Not long ago, we asked our therapists for feedback on their experience with us, as a person-centred service (client-facing, and in terms of how we operate our community of therapists working collaboratively). We put together two questionnaires, one for longer-standing therapists and one for those on/just after placement. One of the responses came from Sally, who began with us as an office volunteer. She was also training to be a therapist, and subsequently we offered her and she accepted a placement with us in her final year of training. We loved Sally’s ‘new baby’ metaphor. It is representative of much of the feedback we received about how people experience working here, and it seemed to capture very beautifully what we seek to offer (and reassure us that this is – at least enough – communicated and received). We are using the feedback to explore how we work as a service, and how we can learn and grow.
We asked Sally if she would be up for our publishing a summary of her responses on this blog, and she was. Here is her account:-
My Experience as an Office Volunteer & later a Placement Student at PGCS
When I first started as an Office Volunteer, there was a bit of a closed feeling about room 2 and the availability of Lindsey and John[i] which I believe, knowing what I know now, may have been to do with the complaint that they were working to deal with[ii]. This combined with my own stuff about needing to know who’s in charge and acceptance from authority figures, fear of making mistakes etc, etc. and the result was that I put John and Lindsey in to Headmaster and Deputy Head roles, with room 2 being the headmaster’s office, and therefore somewhat scary and unapproachable. This has been valuable material for me to process and I have been able to challenge and change this perception.
Being in John’s supervision group is giving me the opportunity to change the Headmaster perception (work in progress!). John’s openness around his experiencing of the group and groups in general is helping with this as well as my processing of my own stuff around being in groups.
Lindsey and/or John are often in when I see my clients and I feel that they are approachable and willing to offer support if needed. I’m just doing a quick scan of my time at PGCS so far and I can’t think of anytime when I have asked for help or support and didn’t get what I needed. I definitely feel I could talk to Chris[iii] if I need to. I feel I am in safe hands with Lesley[iv]. There are a number of people that I could ask.
Early on I asked for some guidance around number of sessions/fee regarding one of my clients. I was happy with Lindsey’s impromptu supervision at the time but was, I suppose, looking for an absolute rule and brought it up in group supervision. I came away feeling a bit confused by what seemed like conflicting guidance.
I was reminded of being a new parent and feeling that I needed someone to tell me exactly how many times a day to feed my baby. My mum might say one thing, a friend another and the health visitor something else – there was no definitive answer. Before long I could work these things out for myself and that getting some of the little things wrong would not harm my baby, in fact this was how I learned to be the sort of parent I could be. I learned to trust my instincts. I found it helpful to play with this analogy of me as trainee counsellor feeling like me as new parent and my baby being my client work.
So, from that confusion, I have now moved to a place where I feel PGCS’s person-centred way of doing things allows me room to learn, grow and follow my instincts, knowing it is ok to make mistakes. Without being hemmed in by rigid and absolute ways of doing things, PGCS offers a professional, safe place for client work in a different way.
I feel safe and supported by people rather than policies and procedures and feel that my client work is safe and supported too.
Sally, Palace Gate Counselling Service
[i] John and Lindsey are members of the supervision team here, and have a big part in running the service.
[ii] We will be posting on this separately. It refers to a conflict between therapists, not a client complaint.
[iii] Chris is our placement co-ordinator and does a lot of admin for us too.
[iv] Lesley is senior supervisor, and works 1:1 with Sally.