Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE

A Day in the Life of a Counsellor

Sacro provides a wide range of Justice Services, all of which are aimed at safeguarding communities and reducing offending within the community. These services work mainly with people charged with offences and their families to support and assist them in addressing the issues which cause, or may cause them to offend.

With our new website live we are continuing our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people caught up in the Justice system, their families, victims, and the community as a whole.

We would like to thank Alison from Sacro for sharing her story with us.

Alison has previously worked within a GP setting, within schools and addiction service settings and prior to joining Sacro in 2012 she worked for an organisation who provided counselling for children, young people and families dealing with the effects of loss and separation.  Alison states that in her experience, despite family breakdown seemingly having less stigma and being more commonplace today, the effect is just as traumatic as it has ever been.

In her opinion, counselling is a profession that offers help to those in need without judgement and is an extremely valuable profession because of its currency in feelings and seeking equality, these are the innate reasons that Alison chose counselling as her career pathway.

“I’m very lucky to have been so well supported by my company and by my colleagues”

THE NEW NORMAL

Over two years ago I charged around in the morning watching the clock, bagging the shower, thinking about makeup, hair, what should I wear, is it ironed, where’s my diary, where’s my phone charger, will I pack a lunch, will I not, and ever hoping the traffic into work would be kind to me.

Those pre pandemic working days are a distant memory now and I like millions of others have adapted to a different working day from my home which still starts with a shower, coffee, and toast, but sees me wander back up the stairs to my counselling room / office aka the spare bedroom.

Work has progressively blended well into my home and as I look around my counselling room its symbolic of how I’ve adapted and how much I recognise and consistently acknowledge the huge range of operational supports that allow my transition from office space to home working to be so smooth, effective, and professional.  I’m very lucky to have been so well supported by my company and by my colleagues – who knew that over 2 years ago Teams and IT would be such a lifeline!

A TYPICAL DAY

I start my working day by checking in with our team, happy that they too are checking in and acknowledge that whilst many aspects of our human contact have been put on ‘hold’ we have adjusted and have made good use of our emojis to express ourselves and convey emotion within our new ‘normal’ world.

I then check my emails and look particularly for new referrals and get a sense of order before the day begins.

Often the days lay out changes and that’s in response to heightened needs from both the referrer and people I support. Networking with referrers is a valued part of my day and I miss the days where we would meet on a landing or in the kitchen area and share so much more than a quick hello.

The people I support can present with a range of issues such as addiction, relationship problems, suicidal ideation so it is vital to get a sense of these from the outset which is why I provide an initial contact session. This session is useful for the person to outline their story and for me to establish who is supporting them and what support service gaps we can identify.

My diary holds my people’s initials and the agreed telephone appointment time. Before each appointment I familiarise myself with the person’s issues through process notes so that I am prepared and ready for the session. I usually work with three to four people daily and leave space for my note taking and the filing of these securely. GDPR and confidentiality are quite rightly huge issues and the principles of these guide my work.  Trust and empathy are essential elements of relationships, so a fundamental responsibility of my day-to-day work is to provide this safe, secure environment that assists people to explore and work with issues they are experiencing in their lives.

Because Covid19 guidelines don’t allow us to meet within a counselling room I set the scene for where I am, why they might hear my dog bark, or a doorbell ring and I ask what their environments are like seeking assurances that they too feel comfy to proceed without fear of being overheard.  Everyone is issued from the outset with confidentiality contracts which allows them to know who I am, who I work for, and who I am regulated by. Once I have received their consent by either email or text we contract to weekly, fortnightly, or monthly sessions.

Weekly, I work with people who are just beginning counselling sessions, some who are in the middle of sessions and others who are working towards an ending. Some are happy to talk for a couple of sessions and their work is very short term, with others needing more time and this is respected and worked with accordingly.  Others realise counselling isn’t for them or it’s not the right time so we would discuss a possible referral to other support services and share this information with them.

Some fail to attend and don’t get back to you and that’s part of my day seeing me link in with the referrer. This could be anyone one of the range of workers working across Justice Services.  Some people are maybe unwell, some have simply forgot and for others you never find out why they didn’t show and as with many other professions you are left with this ‘not knowingness’.

“I do love my job and feel incredibly lucky to be able to say this”

A REQUIREMENT OF THIS ROLE

Clinical supervision is the ethical and most perfect place to park many issues raised through my work and I receive this monthly.  Whilst its mandatory and an essential part of being a counsellor it’s so much more than that. Supervision allows me to explore what is being raised through my work and crucially throws light on the blind parts allowing movement if somethings confusing and stuck and of course mirrors many aspects of the counsellor relationship.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MY JOB

I do love my job and feel incredibly lucky to be able to say this. The loss during these Covid days is that of human contact, body language and the way we interact with each other. The gain is the mutuality being experienced and how we name and recognise this. Undoubtedly these are tricky times seeing us all being asked to work and live very differently but what remains a constant and what remains central to my work is that of active listening.

All any of us have is the here and now and this continues to guide me with the people I work with. Listening is what makes us human and to be able to provide the core conditions of empathy, unconditional regard and congruence is a testament to the person’s courage and essential ingredients within the life of a counsellor.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

In my role, I am currently assigned to South Ayrshire Justice Services, and I continue to work daily with people suffering the effects of adverse childhood experiences and I see my future very much in this setting. I feel to access counselling and follow the process of talking and allowing an individual to feel safe to explore and name the problems they are facing is a fundamental right we should all have in society. It therefore follows and is a credit to both Sacro and South Ayrshire Justice Services that they have provided people the opportunity for this.

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