Friday, 18 November 2011

That ‘Heads Down’ time of Year

Everyone is so busy getting stuck into their studies, with deadlines looming and Christmas fast approaching – too fast for me! I am extra busy with my new clinical placement.  I see four clients on Thursday morning in the placement I started at the beginning of my second year. On Friday I see three in my new placement in an inner London Borough.  I also have extra supervision to attend and all those extra notes to write up.

The two placements are very different.  My first is set in a leafy outer London suburb above a GP surgery.  It is a charity funded solely from donations and fund raising activities.  Clients can either refer themselves or be referred by their GPs.  It is in a quiet suburban road with only the sounds of birds and the occasional train to disturb the silence.  It is a very new building with new furniture, walls painted in tasteful shades of soothing lilac with calming prints on the walls. When there is sunshine, it streams through the windows. I greet clients in the waiting room and bring them through to our counselling room.  My other placement is part of a GP surgery with 12,000 patients on its books located in a huge old stately Victorian former bank building set right on one of the busiest intersections in South London.  All clients are referred by their GP’s, or another professional. The paintwork and furnishings have seen better days and none of the chairs match.  The waiting area walls are liberally sprinkled with notices requesting people to stay away if they have the flu and urge them to come for a flu jab if they haven’t.  I work in the basement where the sound of police sirens, ambulances, and the general hurley burley of the outside world is somewhat muffled by the thick walls that still house the huge former bank vaults and block out any vestige of sunlight. There is a sense of real calm there with every effort being made to soften the harsh environment with subdued lighting and soft furnishings. Reception notifies me of my clients’ arrival by computer system, and I then  pop my head outside the door to call my client patiently waiting with the patients booked for blood tests, walking frames etc.  As soon as I show my clients in, I have to notify reception by computer system and ask them to complete a monitoring form – and only then are we able to settle into the work. Although the settings are so different, the clientele still come with the same concerns and my role remains the same – to be the best counsellor I can be. It is wonderful experience working in such contrasting settings.

There are only eleven in our year group now, it feels much more intimate.  After three hours of theory we split into two case discussion groups and then those who are doing the long research project are free to go where the six of us who are studying the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy pathway stay for a further two hours for theory and practical work. We are all now qualified to diploma level and are referred to as counsellors rather than as students or trainees.  We are expected to be even more self- directed with our studies this year and our tutors seem different – more like mentors guiding us towards that time we will be leaving Greenwich as fully fledged counsellors – a scary thought!

In between my two clinical placement ‘slots’ I still attend my weekly stained glass evening class.  Sometimes it feels such a struggle to get it together after a busy, tiring day but once there I become lost in the joy and wonder of working with glass.  It is incredibly important for me to balance my academic work with practical projects such as my stained glass work, gardening and house renovations.

Walking through Autumn woods followed by indulging in a big bowl of warm homemade soup, watching David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet series with its stunning photography, browsing in my local fabric shop with my senses bombarded with colour and texture, a warm bubbly bath filled with gorgeous smellies, are some of my favourite things for renewing my flagging spirits!

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