That it’s so draining
Physically, emotionally and financially draining, training to be a counsellor can really take it out of you. The combination of personal development, theory, placement hours and supervision is exhausting in so many different ways.
For me it’s not been my first adult training course, I’ve done many different courses over the years, but this one is like no other. I came to the end of it completely drained, needing much more than just a few weeks off! My mind, body and soul needed to rest.
That it will shake up every single relationship you have (family, friends, children, you name it)
Counselling training isn’t just about becoming a counsellor. Oh no, it’s so much more than that. It’s also about becoming you. Talking about and thinking that much about yourself is pretty weird at first, but it then becomes addictive as you want to learn everything about yourself. Your motivations, your history, your relationships - everything is up for scrutiny. Sound scary? Absolutely!
And it does change the way you see people. For better, yes, and sometimes for worse. But ultimately, even the tough things you find out are leading you on a path to find something more authentic. So, although it’s hard, it feels right. Like you should have done it years ago.
That it is the most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do.
From the moment I started my very first counselling course I knew this was for me. In counselling, I found my passion and , if it’s not too corny, my calling.
To use a well worn cliche, the past 4 years have been an absolute rollercoaster. Juggling work, training, children and my placement has not been easy. And throw in a global pandemic in the last 18 months with online learning, remote counselling and isolation to deal with and you’ve got a really wild ride. But, even though the ups and downs are hard, it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done and I would go through it all again in a heartbeat.
That it turns you inside out
I always thought learning to be a good counsellor would involve becoming more robust. Dealing with everyone’s most difficult stuff day in day out, you have to toughen up and be able to deal with what’s thrown at you, right?
Well sort of. You definitely need to be able to deal with what’s thrown at you, and hold the space confidently for your client, no matter what they bring.
But what I found is that, instead of being more robust and feeling things less, I actually feel things more now. Much more.
I’ve found my emotions are much closer to the surface. I’m much more likely to find myself crying instead of bottling it up, or getting chills from an awe inspiring piece of music. But I feel that I’m a better counsellor for it. To be clear, it doesn’t mean I’m crying my eyes out in every session, that wouldn’t be a good look! I can hold my professional boundaries and can create a safe space for a client. But I find I can be more vulnerable with people I really trust in my everyday life. Of course, being vulnerable can feel uncomfortable. But being vulnerable is real, and authentic, and that builds connection.
Counselling is all about connection and learning to be more authentically me was one of the biggest challenges.
That others won’t always understand it
“So, you’re doing a little counselling course?” “How lovely, a new string to your bow!”
Just a couple of the many things well-meaning people have said to me about my training.
And, sure, there are many shorter, less life changing (cheaper!), counselling courses out there but I’ve come to realise that, unless you’ve been through it, no one quite understands what it takes.
A lot of people have the misconception that counselling is just listening, maybe a bit of nodding, a few thoughtful pauses and offering a tissue or two. And of course the plethora of unethical therapists on TV don’t help with the idea that counselling is something that can be done by anyone. Or at least done badly by anyone! So of course people are unlikely to realise what counselling training entails. They won’t see the hard work, dedication and emotion that goes into getting qualified.
So I have to make peace with the fact that people don’t always get it. They won’t understand what has been sacrificed to get here. And that’s ok, they don’t have to. I know why I’ve put this much of myself into training and, ultimately, it has all been worth it.
Trust the Process
Full disclosure, I inwardly groan when I hear this phrase. Spouted so much at the beginning of counselling training, it becomes the mantra that tutors and supervisors use frequently. I guess it’s supposed to inspire and encourage, making you feel like it will all work out - which is pretty infuriating to hear sometimes, particularly when you’re struggling with essays, or some personal issues to work through.
But (and I hate to say it), it is completely true. As I reached the end of my qualifying year, and looked back on my 100 client hours, I could finally see what they were all talking about. Those things that seemed so elusive like relational depth, and deeper empathy, now unfolded without effort in the counselling room. It seemed that the years of practice were finally paying off and my natural ‘way of being’ was developing.
And, when asked by my supervisor what I would say now to those fresh faced counsellors-in-training, what did I say? Yep, you guessed it - trust the process!
Amy Peters is an integrative counsellor working with adolescents and adults in Kent. With a background in support work, she is passionate about mental wellbeing and regularly shares her knowledge and tips in her wellbeing blog. Watch this space as Amy starts her new private practice, Newglade Counselling, specialising in working with neurodivergent individuals and their families. You can read Amy’s full blog here or contact her via her instagram page @newgladecounselling.