were also learning about active listening and empathy. I was realizing that properly listening to a person using empathy and understanding requires more skill and practice than I had been doing all my life before.
We worked through units such as personal development and ethics then in year two we were ready for placement. I had secured a placement with a local substance advice centre and all was well.
However, I knew very little about substance abuse and recovery. I felt that for myself to be competent to counsel individuals with substance abuse issues I needed to know more about the subject. So in the next nine months I completed levels one and two certificates of OCN Community Drug awareness. This enabled me to know and understand the classifications of drugs, their short and long term effects on the body and being able to identify if someone was ‘under the influence'. I feel this training has been really useful with my placement clients.
I believe you will find a lot of placement organisations do require in-house training in their chosen field of counselling intervention. This could be training in trauma, suicide intervention, bereavement issues or even eating disorders. I would advocate that you apply for a placement early to take account of any in-house training you may need before registering any client hours.
I remember four years ago doing my first triads on the certificate level course. I had no skills, was stuttering and my nerves were hardly containable. I reflect I was much like an empty glass needing to be filled with skills, knowledge, experience and further learning. I can assure you that your nerves will dissipate, your confidence as a developing counsellor will grow, your skills develop and your glass will start to fill up.
As a trainee counsellor I have learnt that counselling is all about building confidence and knowledge in myself and in my experience with clients. I have learnt that at no stage was I ever alone. I have my classmates, the course tutors, my agency mentors, my supervisor and the BACP Ethical Framework all guiding me in the right direction.
My experience of supervision has shown me that we, like the world around us, are constantly growing and changing and your supervisor is there to gently sway your development as a counsellor in the right direction, much like a budding flower swaying in the wind.
I am hoping to continue my professional counselling development working towards BACP accreditation and maybe refining and specialising in one school of counselling; CBT is currently very popular but I prefer the person-centred approach because I feel this suits my personality and personal ethics. I also feel Dr Francine Shapiro's EMDR is really interesting as relatively new counselling intervention but all in all it is a personal decision what direction to go in and I wish you all the best in your counselling career.