Learning Review 3 (Week 4)

 

This week was the return following a week off due to the College open evening.  We did the usual check-in; mine being a brief “I’m here” and that I felt it was an opportunity for me to unwind after a fraught couple of weeks at home.  Initially we had to go over to the library to complete some college admin work but it was also an opportunity to research the ethical frameworks of counselling professional bodies, other than the BACP.  We were put into partners and allocated the ACCPH – Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists.  When we got back to the room we then had to present our findings to the rest of the group which was interesting to hear how other people had collated their information.

I sometimes struggle to pull the needed information out of text – although I know what is needed, I can’t always see it in front of me.  I made a conscious effort to speak out and participate in discussions and reviews but only after I had the confidence of seeing others doing the same.  I’m always very conscious that I’m saying too much and don’t want to portray myself as someone who likes the sound of my own voice (believe me I don’t – I’ve heard the tapes!)

Before tonight’s session I felt a little anxiety.  The WhatApp group was red hot this week with an individual’s own anxiety.  Despite my efforts to quash these anxieties by contacting the tutor; to gain some information and relay it on; the individual was quite persistent to find out what work other people had done (when we had been told there was no need to).  This began to grate on me to a degree but I tried to be empathetic toward this person and understand how anxiety can manifest itself in persistent reassurance seeking.  I also found that within myself, I was slightly angered that my efforts to present this individual with information; that should provide them with reassurance (that we didn’t need to do the work); was rejected/ignored.

This is a trait of mine that I am becoming increasingly aware of recently.  If I have made some form of effort to help others but it isn’t reciprocated, or at least acknowledged and actioned to a degree, I start to shut down those efforts.  I feel “why bother”.  At this point I took myself away from the group for a while.

Needless to say my anxiety was quelled once in the group and hearing for sure that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t attempted the work.  Maybe to a degree, reassurance seeking on my own behalf?

 

I enjoyed the debate in the group that ignited as a result of doing the exercise surrounding certain dilemmas that a counsellor could face.  There are aspects of this career that sometimes get overlooked.  I found that I may struggle with certain ethical dilemmas because I’m a great believer in context.  Even the nicest and sincere of people can be driven to do “bad” things.  This is where we have to take into account the letter of the law.  It isn’t open to interpretation and is there in black and white.

 

We learnt that it is important to remain within our “limits of proficiency”; being able to recognise a situation where we feel you are out of our depth or conflicted in some way.  This is not only important for us as the counsellor but also for the client.  If they expect a certain level of service from us, we must be able to provide this service to a satisfactory standard.  It would be unfair to embark on a counselling journey with someone only to decide halfway through that we cannot deal with the issue (having known from the start – there will however be instances where certain issues will only come to light part way through the length of the relationship).  For example, if a client is experiencing issues in their life to do with gender or sexuality and we find this an uncomfortable subject; or maybe that you aren’t proficient or experienced enough to handle the client; it is our responsibility to notify the client and signpost them accordingly.  Likewise, if there is a disclosure of a crime being committed, we cannot act as judge and jury, we are duty bound to disclose serious crime to the relevant authorities.

 

The risks I took where when I used an example of how a rape victim may have successfully fought off an attacker and subsequently killed them.  I am always conscious of offending people and rape can be a very taboo subject in some cases (meaning if it is a subject close to someone in the group – it will always be a taboo subject, et al).  I was also conscious that although rape isn’t just an atrocity that women endure; society and cultural zeitgeists tend to instantly conjure up the image that victims of rape are women.  Being the only male in the room, I initially thought better of speaking out but I feel that the trust in the room and the courage that others have previously displayed, granted me the safety and confidence to speak up.

I need to start remembering more names now.  The lady I worked with tonight, I feel comfortable to work with, as in the first week we gravitated toward each other as we were both new and sat next to each other.  I am finding one or two individuals in the group difficult to work with for both different and similar reasons.  Both are outspoken, one I feel could be attributed to a lack of awareness and the other being an anxious confidence.  I am conscious of the feeling of discomfort it provokes within me so am trying to train myself to not be judgemental and supress the feeling, or at least train myself to react differently; with empathy.  I personally, am careful and choose my moments to speak with consideration of others; people who speak over others riles me but that’s me trying to apply my own standards onto others which isn’t fair.  Although I will still give myself permission to feel a momentary shudder when they do it!!

I would like to now start extending this development into my personal life.  There are moments when I feel I can also speak over others in complete hypocrisy of what I have just stated above, but only in the company of certain people.  For example I wouldn’t do it in a meeting at work and would apply the same consideration as I do in class but then at home where I am finding myself continually defending myself and justifying my actions, I am less tolerant and more outspoken.

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Week 2 Learning Review

So I made it back, just in the nick of time!  I really need to start taking traffic into account now as it’s been a nightmare getting there the past couple of weeks.  This week we were tasked with:

Bring in 3 items from home that communicate who you are as person, and what is important to you. Try to take a risk and choose at least one item that goes a little deeper. Note how you feel when choosing your items and why you make your choices.

This proved more difficult than I anticipated.  My initial thought was toward a material possession – but this doesn’t best describe me.  Other thoughts were toward items that provided an analogy, a cup of water that represents optimism or pessimism.  Then I looked towards objects that we bequeathed upon me from friends or relatives now departed but I don’t really have many that would describe me as a person other than my sentimentality.

I finally decided upon the following:

  1. An orange – representing that I’m well rounded although not perfect, a few dints and scars from my time spent in the fruit bowl that is life and once you get past the outer layer, I’m quite sweet on the inside – cheesy? Yes!  But I was struggling…
  2. A letter written by my fiancée (who’s idea it was), a character reference. This was left unopened and I offered a colleague the opportunity to read it out loud to me in the group.  It was a brave move; I took a risk; but I intentionally wanted to demonstrate how I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings and trusted the group.  It was strange having someone read something so personal that I’d only known for a couple of weeks but it was also nice to hear the content.  Admittedly I struggle taking on board compliments so when asked, I said I had issues believing the validity of it.
  3. Finally was a toy that my son had given me. I don’t want to share too much here but it was a last minute realisation that I had it in my possession and is possibly the single most important thing I own.  Funny how sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees!

I felt very pleased with the outcome and it brought an enormous sense of warmth to be able to share and trust the group, it was an excellent bonding exercise.  I actually am totally satisfied with the degree I pushed myself with this and I think would struggle to top it.  If it is ever asked of me, sharing some of my deepest thoughts with the group may be hard as I’d be ever conscious of over sharing which is a concern I voiced in the group this week.

I can’t yet decide who I am drawn to in the group, there are lots of warm energies, some more guarded and less confident.  I wouldn’t want to name names at this stage, but those emitting the above energy, I find easier to connect with.

I’ve found with this exercise, any loss or bereavement provokes a very strong emotional response within me.  When my colleagues were sharing the memories that their items held, I felt a very empathic connection to the feelings they were outwardly displaying.

I am on a path of self-discovery also whilst on this course and I’m worrying about what this will unearth about me.  Albeit, anything would be positive in the long run, as any negative aspects of my psyche that are discovered would only mean I would then be able to work at them for the greater good.

 

Level 3 – Week 1

As if I forgotten about you all!  I’ve once again made a last minute decision to enroll on a counselling course.  This time; after a 3 year hiatus; I’m now student again studying my Level 3 Counselling skills.

As well as an introduction this will serve as my learning review for week one.  As there wasn’t much academic work done, there isn’t much to say on the subject.  There were all the necessary forms filled in, badges and photos, brief brew breaks and ice breakers.

I spent most of my time working out the dynamic of the group, typically, I’m the only male!  I don’t know why I keep finding myself in these situations in life.  Maybe I’m drawn to more feminine activities?!  Who knows.

The group was divided; most had studied together previoulsy on the Level 2 as recent as last term.  The rest of us were returning after breaks of between 3-11 years.  I’d like to think that we will gel eventually and the divide will dissolve.

This time around I have made a conscious decision that I won’t leave my work until the last minute.  I was for ever chasing my tail and rushing work last time.  Given I was going through a very tough divorce which drained me of so much energy, my head wasn’t really in the best place at the time.

Maybe this time, being the newbie to the group with no-one being known to me will be a bonus.  I will be able to concentrate a bit more, choose to limit my sharing and remain a tad more mysterious.

I learnt there will be a residential this time, which is something admissions said there wouldn’t be.  This shouldn’t be too much of an issue – it falls on a free night and day.  I also learnt that as of next year they will be offering the Lv4 which is fantastic news.  It’s all very serendipotus.

 

Learning Review – Week 7

Learning Review – Week 7
21/1/15

During this week’s session we swapped things around slightly and did our skills practice first. I felt this worked well as people seemed to have more energy and responded well. I was happy with my skills practice.
From the point of view of the observer I noted that the helper practiced her contract well. The BACP Framework was mentioned along with the usual confidentiality clauses. It is getting easier to notice certain skills and the lack of them which makes for good feedback. This is giving me confidence that I’m grasping the basics and varied skills used throughout a session.

The main part of our session this week was the film clip we watched where a common family situation was played out. We meet Mary, who is a mother of a teenage son; Shaun; still living at home. We hear music playing loudly from out of the room and Mary is clearly agitated by this as she is making a cup of tea and just wants a quiet moment before work. Shaun arrives in the kitchen and appears to be ignoring his mother’s requests to turn it down. Mary is exasperated by this and seems to be at her wits end. I would imagine this is frustrating for her as she feels she is entitled to some quiet time in her home before a busy day at work. There’s also the aspect that her son is ignoring her and disrespecting her.
When Mary is walking to work in the next scene we see her looking at the local playground and reflecting on when Shaun was a child and they were happier, easier times. This tells me that she doesn’t dislike her son and longs for some form of bond with him again like when he was a child. She appears to be blaming herself for the situation and saying “I don’t know where I went wrong”. This could imply that she has or hasn’t done something’s that she feels she should or shouldn’t have done. It could also just as easily be that she hasn’t done anything wrong but it’s just the way her son is growing up.
In the next scene we see Shaun talking to a friend (who is less than interested and on his phone) and saying that he feels his mum is nagging at him all the time. If Shaun genuinely feels he hasn’t done anything wrong and that his mum is just venting all her anger at him with him being the only one in the house, I would ask him if he has sat down with her to discuss his concerns. Maybe this could be seen as fixing or offering a solution – time will tell when my skills develop.

We next see Mary going to meet with somebody at work who is able to offer some time to listen. Confidentiality is discussed and a time boundaries are set. Mary explains that she is very annoyed with her son and that she endures the same thing every day. She wants her cup of tea in peace and she feels the music is intrusive. He is using supplies such as milk and then complains when there isn’t any left. Again there must be frustration and despair on Mary’s part as she is working to provide and she is at the end of her tether.
The counsellor notes that Mary seems agitated and asks what she wants from the session.
Mary wants Shaun to change – his ways and outlook to life I’d imagine – she is at the end of her tether and had enough. Shaun left college and refused to go on.
The counsellor then reflected and said Mary was fed up.
Mary explains that the situation is now affecting work and all she wants to do is a days work.
The counsellor paraphrases that Although things are bad at home she just wants to be able to concentrate at work and then be able to cope at home.
Mary responds by saying she feels powerless which is reflected back by the counsellor and added that it seems Mary wants to move away from the situation.
Mary doesn’t feel she can move away and remembers when they used to get on and smiles when remarking he was a lovely kid.
The counsellor offers an empathic understanding that it feels painful and sad for Mary.
Mary then states Shaun cannot stay at home all day and something has to change. His behaviour and the noise appears to be really getting to Mary and agitating her.
She wants to meet halfway and maybe come to some arrangement or compromise with Shaun.
When the counsellor asks how does it feel when they cant meet halfway Mary replies she feels trapped with no idea what to do. She likened it to having a crying baby and not knowing how to stop it. She isn’t handling the stress very well and whenever they walk into a room together they just argue straight away. This must feel like they are stuck in a rut and going round in circles as there is no communication between them and things won’t be getting resolved. Mary’s hands are together at this point and seem anxious. She remarks that they are living in 2 different worlds.
When the session starts to come to a closure Mary begins to say how she wants to find a way to connect with Shaun so he feels like her son again and not an enemy. Now they row as soon as they get together and both need to resist the arguments. She acknowledges that she has been on his case which is a good starting point for her to be able to begin establishing a channel of communication which is what she wants.
Mary also adds though that Shaun needs to start doing what grown-ups do and look at his education which is a way for Mary to establish a boundary with Shaun should they begin to act amicably.
Mary’s distress was then reflected by the counsellor and the session was summarised by covering her agitation and her feelings of being powerless to change.

My Contract – v1 !

So as any budding counsellor will know; the counselling contract is what sets our boundaries, expresses limits of ability and also sets expectations.  As an exercise we were asked to create a draft of our contract and also produce bullet pointed prompts.  Here is a copy of my contract, I’d really appreciate any feedback from anybody as it’s new to me so pointers would be welcomed.  Please note; this is written as it is supposed to be recited so will read as script.

Contract

“Hi, my name is Chris – can I just confirm your name is ****** – is this how you like to be known? Are you comfortable, is everything ok for you?

I’d just like to quickly go over a few things with you. When we embark on a course of counselling we go over what’s called a “contract”. Don’t worry it isn’t as scary as it sounds, we do it to make sure that you are fully aware of what counselling can offer and that it is an appropriate way of us addressing what’s on your mind.

So I’d like to begin by making you aware that I’m not a fully qualified counsellor as of yet but I am working towards the qualification and will be using my listening skills today. I work within the BACP ethical framework – so the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy is a professional body that all qualified or training counsellors are accountable to.

All our sessions are held in the strictest of confidence with the exception of you indicating to me that you are putting the safety and wellbeing of yourself or others at risk or if you should mention any involvement with or intention of carrying out any form of terrorist activity. If this is the case I will have to take that outside of the room to my supervisor but you will be notified first.

The sessions are generally 50 mins long and are arranged in 6 week blocks but for today we will be aiming for about 10 mins. Don’t worry about this though as I will be taking care of timekeeping and will give you an idea of when we normally start wrapping things up.

We will be using the “Person Centred Approach” which basically means; today is all about you. You will be leading the session and choosing a topic, I am merely here to listen to you and let you talk about your concerns.

So are you ok with what I’ve discussed – any questions? Ok so over to you – how would you like to begin?”

Week 3 Learning Review

Week 3 got off to a hectic start for me.  I had a flying visit at Slimming World (!) which resulted in everyone wanting to catch up following the Xmas party the previous week – plus I was late so ended up at the back of the queue which put me back quite a bit.

I arrived at Class feeling quite harassed and stressed so got myself together and sat down ready for what the night had to bring.  I have to say the check in and centering was quite a welcome bonus as for 5 mins I got to compose myself which was really refreshing.

 

We started of by going over the lesson plan which was as follows:

  • Explore Boundaries
  • Confidentiality
  • Contracting
  • Reasearching BACP Ethical Framework
  • Feedback Skills
  • Triad Work

Starting with Boundaries which is something I’ve covered on here previously we did an exercise where we had to speak out about something we have trouble saying “no” to.  The obvious choice here I felt would be work.  I regularly feel frustrated but also at the same time, obliged to accept everything thrown my way.  I think this stems from a need to impress my senior management that my Dad instilled in me from an early [working] age.

He’d always say “keep your head down” and “go the extra mile” as he was in management himself and said these are the things that get you noticed…

I do this when I feel there will be an end result but recently after 3 years of doing so I was taken advantage of at work and ended up with the responsibility of somebody 2 pay bandings higher than me.

Ironically even though I said I’d never do that again for them – I am!  As of 2 weeks back…

So back on track – I didn’t use work; I had the following:

  • College or Slimming World – I’ve had to sacrifice on for another and I’m really struggling at the moment as I’m terrified I’ll gain weight again and return to a very unhappy place.
  • Family commitments – having to turn up to gymnastics every Saturday morning and just sit there waiting for my wife and daughter and then ferry them to dancing.  I feel like I’m taken advantage of and when ever I bring it up my wife says it’s time to spend together as a family.
  • Using my savings – I regularly have to dib into my pots of cash such as the money I save for the cars etc to fund a lifestyle I feel is beyond our means.  I do this as it’s easier than the repercussions of saying no to certain people.

This was discussed primarily because when volunteering in counselling role it is easy to find yourself being taken advantage of.  You need to maintain a manageable workload for safeguarding of the client.  This would also reflect in your limits of ability.  I agree as per my initial work related “no” above – I can relate to this.  Agreeing to everything eventually means one of if not all of the balls you are juggling will be dropped.  This could one day be a clients wellbeing or even your own.  If you let your guard down and inappropriately react to a client this could have a detrimental effect on the counselling relationship.

By continually saying “yes” you find that you are always assuming responsibility and not delegating work to others.  This could be a reflection of a controlling tendency which I feel I am guilty of sometime.  I will say though any controlling from me as a person is done with the best of intentions – or I would like to think so anyway!

 

We did our first skills practice this time.  I have to say it was nice and easy to get back into the swing of things and I got some really positive feedback in terms of my contract.  I was a little confused about the extra things that were added to the contract this time such as the mention of suspicion of any terrorist activity.  I personally would have thought that the mention of threat to life of self or others would have encompassed this.

 

I will be typing up my contract which I’ll post up here into the learning material section.

A stark realisation

Sitting in a cafe at a local health centre where I provide IT support, it suddenly dawned on me.  I’m currently at work, I’ve been asked to come here, I’m not skiving so there’s no guilt that I’m shurking my responsibilities.  I’m wearing a nice suit that I’ve only just been able to fit in since losing weight, I’m still in touch with the office if they need me and I’ve got “First Steps in Counselling” in front of me by Pete Sanders.  It dawned on me while sipping a cup of tea and blogging – I’m actually living one of my dreams!

I remember a Chris from years ago dreaming about being suited and booted, doing some form of job, able to chill out now and again and catch up with my work in a relaxed environment.  Well this is it – I’d love to go back and tell him “don’t worry” because one day it will happen – 11th December 2014 when you’re 35 you’ll be chilling out in a nice little cafe while waiting for someone to their bit of work which will then let you do your bit.  No rush – no stress – just enjoy the moment…

Well that’s what I’m doing right now – enjoying this exact moment in time.  I may not be the next time I read this but I’d like this to serve as reminder to me (and you) that not all times are bad.  There are good times but they get clouded sometimes by life other trials and tribulations.

Have an good day people – and remember to be awesome.

Week 2 Learning Review

Howdy,

Week 2 over and done with.  We started on the skills learning today which was reminiscent of the introduction.  Paraphrasing, Reflecting and we briefly touched on Boundaries.  I felt it was nice going into this forearmed with the knowledge I’d gained in the intro as some people looked light rabbits in the proverbial headlights when the key skills were being mentioned.

Our exercise for the night was an informal “Triad”.  Basically we had a conversation.  This entailed the fundamentals of having a conversation such as opening it up, choosing a topic, leading, listening, asking questions.  I felt that this was a way for us to analyse something we do every day without even thinking about it.

Wendy mentioned that we use listening skills every day such as paraphrasing but we don’t tend to have a name for it at the time.  I agree that during normal conversation, the structure does encompass PCA listening skills.  I felt very comfortable during the triad as is was just an informal chat with no pressure to use your skills in an absolute way.  As we knew the intention behind the exercise I felt we were more aware of the purpose and that when certain criteria were hit we were reflecting on this and highlighting things such as “we just paraphrased” or “I just reflected your feelings there”.

There were certainly interesting topics discussed, purely by accident, with Anna in terms of how important body language is especially as she was an English speaking Polish person.  It was also discussed that body language in different countries and cultures can mean something completely different which I feel is important to consider in the Listening Role as sometimes our client may not be conveying the message we are receiving which is why reflection is important for clarification as well as acknowledgement of understanding.

I really need to concentrate on putting time aside at home to do my work more which is worrying me. I’ve left this learning review once again until the next week so things aren’t so fresh in my mind now. I made a point of doing them on a Tuesday morning when I was on the intro so now maybe I really need to start doing them on the Friday after Thursdays Lv2 class.

I must admit I’m not looking forward to the new criteria and the work that will go with it as my academic skills have never been very strong but I feel that it is my own [unfounded] doubt that is stopping me from grabbing this opportunity by the proverbials.

Week 1 Learning Review

So I made it – Introduction is complete and I’ve embarked on Lv2.

We started with a new group but there were 2 familiar faces in the guise of John and Mark.  It was basically the paperwork day.  Some people hadn’t done the intro so I can see us covering alot of the earlier ground again such as contracts, boundaries, openings and endings.

We constructed our group agreement:

  • Non Judgemental
  • Respectful
  • No Descrimination
  • Listening with no interuptions
  • Cooperation
  • Confidentiality
  • Honesty
  • Mobile Phones on silent
  • Attendance
  • Mindfullness.

Our first exercise was to empty the contents of our pockets and draw a conclusion as to the personality of the person from the items.

Johns pockets we minimal – a phone showing his preparedness and £3 for brew money!  Mine contained sweet wrappers – less said..

We moved onto Hopes and Fears which were identical to the intro course.

Hopes:

To Pass

Balance other commitments

Develop listening skills

Fit in

Improve coursework

Kepp up with criteria

Succed and progress

Fears:

Struggling with coursework.

we had a brief QA on “What is listening” which we defined as Hearing what is being said, paying attention, Taking in what is being said and empathic communication.  “Safe Space” came up in terms of how we can create this for clients – comfort and nice chairs, windows in the room, temparature, noise level, free from distraction were all things that were suggested.  In addition; meeting the client at the door so they don’t have to tell a receptionist why they are there.  Vanilla decor – no personal artifacts.  Privacy to be respected – not able to overhear the conversation.

Providing the user with all the information you can will ease any anxiety, locations, parking and charges etc.  What would we do if they didn’t turn up – is there a safegurding issue with ringing them – maybe a violent or controlling partner will answer.  Check their prefered contact method – will they want refreshments, all things to consider.

We did a brilliant exercise where we were given a maze on a piece of paper and then told without looking we needed to navigate our partner thorugh the maze (drawing a line) by communicating by any means except speech.  We opted for using the points of a compass translated into numbers of taps 1 for North etc.

When we had finished we were asked what we thought the purpose was to which I replied “as we had seen the maze already it would have been different to if we didn’t know the shape.  We knew where we were going we just needed some guidence on how to get there.”

I was pleased to hear that this was on the nose and basically the foundation of counselling

I’m really looking forward to this further journey and can’t wait for week 2.