I sensed from the start that working as a psychotherapist in private practice was never going to be my full-time occupation. In the first few years post qualification, I worked part time on a PAYE basis to have the security of a regular income while holding my nerve and building a client base. In time, as I felt confident enough from experience that if I made space, clients would come, I took the leap into being a full-time freelancer.
This did not mean, however, that I focused solely on my clinical work for an income. I knew instinctively, that even if I had the appetite (I don’t) and the emotional capacity (ditto) to see clients for six or seven hours a day, five days a week, week in week out for 40 or so weeks a year, this would not be good – either for me or my clients. I need other professional activities to provide a break from the intensity of clinical work, and nourishment of a different sort to then return to my consulting room with renewed interest and energy.
I also need the contact of a very different sort that I get from colleagues in other professional environments to sustain me in what would otherwise be a lonely and isolating working life in private practice. Editing this journal has provided me with a vital outlet to continue to practise skills from a former career; ensured I have kept up to date with professional developments; and, most importantly, given me privileged access to a wide range of fellow private practitioners. As have the opportunities I’ve pursued to work in a variety of training roles for several counselling and psychotherapy training providers.
Teaching and supervising trainees have been as much learning experiences for me as they have been for those I’ve played a small part in supporting through their trainings. Working at the coalface of the profession in this way has kept my thinking about the role and function of counselling and psychotherapy in contemporary society current, in a way that might not otherwise have been possible.
And I also see myself as being in continued professional development, returning periodically to being a student again to broaden my own learning. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that the more I know, the more I realise I don’t know. As a psychotherapist, I’ll never be the ‘finished product’, but always a work-in-progress. And this is a good thing.
My reason for writing about this now is that, in this issue, we focus on work outside of the therapy room – ways that practitioners have expanded their professional portfolio by creating new and innovative products (for example, therapy-related card games), associated services (for example, setting up as an employee assistance provider) and other resources (for example, podcasting), among other things. Practitioners who presented at our annual conference in September write all eight of the features in this issue. If you weren’t there, and would like to access the on-demand service, there’s still an opportunity to do so (see Division news for details).
I know from experience that it’s sometimes easy to underestimate the impact that intensive and unremitting work in the consulting room can have on us. For those of us who, like me, rely solely on freelance work for our income, having alternative activities that can meet and (hopefully) satisfy the parts of us that client work alone cannot reach is vital. When we’re lucky enough to secure and sustain a mosaic of different activities that cross-fertilise each other throughout our working week, we’re blessed indeed. Now the task is to keep all those different plates spinning!
John Daniel, Editor