Through this blog, we spend a lot of time sharing some of how we see therapy at this service, and some of our experiences/thoughts doing this work. This feels important and useful, in terms of having and furthering dialogues in the therapeutic world. Within a person-centred ethos, it has from the outset also felt essential to swing around to other perspectives, and particularly those of people accessing therapy here or elsewhere. So we often post relevant links.
In addition, we are today launching a new ‘Feedback’ resource, because it feels helpful for people thinking about coming to this service, to have an opportunity to hear from those who have already done so.
There are various routes by which people can give us feedback. Our therapists routinely check in with people they work with, on how they think the work is going, on what is working well, on what might need more time, on where they wish to put attention and intention. Those reviews inform our counselling supervision process.
We also have an Ethos Statement covering our therapeutic work:-
For people coming here, their primary therapeutic relationship is with their particular therapist. However they are also in relationship with us as a service. Ethical responsibility is held between therapist and service. It is important to us to monitor the quality of the service we offer, to support our therapists in the work they do, and to stay in close contact with that work. We do this through our in-house supervision function, and also in other ways. Our Ethos Statement offers a route for people accessing therapy to engage directly with our supervision and administrative teams, in case that is wanted or needed – although, in practice, this is rare and most people choose to talk to their own therapist.
We don’t go in here for many fixed policies and procedures – from a person-centered perspective, everything is moment/circumstance-specific, and so we favour processes…. to allow us to engage with whatever arises, carefully and responsively. From that starting point, we think it can be useful to have a number of different ways to do something, on the basis that one size does not fit all. So a few months ago, we created a further system to offer people coming to this service the opportunity to give direct written feedback on their experience. We structured this:-
- so we are not soliciting feedback – this is a ‘passive’ offering, and it is entirely with the relevant person whether or not they pay attention to the opportunity and choose to give feedback;
- to allow privacy (including from their therapist, if they want that);
- to allow anonymity if the person concerned wants that – although they can of course choose to give their name, and they have the option of asking for a response from our supervision team (so far no-one has taken up this latter possibility);
- to offer them the option of allowing us to share their feedback. So far, everyone has chosen to do this. Many choose this service because they have a colleague, friend or family member with experience of us. It feels important to us – and clearly to them – to share information about people’s experiences here, where we can, for others to use in their decision-making process around choosing a therapist.
Since we instituted the system, we have received a steady trickle of responses, from some of the 150 or so people who come here each week. The majority do not participate, preferring instead to cover feedback in sessions.
In size and client numbers, this is a substantial service, and so people often perceive a substantial organization standing behind that. We have a lot of experience and wisdom under our roof. We offer affordable therapy to those who could not afford private rates, and also work with many people who pay a full commercial rate to come here. We work with a wide range of issues, and people with significant psychiatric histories, and/or difficulties in accessing helpful services elsewhere At any one time, we have some 20-25 qualified therapists, with diverse day jobs in private practice, education, the health service etc. They volunteer time here, because it matters to them that high quality therapy is available to everyone. We are also a long-standing service – of nearly 20 years. All of that can create the false perception of a large professional structure, with paid employees. In fact, we are a group of volunteers, working collaboratively, with no employees at all and all the administration done on an unpaid basis by a tiny handful of people.
So in that context especially, we have been touched and heartened by the nature of this feedback. Clearly we already have a sense day-to-day, of the value of what we offer people. They tell us. They recommend us. We see the effects of their doing the work they came to do. For most of our history, we were organisational members of the BACP (we chose to leave in October 2013, for reasons covered elsewhere in this blog). We never experienced a client complaint, nor have we since we left. So we know how much this service matters, both to its clients and its therapists. But for all that, it has meant a lot to see people’s experiences recorded in words. So thank you to those people, and to our therapists working with them.
‘[therapist name removed] has been of terrific help. I value her professional assistance most highly.’
‘When I first started seeing [therapist name removed], I felt so low I really saw no way out of my dark gloomy world. At that time I was skeptical that just talking about my life would have any effect. But the way she makes you think and question why you think and feel the way you do in a totally non threatening unbiased way is a real credit to her. And over a period of time she has helped me change the way I feel about myself, my life and I now see a light at the end of the tunnel. I respect [her] skill and professionalism and genuine deep caring. I would not hesitate to recommend [her] and Palace Gate to anyone, the thought of where I’d be now without them is a frightening one.’
‘My therapist [name removed] is fantastic! She’s very professional and makes me feel very comfortable in our sessions.’
‘[therapist name removed] has been a massive part of my recovery from a very traumatic time. It has been invaluable to me. Without this service I would be lost. Thank you so much.’
‘[therapist name removed] is amazing and has helped me so much – thank you all for providing such a wonderful service.’
‘My therapist seems to ‘get me’ right away or checks if she is not sure. I feel understood and empathised for, not alone – so important. Sometimes keeping the meeting is all that keeps me going.’
‘A very valuable and discreet service. [therapist name removed] has helped me rationalise and move forward by intelligent and thought-provoking questions and alternate viewpoints.’
‘[therapist name removed] has always shown me genuine care, respect and kindness, to match her great knowledge and skills as a counsellor. I cannot praise her enough.’
‘You really helped me find my feet, when it seemed everything was too much to handle. I can’t quite put into words the impact our sessions had.’
‘[therapist name removed] dealt with my panic attacks very well, She was really great and with out her support at times I do not know where I would be today. I have to say that Palace Gate was a true help to me and I could not have wished for better. If I wanted more counselling, I would like to have it at Palace Gate.’
‘I find the service extremely valuable. It is affordable, which is important. I find my therapist [name removed] very good. She listens and responds in a way that makes me feel valued.’
‘Thank you so much for all the help and support you gave me this past year. I am so truly grateful and thought you might like to know [piece of personal good news]. I doubt very much that would have happened without you.’
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994