Advanced Diploma in Counselling, Leeds University. 2 years, 1989-90.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) Practitioner, Dept of Clinical Psychology, Sheffield University. 2 years, 1996-98.
BACP Accreditation 2000.
MSc Narrative Therapy, Bristol University. 2 years, 2007-09.
(plus numerous short courses, workshops, seminars, etc)
My training in more detail
I completed a 2-year Advanced Diploma in Counselling at Leeds University in 1990. The course covered “humanistic” models of counselling such as Person Centred (Karl Rogers), Gestalt, Transactional Analysis, etc. At that time I had an interest in Art Therapy and did my dissertation using Natalie Rogers’ Creative Connection process.
After I gained employment in counselling in 1990 I joined a psychodynamic therapy supervision group where I was introduced to psychodynamic theory and practice. Over many years this was my main approach. I remember one of my teachers saying, “I would argue that it isn’t me who is psychodynamic – it’s the world”.
As a result of working as a counsellor in a university and in GP surgeries, I became interested in brief therapy. I completed the 2-year Practitioner of Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) in 1998. CAT is an integrative model taking place over 16 sessions. Most of the trainees were clinical psychologists who were new to psychodynamic approaches (the “analytic” element) whereas I was new to the cognitive and behavioural elements.
In 2000 I gained Accredited status with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. BACP accreditation is “a quality status for practitioners, organisations and training courses, designed to recognise the achievement of high standards of knowledge, experience and development”. This means I can now put Registered Member MBACP (Accred) after my name as long as I continue to meet the required standards.
From around 2000 increasing pressure on services caused many of us to use even briefer models of therapy. I began to explore Solution Focused Therapy (SFT). This model assumes that each session may be the last, so client and counsellor are obliged to focus on what can be done differently right now. This approach is based on post-modern assumptions about language and, as such, presents a radical challenge to conventional therapy approaches. I contributed to the Yorkshire Solution Focused Brief Therapy Group for many years and training included many workshops by leading practitioners in the field. In 2003 we sponsored Insoo Kim Berg to fly from the USA to give a 2-day workshop in Bradford.
This led to an interest in another post-modern therapy approach – Narrative Therapy. The terrain of Narrative is similar to SFT, but it is articulated differently and has a special interest in exposing the mechanisms of power. I completed an MSc in Narrative Therapy at Bristol University in 2009.
In 2007 I began working with young men in prisons. This work introduced me to the ways brain development is affected by adverse environmental factors. These young men had often suffered early deprivation and trauma at a stage in their lives before language developed. They needed to be shown how to regulate their states of physical arousal, which were dangerously out of control. To have any chance of helping them we needed to use non-verbal interventions based on attuning to their emotional state. Only when they had experienced being co-regulated by an attuned carer did they have a chance of developing the skills of attuning to themselves in helpful ways. This had to be done through non-verbal means such as coached relaxation and mindfulness.
Recently Mindfulness has had an impact across all therapy settings. I was part of a professional support group for therapists in Yorkshire who use mindfulness with clients. I began meditating years ago and I have a daily meditation practice today.
It is also part of a counsellor’s training to have personal therapy. It is important that anyone giving therapy should be aware of, and able to step outside of, their own particular patterns. I have had therapy with both counsellors and psychotherapists so I know what it feels like to be a client.
A therapist’s training is never finished. There is always more to learn, especially from the people who I work with.