Therapist feedback on working for Palace Gate Counselling Service

In June, we published a new page on this blog giving examples of client feedback we have received recently:-

In the next couple of days, we will publish a companion page of feedback from our therapists, past and present, about how they experience working with us.

All our therapists are volunteers, giving at least 4 hours of their time each week to support the service we offer. They do this alongside earning a living, because they want high quality therapy (outside the limited NHS model) to be available to everyone, not just those who can afford commercial rates. At any one time, we have upwards of 20 therapists, with diverse day jobs in private practice, education, health, creative arts etc. We offer a few placements to training therapists in their final Diploma year, although at the moment all of our therapists are fully qualified, many with years’ experience.

They would not necessarily all self-describe as person-centred (although it is probably fair to say they all belong to the humanistic therapy tribe). They come from diverse trainings. Our application process is in part about identifying whether they/we feel there is a fit between our person-centred way of working, and their own philosophy and practice of therapy. We explore with them how deeply they have done their own work, and look for a sense of how able they might be to offer real relationship to those they work with, characterized by presence, depth and the core conditions.

Mostly this works. Our therapists are amongst the most effective we know, demonstrated by the life-changes made by the people they work with, and the feedback they receive. Many of them have chosen to stay with us for years, through the good times and the more challenging. We feel profound gratitude to them – our service could not exist in its present form if we needed to pay salaries. We have no employees and no external funding, aside from occasional small donations – ours is a gift culture, supported by our therapists and the 150 or so people per week who pay to come here, for a few weeks, a few months, occasionally a few years, if that is what is needed.

In the past few days, we have drawn some fire on social media from a small group centred around two Exeter therapists who used to work here. They have pursued a campaign of attack and vilification since 2012, when we unprecedentedly asked one to leave for what we thought was deeply unethical behaviour (the other left at the same time in linked circumstances). Since then, they have repeatedly published inaccurate and harmful statements about this service, unsupported by the detail of their actual allegations or the facts, with apparent reckless disregard for the interests of our clients. Whilst our preference would be to let the ashes of this old conflict grow cold, for everyone’s sake, their choice is otherwise. We have a responsibility to our clients and our therapists, past, present and future – so we will be saying more about this in the next few days.

In the meantime, by coincidence we received a letter recently, from a therapist who joined us in late 2013. She is an experienced practitioner and facilitator, with an exceptionally busy working life, so we were pleased at her choice to commit to a day a week here. She has just brought her work with us to a close – with reluctance on her side and ours – as part of a review and reduction of her workload. The letter captured for us some of the essence of what we seek to offer. So we checked with her if we could put it on this blog, and she agreed. It is our current practice not to publish therapist names (other than supervisors and the administrative team), because those we refer to in the previous paragraph have repeatedly targeted therapists at this service, and in some instances pressured them to leave and threatened them with consequences if they do not. We do not want to facilitate this behaviour, and the anger/distress it causes.

Here is the letter:-

‘Dear Lindsey and John,

It feels quite poignant to have come to this current conclusion of my relationship with PGCS and I wanted to write to you both with many thanks and some thoughts which I hope might be helpful and which you are welcome to publish in any way you wish.

I so value having met you both and have experienced each of you as people of great heart and authenticity. I think the work you are so generously upholding and enabling at PGCS is deeply healing and quite rare. I don’t personally know of other low cost agencies who are offering clients affordable long term depth work and providing the level of commitment and support that is available at PG.

I also appreciate the congruence between this deeply person centred approach to clients and the way the service is run as a work community. As an associate counsellor, I’ve felt respected and trusted in my clinical work, along with being well supervised and supported. Being able to have honest and warm working relationships with experienced colleagues is a real blessing and a great support to client work. 

PGCS has a team of practitioners from different modalities and it’s been nourishing and refreshing to be in a working environment where there is no one, fixed, external agenda about what counselling and psychotherapy ‘should be’, but rather an honouring of the unique, authentic and unfolding work of each colleague within a deeply ethical professional organisation.

Although my personal circumstances mean that I need to step back from my work at PGCS for now, I very much hope to be able to return in future. I hope the much needed service you are providing for clients and the very valuable training and learning opportunities you offer to counsellors and therapists will continue to grow and thrive.

With all my best wishes’

Qualified counsellor with 15 years’ experience

Thank you to that therapist for what she has offered us and those she worked with in the past year and a half, for taking the time to share her experience with us in this way, and for allowing us to share that further.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994


This entry was posted in conflict, core conditions, diversity, encounter, ethics, interconnection & belonging, internal locus of evaluation, medical model, non-conforming, non-directive counselling, Palace Gate Counselling Service, perception, person centred, political, power and powerlessness, presence, psychiatry, relationship, risk, scapegoating, therapeutic growth, therapeutic relationship, trust, values & principles, working with clients and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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