So here we are, first day of term. I’ve got a new bag, all my previously mentioned stationary and a stack of ID so I can collect my Level 3 certificate. They can’t find it, maybe I didn’t pass? If they take any longer I’m going to be late for my first class (despite arriving annoying early). But eventually, there it is, I really did pass, it’s there in black and white.
This year’s class now takes place all day rather than a few hours ‘after dark’ and college during the day is a very different beast to an evening course. We are mixing with those fresh out of school and being treated like it too. I stroll in at 9:10, earphones in, quick dodge of the staff stood in the entrance and then I get offered a late slip despite being 5 minutes early and 35 years old!
As I approached the class I saw someone I vaguely recognised from the introduction day last year, I was nervous as no one I knew was going to be in this class. Would we get on? Would I be left on the outside? I didn’t even worry this much when starting secondary school! As it was, by lunch I felt calmer as there were a few people who were new, and the ones who already knew each other were friendly and had a similar sense of humour to me so ideal!
We were handed our course ‘bibles’ early on, these were both a blessing and a curse. I now have all the assignments for year one in advance, so in theory I ‘could’ start gathering references now (could being the key word here) but the expectation for the level of work is also right there, on day one, it was slightly overwhelming. It didn’t stop there, we were quickly split into two groups and told we have 3 hour long presentations to give on different aspects of Person Centred Theory. An hour?! With people I don’t know? I couldn’t think of anything worse.
Then came student BACP membership, certificates of competency for our placements, personal therapy requirements, the list is endless. The commitments and costs were mounting in front of my eyes. I only work part time, and I have a family and volunteering to fit in. I’ve already given up my swimming (a passion of mine) as I can’t go regularly anymore, and can I afford it? How will I personally feel about putting less into the family ‘pot’ so that I can pursue this? As you can see I mainly thought in questions and exclamations for seven long hours that day.
That first morning was very overwhelming, after lunch we switched to a different tutor (tutor A in the morning, Tutor B in the afternoon) and it started again, I felt so overwhelmed yet motivated at the same time, so many conflicting feelings which then led to adrenalin racing as I was allowing my thoughts to go at ten thousand miles per hour.
Thankfully the afternoon sessions involve an hour called ‘Here and Now’ which is ours to do with as we wish, we can bring up anything that is concerning us. we have a contract of confidentiality so we know that what is shared, stays within the group. We can sit in silence, there are no guidelines which in itself is a challenge. I chose to use the time to calm myself down, reflect on what we had been told and just breathe. I left college that day feeling daunted yet positive and what is this feeling? Like I’m going to be a professional? This is really happening isn’t it? Should I now introduce myself as a trainee counsellor if people ask me what I do?
So a few weeks have passed, we have started the dreaded skills practise again. I dislike roleplays with a passion, I never behave as I do ‘in real life’ (even the case with my day job that I’ve done for 16 years) and I feel really uncomfortable. But this time round real life practise is just around the corner, I need to get back into the swing of it. Sadly I have a bit of an expressive face (I blame years of front line sales and using it as a tool) which by the time of last year’s assessment I had learnt to manage but the summer off has meant I’m back to biting my cheek to stop me smiling, I find it difficult not to respond with the facial expressions I receive. Bonjela is my friend!
The classes have been subtle in their teaching which I wasn’t expecting after the panic-fest that was the first day, but each week I am coming away with so much to think about or reflect on. I’ve already started exploring deeper layers to my conditions of worth that I had already worked through earlier in the year, I thought I was done with this particular aspect of myself! I enjoy a walk alone after class each week (after I’ve dropped my daughter to her Brownie group) to clear my mind, just me, some music and a slow wander home, a stark contrast to my usual power walk from A to B.
At the time of writing my group has presented two of our Person Centred presentations (Conditions of Worth and the Organismic Self) and each time we have knocked it out of the park! We have gelled really well as a group, we have an equal measure of personal reference, factual reference and quizzes (and sweets – Instilling conditions of worth onto the opposite group. Do well and you get sugar!)
Now I’m off to write a pop quiz on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs over half term (in between days out with the children interspersed with fuming at them to tidy their bedrooms) and wondering what my reward system will be for both my children and my classmates.
Leila Foster is 34, a mother of two, volunteers at a rough sleepers drop in and works part time. In addition to being a student counsellor at Basingstoke College of Technology, studying Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. She has completed CPCAB Level 2 in Counselling Skills and CPCAB Level 3 in Counselling Studies.