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I was not really in the mood after a half term that had been complicated as usual and I had a disrupted night’s sleep due to fireworks in part but I was also really restless. So I sat down to this session feeling irritated by being there. For the first time I didn’t really focus on the short meditation we start off with that does help clear our minds.

Then I found myself in a group of three where I liked both other people. We talked about where we were and all really said that we were questioning the style of counselling. Every time as a listener you open your mouth you are offering some guidance and some direction and purely person-centred approach is letting the speaker go where they want until they get to where they should be. This really reminded me of how I’ve felt with different counsellors, especially those in training, that some pushed me really hard and others let me meander. The meandering irritated me a lot because I felt I should come out of a session having achieved something, an insight or a revelation, that there should be progress that I can tick off on my virtual personal development chart. This dichotomy I haven’t really got my head round and it was clearly an issue with the other two as well. Having a “permanent” therapist had made the meandering seem more useful as it’s part of the getting to trust your therapist and feel comfortable enough for deeper and seemingly more productive sessions. How would you approach sessions differently if you knew someone was only going to have a limited amount, whether restricted by time or cost?

Discussing that led us on to wanting to know more about the various therapeutic approaches. What we are learning here is valuable to whichever school of therapy we end up practising but there’s a need to really think about which approach is the one we want to take further, especially as the courses are not cheap or short.It probably wasn’t much of a coincidence that our homework for the week was to go away and research CBT / person-centred / psychodynamic approaches.

Anyway, recapping on the previous session was mainly about questions. What type could be asked and what purpose did it serve. Questions can interrupt the natural flow of the speaker but they can empower the individual by increasing their awareness of the options available, both in the choices that they can make and the direction the conversation can go.

Then to the experiential sessions. With a slightly different duo we had a really powerful exchange of speaking and listening. I was on the case using my phone timer to make sure we got through it all three ways and we did. The first speaker talked about something intensely personal, so did the second and so did the third. I felt we all listened hard, talked hard and fed back well. We gelled as a trio and it felt a really positive session, one of the best. We nit-picked each other’s listening and were quite precise at saying what could be improved. It was quite hard hearing some of the comments which do make you feel picked on, however nicely they’re put and even when you agree with them. It’s hard to not get defensive and just accept.

There’s a conflict between working with the people you find most difficult or least productive to act as a good learning session for yourself in terms of learning patience and tolerance, and wanting to work with people you feel are like minded so that you can work harder and better. On the other hand I enjoyed it so much more.

In the feedback at the end, S said that C had said one particular thing as listener to her that was “a drop of light into the dark” which was a beautiful image