Placement finally!

As the title suggests, I got a placement! Not in a NHS setting as I have expected, nonetheless I am equally excited to start at this place.

The services that this centre offer is based around helping individuals get back into work. Our role as counselling psychology trainee here is to provide therapy for those who needed support to seek employment. There are different departments within the centre that offers training in employment such as upholstery, horticulture, IT etc. It’ll be so exciting to learn more about these different departments. It’ll also be interesting to see the effects of being in work for vulnerable individuals- how it affects their self esteem. It is very meaningful to stimulate people by helping them find a sense of purpose in life through work. It is also economically efficient by reducing the unemployment gap. I am very much looking forward to working there. Although I’m afraid of seeing my first client! It’s like finally putting things to practice!

I look forward to working with my supervisor too. He seems like a person who is open to discussion and willing to impart his experience and knowledge without devaluing others. I think this allows greater room for exploration of the different issues that will come up in my practice.

Placement results 2

One month ago, I was given the option to apply for another centre for children services who is willing to take on a 1st year trainee. Unfortunately, I was told yesterday that I will not be offered an interview because I do not have the counselling/group work experience and that my interests do not extend to adults and young teenagers. This has cast so much doubt over my own abilities. Have the university made a wrong choice accepting me into the programme? Or if they see potential in me, why not these placements supervisors?

Well, to be fair, the first one gave me an opportunity to present myself in an interview and proposed that I could be arranged to start in my 3rd year. On the other hand, the supervisors from the second option said that they are looking for someone interested in working with parents and older teenagers too other than children and young people. I felt misjudged, I was under the impression that if I am to apply to children and young people services that would be part of the job too. Should I have explicitly stated in my cover letter that I am interested in working with them too? But aren’t older teenagers = young people? To be honest, children and young people is a field that as an amateur I’m quite confident in, because I have the most experience in this field compared to work with adults or elderly. If this is not enough for a 1st year placement, should I just give up all hope?

Nonetheless, 2 similarity persist across the 2 rejections; that I lack formal counselling experience, which leads to the question of how do I gain counselling experience? Telephone counselling isn’t usually included in counselling experience because it’s not face to face but it is one which is accessible to most people. Face to face counselling… as far as I am aware you need to be qualified as a counsellor to be able to do that. Does this mean that I have skipped some steps in between, should I have trained as a counsellor first? But what about people who go into a counselling programme, they are required to train on placements too on their first year, why are they allowed to train without prior counselling experience? (sounds paradoxical). Or maybe they’re looking for counselling skills rather than counselling? In that case, don’t most jobs in the support work sector already include that- which means most of us who qualifies into the C.P programme has?

At the first placement option, the potential supervisor spoke of the added responsibility of being a psychologist on top of being a counsellor especially within an established organisation. Such as various meetings to attend, research to conduct, lectures and workshops to attend, liaising with other members of staff and various protocols to adhere to. Therefore for a newcomer, it might be overwhelming. Is this the reason? But surely we would have proven our ability to manage workload from the degree entrance interview?

There are other options out there such as assistant psychologists which allows you to gain some therapeutic skills and I suppose by the sound of it, the perfect pre-professional training job albeit highly competitive.

I guess the bottom line here is What do they mean by counselling experience? What do they expect from a 1st year trainee’s first placement?

Placement update and End of MSc!!

As you know, I didn’t succeed at the first placement interview so I emailed the course secretary at my university  to ask her if it’s possible to get an interview at a different place. Well, guess what they replied me with details of another Children and Young People Service Centre! This time they were specific that the centre has agreed to accept a first year trainee. This news revived my excitement! I’m so glad I am able to have another go at trying out for CAMHS. I will try my best and hope that I get it.

Anyhow, I handed in my dissertation today!!!! Finito! Another degree K.O! (not like I’m planning to do loads of degrees). In the end I cut it down to about 14.5k words but packed full of my hard work and dedication for the past few months. I am so proud of myself.

It had been one eventful morning which consists of me waiting patiently for a printing shop to open, pacing about waiting for them to finish printing and binding and handing it in! And what a lovely surprised I had when I bumped into few of my course mates. Followed by lunch with an ex course mate of mine which is going on to do Clinical Psychology. We talked about some of the differences and similarities between Counselling and Clinical Psychology. She doesn’t think there are many differences except maybe the Clinical Psychologist Trainees get paid while we don’t! Anyhow, Great stuff! It was just absolutely delightful to catch up with them before I leave for England next week. Next week! One more month to the start of my professional training in Counselling Psychology. To put it in a cliche way: The end to all beginnings. Finally, I got into something that I have been working towards. All those jobs here and there in counselling centres, support work, charities, research paid off. It has been a truly outstanding experience.

By the way, for anyone who are interested, the abstract for my dissertation is as follow:

Tittle: Vicarious Traumatisation Revisited: Capacity for Growthful Experience for Therapists Working with Traumatised Children and Young People


It has been well documented that work with these client groups is hazardous in nature and therapists could potentially experience a change in previous memory and schema as a result of this exposure (vicarious traumatisation). Moreover, growth following adversity has been displayed in survivors of trauma (posttraumatic growth). This dissertation aims to bridge the gap between these two phenomena in an effort to explore the personal development of therapists as a result of negative emotional demands. This is done through obtaining rich descriptive accounts from counsellors and psychotherapists. The interviews showed that it is difficult not to acknowledge the phenomenal role personal values and beliefs plays in counsellors and psychotherapists process towards achieving growth. Also, analyses of the interviews found that they were more aware of the real world and this comes with the notion of uncontrollable circumstances, realising that children and young people are extremely resilient which encourages hope and that they gain personal growth from observing client’s growth. They appeared to have rearranged their previous schemas to accommodate the knowledge they acquired through work with traumatised children and young people.



1st placement interview results


As predicted, she accepted a 3rd year trainee student instead cos they have more clinical experience. But she was very nice about it, spoke to me over the phone rather than sending me an email saying I was unsuccessful and end it at that. I really appreciate it. She even said that once I get to 3rd year she could just arrange to start the placement without a prior interview because she has already met me. I can’t help but wonder, what if it’s just a competition between 1st years? Would I then be able to get this placement of working with children and adolescent which is my first choice? Or maybe, for now, I should start with an easier placement, for instance student counselling service or in primary care settings? Where the clients’ cases are possibly less complex and there would be less external influence to work with (for instance, guidance teachers etc in child and adolescent’s case).

Well, looking forward to my second interview at a cancer care centre which is not any easier than this one! :S

Placement interview

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.

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