Having graduated from my counselling degree this summer I have been reflecting upon the transition from student to qualified practitioner and the, at times conflicting feelings that accompany this change. I feel I can trace these feelings back to the last weeks of my training.
Personally, I felt ready to the leave the course and embark on new challenges, whilst some in my group were reluctant for it to end and others were already in the process of starting their own private practice. This disparity in feelings amongst the group seemed, in my opinion, to add an unexpected element to the ending, in that whilst we may all be finishing with the same qualification we were not all necessarily finishing with the same level of confidence.
I would describe it as another milestone similar to leaving home, getting married and having my son, in that it signifies a new chapter in my life that feels both exciting and full of trepidation. Exciting because I feel ready to be ‘out there’ working with clients and hopeful for new opportunities. Trepidation, because I no longer have the protection that affords being a student; the weekly peer support, the tutors to turn to with questions and the overall grounding of the training course. It is as though as students we begin in a child ego state with the training course/tutors being the parent and finish in the adult ego state but as always this can fluctuate; at times wanting the external validation but no longer requiring it.
There are also other unexpected practical aspects to being newly qualified; the thrill of becoming a registered member of the BACP, simply being able to refer to myself as a counsellor without the need of the prefix ‘student’ and not to mention the reality of finding paid work.
There was a culture of pessimism in finding paid work that seemed to permeate the end of training; the college forewarned at the beginning about the lack of jobs but it then seemed an abstract idea only being brought into blazing technicolor by the end of the course. It seems as a student that there is relief in finding the initial placement only to realise toward the end of qualifying that most organisations are indeed reliant upon these voluntary positions, leaving paid work an intangible aspiration.
I have been fortunate to secure some paid work but recognise that perhaps this is the exception not the rule. The need for paid work becomes necessary perhaps even imperative, as the concessions of fees for personal counselling, CPD, supervision, BACP membership as well as insurance are no longer applicable to the qualified counsellor.
In my experience I have found the internal and external expectations that I previously alluded to as the most difficult to identify. Internally I feel grounded with great support from supervisors and the organisations I work and volunteer for but, at times I have had a feeling I ‘should’ know more now I am qualified. In this case an honest appraisal of one’s competence and areas in need growth are essential, recognising that ‘a level of training does not necessarily equate to knowledge of every clients’ problem’. Externally I have found my opinion seems to be taken more seriously by colleagues and a lessening of the ‘parental’ side of organisations; a feeling akin to having the stabilisers removed! Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few months and feel a sense of real achievement having graduated as a counsellor and feel more confident in my practice.
I am aware that these are my own personal experiences and the feelings I have described won’t be universal however there may some truths that are recognisable. All in all, I feel excited about my future as a qualified counsellor, relishing the fact that I have chosen a profession where continual learning and personal growth are prerequisites; after all, ‘the end of your training is only the beginning of your development as a counsellor’
Ruth Smith recently qualified with a Foundation Degree in Counselling and is about to start a MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice. She is works as counsellor working with refugees and asylum seekers and is a voluntary counsellor for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
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Reeves, A., 2013. An Introduction to Counselling & Psychotherapy: From Theory to Practice. London: Sage.
Bryne, R., and Jinks, G., 2010. How to Survive Counsellor Training: An A-Z Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.