Hi there, welcome back to my blog posts here on my website. Each blog is on a different category with the aim to help build insight into the world of mental health and therapy, create a support community, or in this blog help understand what I feel it is like to be a therapist.
My working week starts on a Monday at 1pm where I work for the student well-being service at a local university. I work late shifts on a Monday meaning I finish at 9pm. This allows me time in the morning to prepare for my working day. I often take it easy on Monday mornings and try to stay away from screens as much as possible as I know I will be on my laptop until late. I try not to pile too much pressure on myself in the mornings, usually having a quiet, restful start to my day. I find this helps reserve energy to then support my clients.
When I work at the university I have 5 clients a day which includes mainly providing counselling sessions, but I also conduct mental health assessments which involves helping determine what support may be best for the individual I've just met, based on what they have shared with me. I will build up a picture of what is going on in their life and then arrange support for them.
Once a month I meet with my supervisor to work on my counselling practice for an hour and a half, this is before my working day starts. We discuss difficulties in my practice and explore what may be best to do in that situation in the future to best help a client. My supervisor will share therapy resources, insight from her background and support me in anyway I need that week. I never disclose the identity of any of my client's, this is very much kept confidential. There is no way my supervisor can know who my clients are, in order to maintain their anonymity. And finally by 9pm I am ready to sleep as I have a quick turn around for my day shift of a 9-5 the next day.
Tuesdays are my busiest days of the week. Currently on Tuesdays I work 9-5 at the university then have a private practice client until 6:30pm. I have some time in between to prepare for this session and take a break from my busy day. Tea is my best friend and lots of cups throughout the day are my way just to have 10 minutes for my self, re-group and prepare for my next client. It's so important to have time in between clients, to process what you have heard, write up the session notes and then try to somewhat empty your mind for your next session. I want to be able to provide every client with the same attention and focus that they deserve. Outside each session I write and upload notes to the admin system, I will catch up on emails and chase up any follow ups needed for certain clients who may need support in accessing academic support from the university for example. I usually finish everything by 4pm and this last hour is used to look ahead at my next working day and update my calendar with bookings.
Twice a term on Wednesdays I run a Bereavement and Loss workshop at the university, for students who are grieving the loss of a loved one. It is quite psycho-educational in content, allowing those who attend who have possibly never experienced grief before, to understand the feelings they may be going through, how to start to process grief and what else they may need in their lives to cope with such an upsetting event happening. Once a month on Wednesdays I also get together with my colleagues for an hour for group supervision, much like my individual supervision above but in a group setting.
Edging closer to the end of my working week I have private counselling sessions on Thursdays until around lunchtime. I then write up my notes and plan what may be helpful for my clients in their next sessions. I then like to take a break in between the rest of my day and go for a walk. I love walking along the quayside in Newcastle or nearby parks. This allows time to process my recent sessions and adjust into a different head space for the rest of the day. I treat the rest of my Thursdays like a 9-5 working day. I will use the afternoon to write blog posts and schedule them to post later in the week here on my website. I may use some time to plan what I want to share on my counselling Facebook based on things I've noticed in my week, things I've learnt or topics that feel relevant to perhaps what has been going on in the world or even a theme within my counselling sessions that has emerged.
I love to then listen to podcasts or read books which enhance my practice. Some would say it is a bit of a bus man's holiday but for me it is important as a counsellor to continuously learn and apply that new knowledge to counselling sessions, so I can help my clients as best as I can in those 50 minutes. I'm currently enjoying listening to Brene Brown's podcast called 'Unlocking Us' and I am also at the moment dipping in and out of 'Overcoming low self esteem' by Melanie Fennell which I have recommended over on my Facebook page - a brilliant read for anyone who struggles with a low view of them self which may be holding them back in life.
And onto Fridays, I take every Friday off. It is unusual in the counselling profession to work every working day with full hours. It has taken me a long time to let go of the guilt I carry around this and the constant thoughts of 'you should be doing more, you should be working more, how does everyone else manage it'. Some counsellors do work long and busy working weeks but for me I would find that too exhausting and feel I would not be able to give as much of myself to all of my clients. My Fridays are not work related, I use this time to do my own thing and relax from a busy week. I love cooking at the moment I find it is my form of therapy. I start with a pile of ingredients and soon end up with a delicious meal. I'm loving learning new recipes it is a great way to spend time in lock down and helps give me a sense of achievement and there is something so lovely about sharing food with a loved one. I will then exercise, catch up on a TV show, speak to friends and family on the phone and I generally just love a good potter. This helps me get what I need done before the weekend arrives. I spend my weekends with my partner together resting, relaxing and trying to find fun things to keep us busy in lock down!
But really being a counsellor never really ends, we never fully switch off from our roles. We carry our clients around with us right throughout the week until their next session. I will think of resources to use with them, I will be reminded of something they shared in a session, I will often ask myself 'how can I help them more, what do they need from me', it is so much more than the therapeutic hour.
I love my job and I can't imagine right now doing anything differently in my life. It is not without it's exhaustion and challenges but it is abundant with rewards. From someone's shoulders dropping by the end of the session, to them feeling lighter or inspired to go away into the rest of their week now with a tool to use to tackle a situation, is always so rewarding.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and gained a little insight into my professional life. If there are any other areas you would like to read about please drop me a message here on my website or over on my Facebook page!
Look after yourself today,