I recently changed my bio on Twitter. It doesn’t sound much, but the change from identifying from one thing, to another has been extremely cathartic. For the past 11 years I have been a teacher and I used to introduce myself as that. I’ve changed my status to trainee person centred counsellor. This is me; it’s where I am right now and it’s extremely important to me.
I loved teaching. I loved working with the young people in my class. We went on adventures, we discovered new things, we had fun! I enjoyed thinking of new ways to make learning exciting – I had as much fun teaching as they did learning. But I realised that I was falling out of love with it. There were a lot of changes taking place that intrinsically I knew weren’t right for the young people I was working with. I met the wife of a friend of mine at a Christmas party, who had retired from teaching recently and told me about the work she did as a volunteer counsellor for Childline.
I started to do some research and saw that they were recruiting locally for counsellors. I applied, had my interview and was accepted. I have to admit to being very apprehensive at the start of training – we also had to role play scenarios, never my strong point. But I attended a few weekends of training and then did some practical shifts alongside a mentor. I felt entirely supported and we supervisors are on hand during the shift and I have my own supervisor too.
I do a weekly shift there where I take phone calls and online chats from young people up their 19th birthday. The first few weeks were, for me, very nerve wracking. I was petrified that a young person would present with something I just couldn’t handle. But that didn’t happen. I started to relax, I started not to worry what might happen. I really look forward to my shift each week. It was at this stage I started to look at counselling courses. I am not stranger to adult learning – I started an Open University degree when my daughter was one-year-old, and, in fact, I missed my first exam due the early arrival of my son! I studied for 7 years’ part time, every evening, being a full time mum in the daytime, graduating with a B.Sc.
I investigated all the different courses – part time, night time and full time. I eventually saw the course I’m now on – Masters in Person Centred Experiential Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice course at the University of Nottingham. The course offers a children and young people’s pathway in year 2 and it was this that drew me. I have to admit; I didn’t know a great deal about person centred counselling or Carl Rogers.
I’ve just completed my first year. Oh my! Where to start! I have loved my year. I thought as a mature student, I was fairly sorted but the journey I’ve had this year has been a real excursion. I’ve had weekly personal therapy, which I have really relished. A very good friend, who is a therapist, told me to enjoy my ‘me time’ and I have. I’ve had chance to explore and reflect on what’s happening for me and to me. I am a reflective person – as a teacher, it was something I did every lesson. I’d review the learning, mark the books, and then alter my next lesson in light of that.
I didn’t realise that I did do it well. I also started to journal. There is a real irony here. I have a degree with a heavy maths content. I would call myself a mathematician and I loved to teach maths. I used to hate to write at school. I loved to read – I was, and still am a prolific reader and I can read quickly. But writing – no. I taught it and always tried to make it as interactive as possible. But I love to journal. I am a stationary addict – I admit it and I don’t want to be cured! I love nice paper, pens and folders. So when I started my course last year, we were encouraged to journal. As I wasn’t short of a nice journal, I started. I use an ink pen and write daily. I love it. And I have realised this is where I reflect - it’s where I work things out. And it’s with a wry smile and sense of great irony that I write this.
The teaching and learning on my course is like nothing I have done before. The experiential part of it has freed me from the traditional constraints that I was so used to. I have learned so much, and I’ve absorbed it, I’ve experienced it, I’ve encountered others and I have learned to trust. Such a small word, only five letters but it’s been one my greatest accomplishments. I trust myself. That sounds so obvious but has been one of my greatest successes. I trust my feelings, I trust that I’m good enough, I trust others. And how freeing that feels.
I am person centred counsellor and this too is extremely important to me. I have said, I didn’t know a lot about what this meant but the more I experience it, the more I realise how much I resonate with it. I know that over the years whilst I was teaching, children were often added to my class who were struggling in other classes. What did I do to help these pupils? I listened to them, I made time for them. I had a relationship with them, no conditions. I now know I experiencing the conditions of empathy, unconditional positive regard and was experiencing relational depth with them too. I knew that it worked but I’ve done lots of reading, I now know what was happening.
I’ve had a fabulous summer holiday. I am used to having time off at this time of year through teaching but previously I’ve used it to recuperate and get prepared for the next teaching year. But this year, I’ve really followed my passions. I have an allotment, I have a glut of courgettes and sweetcorn. I have done water colour painting, exploring my newly renewed creativity. I have walked miles and used my binoculars to find where the buzzards that circle my house are living. I have read lots of different books – novels and also further reading around therapy and counselling. I’ve read books on grief, abuse and more theory. I’ve also become active on twitter again. I used twitter extensively as a teacher – in a professional way. It was known as a personal learning network and I engaged with many fellow teachers, exploring new ways of teaching, finding new resources.
I had a dilemma, I had a lot of followers and I followed a lot too. But these were part of the way I used to be, they didn’t reflect my interests now. So I sat down and culled my followers. I follow fellow therapists, and people who interest me and it has lead me a new direction. I’ve retweeted so many interested articles and followed where it’s taken me. I have a renewed enthusiasm. I know I’m a very motivated person but I have a new excitement. I have a drive to know more, to find out more, to connect with more people and I find out more.
I have a renewed zest for life. I’m not playing it safe, I’m keen to experience more and explore what I am capable of. It’s such an exciting time for me. This is me, dipping my toe in new waters and feels like a new beginning for me. I’ve spent my life writing lists – I even had lists of lists. In the last year I have abandoned my lists. For me, such a HUGE thing. I’ve relied on them, but I don’t need them anymore. I don’t forget anything, I trust. It’s such a good feeling to able to do that.
So I’m now about to start my second year. I have a lot to look forward to this year – I start my placement this year, I have to start my dissertation – something I’m looking forward to. I didn’t do one as part of my undergrad degree and maybe I can get some maths into it! I’m ready to learn more, I’m ready to challenge myself and I’m ready to grow more too. And I think I’m a writer now too.
Loui White is a wife and mum to two young adults. She is a volunteer counsellor for Childline and about to begin her second year as a student at the University of Nottingham, studying her MA in Person Centred Experiential Counselling and Psychotherapy. She was a teacher in Primary Schools for eleven years prior to this, where she held a variety of roles.
You can contact her via Twitter @louiw