Therapist Feedback

In June this year, we posted a page of recently received client feedback, with some context.

This page is the therapist version – comments and observations from those who choose to work here, often for many years. It’s long, because we wanted to cover the various areas people commented on, and also be representative of our whole community. So you may prefer to dip in and out, rather than read it all in one go….

So how come we are putting up this page?

Our service can be seen as:-

  • a community – 20-25 therapists choose to work here, alongside their day jobs in private practice and employment, because they share something of our ethos; and
  • a gift culture – we exist because everyone who works here volunteers their time, and because some people pay a full commercial rate for our service, which allows us to provide the same service to others on low incomes or benefits, at an affordable rate, without compromising on quality. Without volunteers, we would not be here – 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, office volunteers 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.

We have in the past three years created this blog, our twin ethos statements (for those who work with our therapists# and for the therapists themselves##), and published a significant amount about how we work and how we see therapy. We intend to do more of that going forward. We feel deeply concerned about many aspects of the current therapeutic scene (and the social paradigms that support that), and a responsibility to participate in conversations about it – within our service, within Exeter and beyond. Not everyone here has the desire or the time to contribute to this blog (although we welcome and tout for contributions). It feels really important to find a way to include their voices and their experiences – hence this page.

We have also had substantial feedback from the new therapists coming into our service this year in particular, about how useful they have found some of this material in deciding to apply here. We are noticing an increasing trend for those people to be qualified, highly experienced therapists, who are specifically choosing to come to us, because their perception is that we offer something different and important, and they want to be part of that. So we want to have the conversation with our future therapists too – because it is our therapists’ passion, commitment, skill and experience that allows us to provide our service.

All our therapists volunteer 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 qualified, many with years’ experience.

They would not necessarily all self-describe as person-centred (although it is fair to say they all belong to the humanistic therapy tribe). They come from diverse training backgrounds. 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. Once they join us, we continue to work together through our in-house supervision and informal peer support. Our intention is to support each other in deepening what we have to offer those coming to this service.

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, and we know those they work with do too.

# https://palacegatecounsellingservice.wordpress.com/our-ethos/

## https://palacegatecounsellingservice.wordpress.com/our-ethos-statement-for-our-therapists/

The Feedback (this is a representative sample of feedback given over the past three years)

On our service

‘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

 

‘Clients recommend other family members, friends and colleagues to Palace Gate because of their experience’

Experienced therapist, with us around a decade

 

‘I feel well supported in my client work. My sense is that I have an understanding of the PG policies on no-shows, cancellations, number of sessions etc and that there is an ideal scenario and that within that I have flexibility to make some different choices depending on my client’s situation, particularly if they are long term clients. So I feel I have enough autonomy to support my clients in the way I feel they need to be supported’

Experienced therapist

 

‘I have always felt it had a nice relaxed atmosphere which has also often been commented on by clients……I feel it’s a great service as it can be as flexible and individual as each client can be. Clients seem to appreciate the flexibility that is offered’

Therapist, a few years post qualification

 

‘The feedback I receive from clients is very positive about the service we offer’

Experienced therapist

 

‘PG provides a much needed and valued serviced particularly for long term clients who have often tried the GP routes and mental health service and found them unhelpful.

It is fundamentally important to me that PG continues to provide a service whereby clients can pay for counselling on a means basis and that even though they are unable to pay the going rate to be seen privately that they have access to qualified counsellors and are able to be in a therapeutic relationship for as long as they need’

Another experienced therapist

 

‘PG offers a professional, safe place for client work in a different way’

Recently qualified therapist

 

On our ways of working with each other

‘I have absolute trust in the ethics & integrity of PGCS & the people who work within this community. It has at times been my sanctuary’

Qualified therapist

 

‘There is a really good framework of support and help from admin team and supervisors’

Final year Diploma student on placement

 

‘It has always felt a safe place to work and I feel that comes across with clients. I feel especially in my early days there was plenty of support’

Qualified therapist, who did her placement with us

 

‘I feel very privileged to have found Palace Gate Counselling Service which has enabled me to develop as a counsellor with the support and nourishment required to enable me to grow into the counsellor I want to be…precious and rejuvenating time’

Recently qualified therapist

 

‘Just a few weeks ago I asked for some guidance around number of sessions/fee re. one of my clients. I was happy with what 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 PG’s person-centred way of doing things allows me room to learn, grow and follow my instincts, knowing its ok to make mistakes. Without being hemmed in by rigid and absolute ways of doing things. I feel safe and supported by people rather than policies and procedures and feel that my client work is safe and supported too’

Final year Diploma student on placement (now a year qualified & still with us)

 

‘If I did not want to talk to my supervisor I know that I could easily contact one of the others. The systems in place are open and transparent….All the supervision and admin staff are supportive and friendly’

Another final year Diploma student on placement

 

‘It feels like a place where everything is managed well & the policies & systems are well thought through, tried & tested & operate in the background. I feel I am given the space to work things out for myself & ask if I need help – the offer of that support has been there but not forced….

I feel supported in an appropriate way….I don’t feel I have ever been left in the dark about anything…I feel supported but not pampered….The longer I am here the greater respect I have for this approach & I am beginning to see how it permeates everything’ 

New placement student in final Diploma year, now qualified & still with us

 

‘When I first started as an OV*, there was a bit of a ‘closed’ feeling about room 2 and the availability of Lindsey and John which I believe, knowing what I know now, may have been to do with the complaint** that they were working to deal with. 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. The result was that I rather 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… 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 PG so far and I can’t think of anytime when I asked for help or support and didn’t get what I needed’

* Office Volunteer

** This was a dispute with two ex-work colleagues, both therapists. It was not a client complaint and did not relate to our client work.

Final year Diploma student on placement (now a year qualified & still with us)

 

‘I ask anyone I see and whoever it is, is always extremely helpful. I don’t think I feel as though there are any barriers when approaching anyone at Palace Gate’

Another final year Diploma student on placement

 

‘I experience the ‘feel’ of PG as deeply rooted in the Person-Centred approach. To me this has manifested as an evolving sense of myself as equal in this community, regardless of my experience (or lack of)’

Recently qualified therapist

 

‘Chris has always been…approachable…I knew I could talk to her, my supervisor or indeed the other counsellors in my group supervision at any time’

Another recently qualified therapist

 

‘I know at any time I can go to any of the supervision/admin team and have done so when I needed to …’

Therapist who did her placement with us some years ago, and remains with us

 

About our in-house supervision

‘[Group] It feels a respectful and supportive environment in which the personal and professional challenges of person-centred work can be explored’

and:-

‘[1:1] It is a relationship in which I feel safe, understood and held and also one where I can be challenged which I very much appreciate’

Experienced therapist, working in Lesley’s group & with John 1:1

 

‘[Group] I very much enjoy being part of this group. In the early days of my training I found it difficult to find my voice in the group and I didn’t have a clear idea what the purpose of group supervision was. At the time I would have liked encouragement to participate, however I recognise now that becoming part of the group is an individual process which for me began by observing more experienced therapists processing their thoughts and feelings, and from there developing my own trust in the support of the group and that it was a safe arena for exploration. Ultimately I feel that this group has allowed me to develop trust in my relationship with the group at my own pace which has empowered me to take responsibility for my full participation in the group’

and:-

‘[1:1] I feel thoroughly supported by John in my supervision. Our relationship has developed and deepened through the course of my training and I experience John’s genuine respect and care for me. I feel listened to and heard. I also experience and value the freedom to use the supervision space however I need to. This might include exploration of how I’m working with my clients and the impact of the work on me, how my personal life impacts on my counselling, as well as learning from John’s thoughts, perspectives and experience which I feel free to use or not as I see fit. John offers this support all the time and not just in my allocated supervision; this has been hugely important to me on several occasions when I have experienced challenges I have felt to be overwhelming, John has offered me space to offload and process this….’

Recently qualified therapist, about John’s supervision group & 1:1 work

 

‘[Group] V helpful to have in-house supervision as we all have the same goal; self development and healing and progress for clients’

and:-

‘safety to share strengths and vulnerability/edge. Constructive without judgement’

Experienced therapist, about John’s group & 1:1 work

 

‘[Group] I find my group supervision encompasses all that is PCA. It allows me to examine my own process ; share my client experience; seek enlightenment and encouragement from my peers; offer the same….I feel all of me is welcome in my group’

and:-

‘My experience of working with John has developed over time. Initially, I was the novice rather in awe of such an experienced elder. I perceived and experienced his gender and role in the organisation as blocks to my congruence when struggling with my inexperience and need to get things ‘right’. John shared his own frustration with this perception of himself and encouraged me to dig deep into my own process in order to expand what I was offering my clients.

As we have continued to work together and get to know each other, I have really appreciated how willing he is to share his own experiences and views. The fact that we can now disagree as easily as agree shows me how I have been encouraged to mature in our relationship. I appreciate his humour too!’

Experienced therapist, about Lindsey’s group & John’s 1:1

 

‘Nice to experience 2 different supervisors – both of whom I can sense their experience and wisdom’

Another final year Diploma student on placement (now a year qualified & still with us), about 1:1 with John and group with Lesley

 

‘I have found John to be approachable, understanding and supportive. He has always given me time explore any issues I have wanted to bring and allowed me to set my own agenda for supervision. He has challenged some of my thoughts and beliefs on occasion and on reflection I have always come away having learnt something about myself. Supervision has enabled me to grow as a therapist. It has enhanced my practice and increased my confidence’

Experienced therapist, who has been with us a decade, about 1:1

 

‘[Group] Great learning experience. Provides a necessary space for me to hear about how other counsellors fare; their experience, their dilemmas, their views etc. I feel as though I could talk about anything whilst being supported by the other group members and supervisor. I have discussed one small dilemma and the advice and support I received from the supervisor really helped me’

and:-

‘[1:1] The support provided is invaluable. I feel as though I can discuss any concerns without judgement; I can really ‘open up’. It feels a very special hour and a quarter; one which I am grateful for’

New placement student in her final Diploma year, about Lindsey’s group & Lesley’s 1:1

Palace Gate Counselling Service

Counselling Exeter since 1994

1 August 2015

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