Counselling Psychology Students Personal Therapy
I welcome Counselling Psychology students who desire a real experience of being ‘in-therapy’. Having been in this position myself, I know that finding the right person is incredibly important. Although you are training and learning to become a Counselling Psychologist, your personal development therapy will involve the personal issues that you need to address. Personal therapy is not an ‘as if’ experience, it is real and it is about you.
While training, I believe that the therapy that I undertook, made long lasting changes to my personality. Somehow I was not the same afterwards, as I was before: more integral, less boxy and ‘I’ was more honest with ‘me’. I took a great deal from my therapist both in terms of my personal development but also in terms of my therapeutic style.
I encourage all students who contact me to look around, visit several psychologists and select the practitioner whom they believe they can work with most openly. To facilitate this, I offer students a free 30 minute session just to check me out, with no expectations.
Counselling and psychotherapy involves the meeting of persons. Each brings hopes, fears, role models, self-esteem, confidences (or lack thereof). Each brings expectations about self and about other people. We are all raised in families, schools, social and cultural groups. These institutions, these relationships, particularly the early life relationships influence our expectations about ourselves and about others. These expectations will influence our very perceptions. It was Lakatos, 1978 who said.
‘There are and can be no sensations un-impregnated by expectations’
I take this to mean that people must process all sensations in accordance with prior expectations, no matter how non-judgemental we may desire to be. We have no choice but to understand new information in the light of our prior experience. Indeed, unless we have identified those prior expectations and appraised them we may not know they exist.
Martin Buber coined the phrase ‘I-thou’ to encapsulate the personal dyad. When we two meet one another at the level of our personhood: everything I am and everything you are, may flow within a boundaried relationship.
Somehow the answer ‘I am an integrative therapist’ misses the truth and wonderment of ‘I share, I with thou; and thou share, thou with I’ in safety. The safety of a regulated relationship with boundary lines clearly set down.
We, therapists (in the broadest sense) are all wounded healers, to varying degrees. Often therapists, probably including you, the reader, are motivated toward psychotherapy at a deep and sometimes subconscious level through such personal experiences. I use the phrase ‘wounded healer’ respectfully because I believe that the process of self-repair is particularly helpful for the process of, other-repair. Yet, when our own wounds are raw or insufficiently healed, it is hard to maintain focus where focus should be maintained.
In practice, I have found very few therapists who claim to practice from a single model; the late lamented Tony Merry was one exception to this rule; a proficient exponent of Person Centred Therapy. I have no doubt that the individual styles of psychotherapists make a difference to their practice, especially in the first few sessions. However, make no mistake! Psychotherapy and counselling is about, ‘I meeting thou’ and ‘thou meeting I’, whatever names we might give to the overt dialogue (i.e. Psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural etc.)