I am a UKCP-registered psychotherapist with a busy private practice in Clapham and Purley. I’m also an NHS clinical team leader. Looking back, I doubt I would have hit the ground running so quickly in my first year in private practice had it not been for my counselling placement at The Awareness Centre.
If you’re a trainee therapist considering where to apply for a counselling placement, what I have to share may help you make up your mind – one way or another. Here’s what I learned during my counselling placement with The Awareness Centre:
Managing a client caseload
TAC provides you up to eight clients a week – four within a GP surgery, and four within The Awareness Centre’s Low Cost Counselling Service in Clapham. I’d previously been working on placements for a charity with up to three clients a week, so this transition was huge. I also worked with clients who were vulnerable or at risk, which was invaluable learning for moving to private practice.
The Awareness Centre offers group supervision for two hours every week. For free. I can’t emphasise enough the importance that supervision plays – not just on the placement but in post-qualifying life as a therapist. The Awareness Centre takes itself seriously as a training centre, and the quality of supervision always comes out top when trainees are asked to rate their experiences. I gained from working with people training in different modalities. My supervisor also encouraged me to stretch myself, and helped me become more attuned to unconscious dynamics playing out in the therapeutic work.
The directors of TAC, Michaela McCarthy and Kelly Garrett, were generous with their reassurance, their experience and their insight – any time I asked them! I’m sure this kind of mentoring doesn’t come with placements anywhere else. They’re both practising therapists, and they taught me a lot about boundaries, marketing, and when to expect peak times of year for therapy enquiries and referrals.
There is a paid element to the placement where you take part in a training day that covers risk issues and good practice management, as well as advice on fee structures. These are the types of skills that aren’t usually taught on counselling training courses, so again this was helpful, practical advice.
Keeping good clinical notes is all part of being an ethical practitioner. On placement at The Awareness Centre there was a LOT of paperwork. This is often the area that’s most challenging for placement therapists. There’s the NHS diary system IAPTus to learn, the protocols to follow when working with risk, as well as handling fees and paperwork for the Low Cost Counselling Service. It can feel overwhelming when starting out, but within a couple of months the paperwork becomes second nature.
The clinical placement at The Awareness Centre is effectively an internship within a busy counselling agency. My experience on placement was a powerful transition from student therapist to qualified practising therapist.
Karen Dempsey is a UKCP registered psychotherapist with a busy private practice in Clapham and Purley.