Three years ago, I stared at my acceptance letter into a four-year (DCPsych), and a whirlwind of emotions swept over me: excitement, nervousness, and a sense of pressure. Could I do this? Am I good enough? Would I cope? Reading through the extensive requirements – placements, clinical hours, lectures, and research- while juggling work and my role as a single mother- I grappled with one requirement - compulsory weekly personal therapy.
Back then, I was sure I had no immediate issues or past trauma to process and was worried about the additional financial and time commitment; I found myself asking if it was essential to address our processes before we could help others.
Embarking on my 4th and final year, I find myself in a reflective period. This introspection prompts me to share a transformative shift that has shaped my therapeutic approach and led to increased self-compassion– my evolving perspective on therapy as a therapist. Personal therapy has afforded me with deep insights, unearthing aspects of myself that may otherwise have been pushed aside, such as the tendency to assume a rescuer role at my own expense. I've explored feelings of self-doubt and found ways to foster self-trust; in doing so, I have been able to be more present with my clients and show up with authenticity.
I have always consciously tried to create a safe space; however, walking into the therapy room as both therapist and client has afforded me a profound perspective. I've gained insight into the experience of being a client – that overwhelming feeling of vulnerability when baring one's heart and soul to a stranger on cue at a designated time. Having quite literally been in my client's shoes has bridged the gap between knowing how challenging and impactful therapy can be from a theoretical perspective and experiencing it first-hand, resulting in a deep empathy that enables me to connect more profoundly with my clients.
However, I learned that the vulnerability that comes with therapy is a universal human experience, transcending the roles of therapist and client. We can all benefit from an increased awareness and a refined understanding of the shared vulnerability of the human condition and the complexities we all carry within us. The biases, challenges, and struggles that often remain buried beneath the surface can be skilfully brought to light through therapeutic engagement, and for me has been a way to maintain balance and top up my resilience when the pressure builds. Having a safe space to step away and focus on myself has reinforced how essential it is to acknowledge our needs and place enough value on ourselves to take the time to explore them. Something I have observed many clients struggle with. This self-investment not only refines our professional skills but nurtures our personal growth, shaping us into more empathetic, understanding, and resilient practitioners. Modelling personal growth behaviours fosters a deeper connection with ourselves and those we are privileged to serve.
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