Hello there, yesterday had been one hectic day. Started with me leaving my house before daybreak to catch a flight to London for my placement interview and house viewing.
The placement interview I attended is part of my training as a counselling psychologist. One of my choices for placement is at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) which is step 3 care in the current mental health system. The interview was very straight to the point.
She was unsure that this placement would be suitable for a 1st year as it involves working not only with the child or adolescent but also with guidance teachers, social workers, parents, guardian etc. Also, the successful candidate would be required to conduct their own family therapy but of course for a newbie, that is only required after about half a year of training. She was worried that all these might be too much for someone who not only needed time to get used to offering counselling but also to gain the confidence to speak to others about the client. It does seem like a lot of work. I am especially apprehensive about speaking authoritatively to parents who might not accept my comments readily. How should I present myself? How should I tackle uncompromising parents? How much of it is my professional advice and how much of it is my personal opinion? I voiced some of these concerns with my interviewer to show that I have thought about it and it is something that I still need to think about.
On the same note, from what I gathered talking to other counsellors and therapists, I felt that with children and young people, more often than not they are referred for counselling. This means that there are people out there who are concerned about their welfare. This could be the schools they are currently at, or parents or relatives. This in itself is a support base for the counsellor ie. there is someone to share the emotional burden the child brings, and someone to discuss and understand in more detail about the child’s day to day well being. I told my interviewer this in regards to approaching the complexity of working with children and adolescents. It might seem that I’m undermining the work or being overly positive about the challenges of this work. However, I felt that it’s better for me to go in with a positive outlook and tackle things one at a time rather than feel overwhelmed.
She brought up another issue which my fellow Friday class classmates would be familiar with- what if the client questions your ability to understand her experience because you have not been in that situation, for instance, the challenges of being a mother. Like we have discussed in the course, this in itself could be an area of exploration. Why does the client feel only someone who have gone through childbirth could empathise with her experience? Is this the root of the issue? I suppose counselling is to empower the client to explore and understand how certain beliefs and thoughts come about.
The interview proceeded with us discussing about some findings from our previous research work. It was great hearing about her work experience in different agencies of significant polarity especially in London where you have very deprived and very affluent areas. Those in poverty have their own set of problems and those who are financially privileged have other issues that have to be dealt with. We got to this topic while we were discussing how therapists seems to hold previous conceptions about certain scenarios. For instance, therapists were more able to accept that a woman has been raped by a man rather than a man to be rape by a woman. Or that gay rapes were less traumatising than heterosexual rapes. It is not to say that it is impossible to empathise with these cases. Counsellors are human, we approach different subjects with different ‘rulers’ to measure humanness. There are still some scenarios which we or I am not sure I can tackle, for instance, taking an extreme example of working with a serial raper. I am not sure I can work at that level, if i could, it almost seem like the actions are justifiable. Absolute objectivity and positive regard is a supreme form of enlightenment which I’m unsure could be achieved.
Well anyhow, she said she had a lot of interest in this placement and some are 3rd year, so chances are I might not get it. I really want to work with children and adolescents though and this is the only placement with this group of individuals that is offered by the university. I’ll know tomorrow if I got it.