In my first article in this series, I looked at the different routes that an individual may take to qualify as a therapist. I know it can be an overwhelming part of the process – and you haven’t even started yet! But hopefully, you’ve now been able to settle on the right route for you, that will prepare you for a career in counselling and psychotherapy.
This next article will consider several aspects about what you might experience throughout your training. Whichever route you choose (diploma or degree) you are going to change and grow as a person. You will build relationships, and relationships will crumble. Part Two will focus on personal growth and interpersonal relationships.
Personal Growth and Interpersonal Relationships
Change is inevitable – we all change as we go through life. Part of training to become a therapist involves developing your own understanding of yourself. From how you relate to others, to your own boundaries. No matter how self-aware you think you are, you will learn at least five surprising things about yourself.
Many tutors introduce their courses as the “break-up” course, which always ruffles my feathers. Just because people go through seperations during their courses, I don’t think it’s any different to any other cohort of people. I could be proven wrong on this! But what I would hate would be for someone to start a course, and feel anxious about their relationship(s) because a tutor said that x% of students go through break-ups whilst they study. That is a negative stereotype that isn’t beneficial to anyone.
That said, you might see your relationships change over the years that you study. Why? In my personal opinion it’s because we learn more about ourselves and our own boundaries. I’ll write a little about my own journey, as it’s sometimes easier to understand if there are examples.
When I began training, I had experienced some personal therapy already – both CBT and Person-Centred. I’ve always been self-reflective, and so I went in excited about what I would learn about myself and others. I was not prepared for the realisations about how and why certain relationships had crumbled. This impacted me a variety of ways, most notably, I became aware of the abuse I had experienced in a romantic relationship – abuse that I had set aside in my mind. That was a crushing realisation, and I needed more personal therapy to process this.
This is why I’m an advocate for personal therapy before you reach your level 4 or degree. You don’t need to access therapy just because you are in crisis, you can access it at any time. Being able to explore my realisations in Learning Journals was important, but having a professional therapist to go through everything really helped me to process things.
The most important thing that I developed over the years of training was my own personal boundaries. When you think about the reason that people train to become therapists, the vast majority tend to say “I’ve always been empathetic” and “I like to help people”. I found this true of myself. But as my own self worth grew, and my training moved into actual client work, I realised the need to exercise self-care, which required new and firmer boundaries in my personal life.
Boundaries are integral for everyone. We learn about the importance in therapy, but we also need to consider our personal boundaries. Quite often, trainees are the mediators in their families. In my case, my boundaries were incredibly weak – with both family and friends.
A shift in your boundaries can bring about conflict within your personal and professional relationships. These shockwaves can lead to people withdrawing from your life (or you withdrawing from theirs). I found this with a parent and also my romantic relationships. However, being firm with my boundaries and refusing to collude with the behaviour of these loved ones, meant that things improved in these relationships.
Changes Through Theory
The biggest change I noticed was through the development of my understanding of counselling theory. From applying Transactional Analysis concepts of the Parent/Adult/Child to my family and relationships, to growing my understanding of my internal and external locus of evaluation.
As you learn more and more about the human psyche, it’s hard NOT to assess yourself, and even self-diagnose. That is absolutely valid. If you explore your own patterns and behaviours, you may benefit from personal therapy to process this all. Some courses state that personal therapy is compulsory (this usually takes place on Level 4 courses and up), and recommends 30 hours or so. Whilst I don’t agree with making therapy ‘compulsory’, I absolutely recommend it to everyone. Applying theory to your personal experiences on a training course is certainly an appropriate time to have therapy.
If you are a counselling/psychotherapy student and you’d like support to process your personal developments, then you might want to get in touch with me for some therapy. I also offer mentoring to help students apply their learning, as well as guiding students on how to write reflective journals. Fees can be found here.
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