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A Safe Space – A Therapists Journey

At sixteen years old, I was terrified of so many things. In the previous year, my world had fallen apart following the death of my father and I could not step outside my house without fear of being attacked by aggressive teenagers in the area. I felt unsafe.

One gloomy afternoon, I found myself being welcomed into a room by a smiling lady with cat’s eye-shaped glasses and neat hair. She was kind and she listened to me in a way that I was not used to. At the time, I felt awkward and weird because I didn’t really understand what I was meant to do. We chatted about my obsessive-compulsive behaviour and she shared a few quirky behaviours of her own with me. I liked her, but I never went back. I was simply unready.

The starting point of something special

Twenty-five years later, I am approaching the end of my counselling diploma and I find myself thinking about that lady more than ever before. She marked the starting point of something important for me: my journey to becoming a counsellor.

It has not been easy. I have spent many years of my life working temp jobs to supplement my modest income as a musician. At the end of my twenties, the terror began to set in when I fell into a ‘proper job’ at a university. I was more detached from my musical dreams than ever before and to make matters worse, I was in a stormy and traumatic relationship with someone whom I thought I loved. I did not know who I was anymore. Then one day the whole façade at work shattered when I completely broke down over a minor criticism. I cried and cried. Snot, tears, and wails of deep despair flooded out of me and I found myself being packed off to the counselling department where I met Chris.

My therapist made me feel safe

Chris was great. She was easy to be with and she made me feel safe. I began to trust her and I was able to open up about things I didn’t think I could speak about. During my time with her, I experienced some shocking realisations going back to early childhood. She enabled me to sweep all of the confusion out of the way so that I could just see me again.

Within a year of finishing counselling, I dramatically changed my life. After a few bumps in the road, I left my job and my relationship and I moved to a different city. I continued to write music and play gigs while taking on all kinds of jobs from television extra work to driving cars through an auction hall. Then one fateful summer, I found myself working as a secretary at a medical practice.

Initially, I thought the scariest part of the job, was having to call people into a room to book them into hospital appointments using a computer system. It was just me and them. What if I messed up and looked stupid? What if I pressed the wrong button, causing the console to short out and explode? What if the building had to be evacuated and the patient saw me for the complete fraudster I was?

To my surprise, I didn’t mess things up and this became my favourite part of the job. Some of the people I worked with would open up to me, sharing all kinds of fascinating things about themselves. Sometimes they would be exacerbated, as they desperately attempted to get to the bottom of a health issue. Occasionally, I would be faced with someone who was shy and anxious. I would try to put them at ease and make them feel comfortable. I wanted to make everyone feel safe in my little room.

The lightbulb came on

That’s when the light went on in my head. It wasn’t a sudden and dazzling laser show, but more of a dimmer switch gradually increasing the glow of a light bulb. I started to wonder if I could do something like this. Could I be a counsellor? My experience of being counselled had turned my life around. Don’t get me wrong, it was still far from ideal and I had a long way to go, but counselling had enabled me to re-route my life down a more promising path in my darkest hour.

And so, it began. After several years of study, I am finally close to finishing my diploma. I have experienced the nerves and excitement before my first-ever session with a client and I have had the privilege of working with many other clients since. My self-doubt and tendency to worry about whether I am doing it right, have turned into more measured thought processes on what went well and how to improve my practice. In the near future, a piece of paper shall be awarded to me, stating that I am a qualified counsellor.

Despite all of these experiences of growth and learning, there has been one particular defining moment for me. I recently had an ending with a client, who has been on an extraordinary journey. At the end of our last session, the client gave me a card with a stirring message written inside. They thanked me for helping them through the most difficult period in their life. That is when I truly realised, that I was meant to do this job.

Lisa Glover – therapist in training with UK Counselling Network CIC

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