What is a placement like at Help?

One of our trainee counsellors, Dave, kindly shared what it is like to be a trainee counsellor on placement at Help Counselling…

Would you recommend Help as a placement to other trainee counsellors?

Yes, absolutely.  The supervision at Help is excellent.  I feel held and supervised.  The environment is well organised as I have set slots; it is an easy place to work.

Why did you choose to come and do a placement at Help?

Help Counselling was recommended to me by a friend I was working with as a trainee at another centre.

How long have you been here?

I have worked with Help for 4 years and have progressed.  I now act as a coordinator to support other trainees.

Why have people typically come to Help?

People come to Help Counselling because they are typically struggling with something in their lives.  They may be going through a period of depression and feeling isolated and lonely.  In other cases there may be something bubbling under the surface that has been there a long time but is now starting to manifest itself in a real way and they need help addressing it.

How many different clients have you had (approx) during your tenure?

About 11; I have been lucky to have some longer term cases which has enabled me to develop a variety of techniques.

What type of issues do your clients suffer from?

For the most part my clients have suffered from: depression and anxiety, suicidal idealization and relationship breakdown.

What form does a therapy session usually take?

The way I work may be different to other therapists but I do not start with a set agenda.  I want to understand what their needs are first and then we explore the best way to approach it.  I try to tailor the approach to the client.

How do you make someone feel comfortable?

I am a human being first with the same difficulties and vulnerabilities that everyone else has.  People think therapists have the answers but what I want to do is sit down and have a conversation.  It is sometimes difficult meeting someone for the first time so what I want to do is connect as one human to another.

What type of therapeutic techniques have you used to help them?

I actively use five different techniques – it very much depends on the individual’s needs.  Included are:

  1. Person-centred: the focus on the therapeutic relationship – being present/ listening and supportive.   I have a deep faith in humanity and the power of healing.  This is the technique I use most often.
  2. Psycho-dynamic: identifying how previous relationship dynamics can be mirrored and how that  behaviour can be projected on to unrelated relationships.
  3. Existential: where the route of the client’s problem is identified with their own mortality and deep concern about death.
  4. Gestalt: identifying signs and indicators manifested through the body.  Therefore how someone sits or holds their hands may be a symptom of anger or frustration.
  5. Creative ways of working: using sand trays and drawings to explore the unconscious.  It helps to break down inhibitions and helps people find their own meaning.

How do you know whether someone is making progress?

I can see a mood shift but in truth, only the client knows if they are making progress.  The reality is that sometimes the process can take a while to take effect.  Being able to express yourself is so important and an integral part of the process.  What I try to do is to make a space for change and be persistent in helping people through what they are facing.

When do you know that further therapy would benefit your client?

My clients always seems to know.  Respecting what is important for each person is the key.

When would you recommend a break in therapy or suggest that therapy is no longer necessary?

I would never actively recommend that someone either stop or do more.  It’s about being respectful to a client and their needs and how they are feeling.

How does the supervision work in practice? Help now provides free supervision for all trainees, how beneficial is this for counsellors?

Supervision takes place through group sessions where other trainees and the supervisor share their experiences and support each other’s work.

How valuable has it been in your development as a therapist?

Absolutely, being able to hear different perspectives on your client’s presenting issues and how you are working with them is really helpful.

What would be the one piece of advice that you would give a trainee who is looking for a placement?

  1. Never underestimate what you are doing;
  2. Don’t get disheartened if organisations don’t come back to you quickly.  Many are run by volunteers, so may not have the capacity to get back to you quickly.  Help, however, does have full time support in the office to answer your queries.