So what does a therapist do outside of the counselling room? Take a look behind the scenes
Welcome to blog 7 of 2022. With each blog, we focus on a topical theme of counselling therapy, which I hope will inform you in your decision to seek therapy or to become a therapist.
Statistics suggest that there has been an increase in the number of people accessing counselling over the last decade. Yet counselling and psychotherapy remain shrouded in mystery, and mental health is still stigmatised. Many people accessing counselling for the first time have little to no awareness of what counselling involves.
Due to the importance of client confidentiality, sharing what happens in the counselling room is limited. More people are voicing their experiences of counselling through media campaigns promoting the pros and cons of therapy. TV dramas centred around a therapist make popular viewing. With client consent, celebrity therapists are inviting radio and TV into their counselling rooms to observe their practice.
So we're being offered more information about the process of therapy. Yet, whilst it may feel okay to be privy to the ins and outs of a neighbour's recent knee operation, we don't anticipate hearing the highs and lows of their recent counselling session. Unless you're a therapist, asking someone about their counselling experience is still pretty much taboo. How, then, do we learn more?
If you've seen a counsellor or are currently in therapy, you may have wondered what a day in the life of your counsellor can look like.
If you've seen a counsellor or are currently in therapy, you may have wondered what a day in the life of your therapist can look like. How do they begin their day? What's their routine? How many clients do they see? What records do they keep? Fact is, without asking directly, getting the full picture is tricky. But here's where this blog can help.
Not all practitioners work 9 to 5. Many work part-time or have two or more areas of work. There may be some differences in the day-to-day routine of therapists working in the public health sector, as opposed to the charitable sector or counsellors in private practice. This may affect the number of clients a therapist will see in a day and the availability of flexible hours.
For many therapists there is a lot of work that happens outside of the therapy and behind the scenes. Generally speaking, a counsellor's daily routine will consist of admin, consultations, assessments, client contact, record-keeping (not all counsellors keep client notes), some referrals, online and in-person meetings, and research.
Therapists do have commitments outside of the therapy room, including regular one-to-one supervision and/or peer supervision, plus a commitment to continuing professional development.
A therapist will have commitments outside of the counselling room, including regular one-to-one supervision and/or peer supervision, plus a commitment to continuing professional development. This is stipulated during training and required of therapists for membership to a professional body.
Many counsellors consider therapy as essential to their own development, both personal and professional, and so continue to engage in personal therapy post qualification.
Not all therapists are required to engage in one-to-one and/or group therapy prior to and/or during their training. However, many counsellors and counselling training organisations consider therapy as essential to both personal and professional development. Many counsellors continue to engage in personal therapy post qualification. Note that it is possible for counsellors to practice without ever having been in therapy.
Counsellors who view working therapeutically as a vocation recognise that what happens in the therapy room is connected to the world at large. Consequently, they tend to dedicate time outside of the therapy room to supporting relevant causes, to training and research.
A commitment to self-care and personal development is necessary for the survival of a therapist. Due to the nature of their work, a degree of fortitude and resilience is required.
A commitment to self-care and personal development is necessary for the survival of a therapist. Due to the nature of counselling work, a degree of fortitude and resilience is required. Being witness to intense and emotive runs the risk of vicarious trauma (an empathic response to the distress, pain and suffering of others) and burnout. Therefore, it is important that therapists have the resources to sustain themselves and adequate means of support. By practising self care, a counsellor can also be a role model for their clients.
You may feel that knowing something of your counsellor's identity and history could help build a connection. However, depending on modality and personal style, some counsellors are careful to limit disclosure of their personal lives. Not just to preserve their privacy, but to avoid any distraction from the focus of the therapeutic work - namely, you.
You may find the following links to articles and videos useful:
People seeking help: statistics
Therapy Talks: an introduction to therapy
Annual number of therapy professionals in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2010 to 2021
The Monday Interview:" So, what it really like working as a... counsellor?"
My World of Work: Counsellor
Dr Ali Matu: What I wish I knew before I became a psychotherapist
Dr Orna Guralnik: Couples Therapy
Susie Orbach: In Therapy