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Once again I’ve left this several days after the event so it’s a blur until I start to recall it and then it all comes flooding back. Our leader (teacher seems wrong) was ill so we had a substitute. She was different in a good way and the change made the session seem more lively and interactive.

In our check in at the beginning M spoke about his wife again, as he has done most sessions, saying she finds it difficult worrying about the changes that will happen to M as a result of this course. I remember trying to explain to my mother when she was worried about a (correctly) perceived change in relationship when I started counselling. I had this image in my head of a spider like web between me and all the people I knew and how counselling meant I re-evaluated the connections and sometimes the elasticated strands got tighter and sometimes they got looser and that changed the whole layout of the web as the different tensions changed the web. I feel sorry for his wife but I’m also curious as to why he feels the need to keep on mentioning it. I think I find it irritating because it’s about her, not him.

We spent some time talking about the roles used in the triad the week before: speaker, listener and observer. Clearly the triad is an important part of the learning process and we were investigating it before moving on to practice.

In terms of positioning the listener and speaker should be opposite but slightly off centre so that they are not confronting each other too intensely. Heights should be roughly the same with both able to see the clock and no tables or other barriers should be present.

The listener is showing active listening, acceptance, being present, showing empathy and reflecting what is said. The speaker is there to share what is comfortable to share; it’s their time. The observer is watching the dynamics between the listener and speaker, observing the evolving relationship.

It’s up to the observer to start off the feedback and we talk about how to make constructive feedback, sandwiching the “to be improved”in between positive comments and being sensitive to the recipient. The recipient has to try and hear feedback with an open mind and hear it all, even if s/he doesn’t agree with it all.

We then went into what feels like a tried formula now of what it feels like to give and receive feedback and what blocks it. I am bored of this formula.

Giving feedback is about being aware that we’re peers here. No one is the expert with the knowledge and the right answer. Feedback should be sensitive and appropriate, owning the observation with “I saw… and I felt…” rather than the generalised “you are…” We owe it to the recipient to be kind and gentle. It might be difficult to receive. Everything that we’ve spoken and listed previously on blocks, giving, receiving apply as well. We must all be in the right frame of mind to be kind towards one another and sometimes we are unable to park our stuff outside the room.

Closing a session: we’ve only got a few more minutes; we’ll have to bring it to an end now; we’ll have to leave it there…

Our triad was a foursome with G N and C. I like G although she does regularly mention Christianity in a way I could do without but she really wants to learn how to use this to enable her to be better at her job and to help people. When she was speaking about trying to apply some of what she had learned and how difficult it was when the real-world speaker isn’t as co-operative and gentle as we were was so interesting that we all found it difficult to focus on the exercise rather than have the discussion about what she was saying.

This brings up a difficulty with these sessions. They’re not real and they’re not exercises; they’re somewhere in between. I hesitated to start talking about 3son and CAMHS and the week that was, not because I didn’t want to (after all it was somewhat on my mind), but because I was worried about dumping it on someone who didn’t have the experience to cope with hearing it. I wouldn’t worry about that with a ‘real’ counsellor. The speaker has to choose something that is real but preferably light enough that it can be discussed in under ten minutes. Speakers so far have all been mild-mannered, with no extremes of emotion. The listener has to interrupt when paraphrasing in a false way as to get practise interjecting in a way you wouldn’t need to do in a full session. But in order to learn how to do it properly you really have to do it every few sentences which isn’t real. Whether it’s because we’re trying to keep it light the session can just go round in circles as if the speaker has chosen a topic, has spoken on it and doesn’t know where to go from there in the rest of the allotted time so repeats what has been said. This is also because the listener isn’t asking questions so it’s harder to guide a conversation. Although the difference between “was that hard for you?” and the non-question that is equivalent “you found that hard” is possibly little. The rules of engagement are different in our sessions to real sessions and sometimes it’s hard to work out how they differ and whether they should differ. One similarity is that you run out of time just as you get to an interesting bit.

We’re halfway through and are tasked with summarising the good and the bad. The above paragraph covers the complicated. I am mostly enjoying it although do get frustrated with the repetition (what is x, how does it feel delivering / receiving, what blocks x). Smile everybody! We’re not going deep enough but it is an Introduction course. I do worry about the impact of the next course on the rest of my life and how it will eat into time. The group is nice and is bonding together. There is I think one person I haven’t worked with at all and several who I’ve gone into groups with but haven’t had sessions with. The two I had an instinctive reaction to I think I did because they remind me of me, middle aged mums. I don’t like that, but that is about me and not them. I wonder if any of us will stay in touch afterwards. The practice sessions always feel rushed. We’re very easy going time wise on the first half and then we have to switch to being exact timekeepers during the sessions and we haven’t learnt that.