Barefoot… I feel my toes curl and fold against the cold, wet plinth marking the foot of the doorway. I look around and see the doorway is cut from deep, blue ice. Dense wisps of vapour rise from the ice wall and obscure my view into the beyond. I’m afraid… and yet I'm excited and drawn to step through. I know I can’t stay on this precipice. It’s time to choose – forward or backwards? Staying still is not an option for long. What will be through the ice door? I squint, forcing my eyes to locate shape or form. There is none. The mist conceals the future. I begin to imagine challenges, dangers, questions, how will I navigate? My heart beats. I feel the pressure against my ribs. I'm hopeful it will be an adventure – a place of wonder, stretch and inner fulfilment. Dare I lift my foot and take the step?1
How many of you recognise the sentiment of the above image as you've stepped into your next leadership journey? This was first published in the In Focus column of Coaching Today, January 2013, I'd been Chair for almost a year and this certainly represents something of the fear and hopefulness I felt as I embarked on that role.
After finding Linda Aspey utterly inspiring at the BACP Connections event in Glasgow in 2010, I responded to her call for inaugural Executive Board members for BACP Coaching. I was tentative, I hardly dared to believe she might embrace my request, even though I knew it was a calling from my heart. I’d already been a psychotherapist for over a decade and yet couldn't reconcile it with my new discoveries as a coach, and yet here, right out from under my nose, I'd found my community again. I laughed out loud when Linda’s affirmative response arrived asking that I take on not one role but two in the new Executive! And the story unfolded, I grew in confidence and became the next Chair in 2012.
It was also through BACP Coaching that I embarked on what has since become one of my great loves, being an editor! My life-long commitment to addressing inequalities, and desire for multi-cultural understanding came together in creating the Thinking Global series in Coaching Today, which ran for two years. Helping people to express themselves through the written word turned out to be a joyous pleasure and not like work at all. My thanks to Diane Parker who has always extended her confidence in me, which in turn supported me to keep flowing! I’ve since successfully edited two Routledge publications on Coaching Supervision2,3 and loved every moment of walking alongside the chapter authors in their unfolding processes, in their moments of deep angst and abundant joy!
Coaching Today also published a series of articles, co-authored with Professor Sarah Corrie, on supervision for dual-trained practitioners. In the first instance, Sarah and I engaged with the issues ourselves, surfacing themes present in our professional communities, grappling with concepts and resonating with our own work as dual-trained practitioners. Later, through our articles, we opened a space for exploration with our readers.
Although I have long since moved on from the Executive, I have enjoyed watching the division flourish. I’ve maintained my connection with BACP and Coaching Today, embracing the challenge of doing a (first time) podcast on telephone counselling at the beginning of lockdown, and writing about Supervision of Supervision research in which I have been involved4. Shirley Smith and I have played (a lot!) with creative supervision, and we’ve recently presented at the Private Practice Conference and published a follow-up article, 'When raspberry jelly is a truth teller', which is republished in the January 2022 issue of Coaching Today5.
As I wrap up this celebratory piece about the 10 year anniversary of Coaching Today the things I'm noticing are:
- stepping over the ice precipice was scary and yet opened the way for what was possible to unfold
- I found new colleagues with whom to work and play
- I revealed to myself inner capacities that I had no idea would be there, relationships are the key to everything! Many times, of course, I found myself frustrated or at odds with the professional body. Some degree of tension is part of the experience of leadership. However, recognising that every individual within BACP was, and is, simply a human being wanting to do well in the world really helped me to keep stepping in and working things out together, and I am immensely grateful for every person who also moved towards me when I struggled or felt lost
In reading this you might imagine I am, and perhaps have always been, a confident leader. Yes, at times I do feel confident, however not as many times as I might like! In truth, I'm always teetering on the next icy plinth, fearful and tentative, and yet finding myself stepping into the next daring adventure. Aren’t you?
My special thanks would go to Elspeth Schwenk (BACP Board), who although no longer with us, gave her steady support; and members of the BACP Coaching Executive, and other divisional executives, with whom I shared the biggest laughs, and also the worries, inherent in volunteering and leadership.
1 Birch, J. In focus: Stepping into the future Coaching Today 2013 (5: 32-33)
2 Birch J., Welch P (2019) Coaching Supervision: advancing practice, changing landscapes Abingdon: Routledge https://www.routledge.com/Coaching-Supervision-Advancing-Practice-Changing-Landscapes/Birch-Welch/p/book/9780367255657
3 Birch, J. (2022) Coaching Supervision Groups: Resourcing Practitioners London: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Coaching-Supervision-Groups-Resourcing-Practitioners/Birch/p/book/9780367698355
4 Birch, J. Supervision of Supervision: something becoming Coaching Today 2020 (36: 27-31)
5 Birch, J. Coaching in Practice: Creative coaching supervision Coaching Today 2022 (n: 16-17)
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