Really there’s only one thing on my mind at the moment: seeing clients. From two clients last week, I now have four to start this Sunday. My four hour weekly slot at the placement is now full and I won’t get any more, but it feels like it’s happening very quickly and I’m being thrown in at the deep end. It’s as if God has responded to my complaints of a few weeks ago, when I was worried that I would never get any clients. I felt ready for this for ages, and now God is finally saying to me: ‘so you’re ready, are you?’
With so much around it that still has to be sorted out, I have been suffering on the sleep front again. It’s possible that I haven’t slept ‘well’ since some point last year, but I’m having one of those weeks where it’s really noticeable. Waking up at 3 in the morning for no reason, panicking, struggling to get back to sleep, feeling groggy all through the next day. At the moment I can say with confidence that it is down to anxiety about the placement. Paperwork and processes that are taking forever to complete; finding a supervisor I can afford; not knowing anything about the clients I’m going to have and what will happen on Sunday with them. I’ve had many important moments in my life but I think this is one of the most important. As with all important things, there are so many factors that can go wrong. And I’m having to lead the scared, unwilling inner child along by the hand through it all, which makes it harder of course.
On Monday evening I had arranged to meet with a potential supervisor. I wasn’t very happy with the time they had offered me – 8pm – but I went along hoping we could agree on an earlier slot because their online profile made them sound ideal. One of the factors in their favour was that they lived close by, albeit in an area I don’t know too well but one that’s very easy to get to. When I got off the tube and started walking to the house, something was wrong. It felt late, and I didn’t feel safe in the area. I have bad memories of the area from childhood, memories I hadn’t quite forgotten but ones that I didn’t think would affect me so much these days. Mum used to take me to a park up there, and when I was seven one day we got talking to this friendly seeming chap by the swings. As we said goodbye he started to follow us. Walked after us with a suddenly blank expression in his eyes, wouldn’t leave us alone. Chased us all the way to the gates of the park. Mum was scared, I was upset, people tried to help us but nothing would stop him. Eventually mum had to pick me up and run to the underground, where finally we could shake him off.
I kept thinking of a traumatised young boy as I walked up a quiet, dark road near the park. It was a longer walk from the tube than I anticipated, and by the time I got to the house I was close to tears. The gentleman’s house itself was sparse and cold, and the room set aside for therapy/supervision was windowless. We discussed my needs and negotiated over them for half an hour, during all of which I was merely thinking about how quickly I could get away. Whether I felt like that because of the trauma of being in the area, or because I didn’t click with the chap, is debatable. I think it’s both. His style didn’t feel suitable. It’s similar in some ways to picking a sponsor in AA. There are all kinds of supervisors out there with a plethora of approaches, just as there are all kinds of sponsors in AA. This guy was a straight down the line, bluntly honest type who seemed more inclined to talking about ‘how things used to be done’, as opposed to supporting me in an empathic way.
I left the place relieved I had survived. Although it’s disappointing not to have found my ideal supervisor, so that I can say it’s sorted and now I have one less thing to worry about, there is no cause for panic because there’s still plenty of time for me to sort this out. Unfortunately the experience on Monday seems to have set something off in me and I’ve been in a panicked state all week. The panic has brought up anger towards the placement (again) for putting me in this position. When I woke in the middle of the night on Tuesday, all I could think about was the fact I have to do this on my own with no support. Other placements seem to support their trainees through the process, while this one is essentially leaving us to it. I’ve been angry about this since December so it’s nothing new; I’ve accepted the situation because they are giving me clients and I will get my required client hours in well before the end of the course. It’s all highly salient this week because I’m about to start seeing my first clients and I didn’t expect to be in such a state at this point. I thought when I started seeing clients it would all be perfect and I’d be swimming on air.
If you had told me four years ago that I’d be at this point in 2018, it would have been unfathomable. This time four years ago I was at RG, sitting at a desk every day answering stupid customer queries, bored and unfulfilled, thinking I’d be there forever. Today I know I’m on my way to fulfilment, I’m a million times closer to what I want to be doing now. I just wish I had more time in the week to enjoy it!
Now that I’ll be seeing clients for four hours every Sunday, I’m running out of free time fast and sacrifices are going to have to be made. At college today we were reminded that we have our first major assessment coming up in a few weeks. A recording of a practise session with a colleague that we’ve already been working with, followed by a 3,000 word report. Doing that whilst seeing clients, I’m going to need every spare moment I can get. If I wasn’t secretary on Tuesday evenings it would be better…but I’ve already decided not to resign this month, so I have to carry on there until at least the end of February, which just seems like a bummer now. I’ve really begun to find my place in the role too, I believe.
Still tired this morning after another terrible night, I wasn’t as up for college as I usually am. It was going to be a long day, with lectures on the technical aspects of person centred theory that would take us through to the afternoon. When the tutor reminded us about the assessment coming up my mood just sank, and for the first time I didn’t want to be there. I could take heart from the fact that other people were similarly tired and stressed out by everything that’s happening. But I had to sit there all day through the feelings and remember that I chose this, which is hard.
In the afternoon’s skills practise I tried harder than I usually would to get some of the key counselling ‘skills’ in, because when it comes to the recording in two weeks we’re going to have to demonstrate that we can use at least six of them (such as paraphrasing, summarising, empathic listening, immediacy, etc.) I was anxious and it all felt forced, and for the first time in ages I couldn’t get that sense of ‘naturalness’ that I’ve been experiencing more and more of recently. I can’t believe that I’ve got to see four clients in a row on Sunday. Four real clients, with real problems, all of whom need my help. This is all real now, and I have to be the adult through it all. I’m terrified I’ll get there and I’ll be tired or hungry, or both, which just can’t happen. Everyone’s advice for me has been to remember my self care routines. Get a good night’s sleep, have a big breakfast on the morning, breathe, remember I can’t do any real harm to the clients unless I deliberately abuse them or something. All good advice that I will try and follow; but somehow I suspect that I will still be incredibly anxious on the morning and if I’m not careful, it will come across.
Again, I’m reminded that all new therapists go through this, it’s natural, I won’t be able to eliminate anxiety entirely, but I will be supported through it. As I said earlier, I really wish the placement would give us a bit more verbal support. It will be hard to hold clients if I don’t feel held myself. I’m committed now, though, and I’m determined to see it through. If I can see it through I’m certain it will all prove worth it in the end.