Last year saw the important publishing of the Unsafe Spaces report which I co-authored along with Phil Dore* my fellow campaigner. Finding the time to focus on this was difficult but it is very important to me to contribute to discussion within the profession.
Then a few months ago I was invited by the online magazine The Counsellors Cafe to write an article. Having spent several months prior to that thinking about writing something about the difficulties of working with trauma I decided to use this opportunity to focus on producing something to get some of my concerns out there. So I finally got my act together and started to work on a piece which was published on 10th March entitled Care When Working With Trauma (click to take you directly to the article).
I had a few factors that had motivated me to write such a piece:
- Working directly with clients who have been abruptly dropped by a therapist and hearing accounts from service users in general about feeling abandoned when therapy is suddenly terminated with no warning or ending.
- My own journey of learning more about trauma from reading books by Babette Rothschild and Bessel Van Der Kolk and attending specialist trauma workshops such as those run by Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Disorders. I realised that there were gaps in my core training.
- The realisation that a few years ago, when my therapist had to end sessions with me it was emotionally difficult, even though there were very good, ethical reasons for doing so.
- Hearing and reading various comments on counsellors forums which quite frankly have greatly concerned me about the competence of some practising therapists.
Like anything I write, I reflected and immediately wished I had included more. I see this piece as work in progress and I have further work to do. I do believe that there is insufficient training in a lot of basic counsellor training and that there is a danger that therapists can unwittingly retraumatise their clients.
I've had some great feedback from other therapists who share similar concerns. I have done some research on whether qualified therapists believe their core training equipped them sufficiently for working with trauma. The findings were as I suspected; many did not feel that their training was enough. I just need to find an idle moment to make contact with some of the professional bodies who accredit training courses and see what their opinions are. Then bring it all together in a compelling article. It will likely take me while!
I don't want to put people off accessing therapy but I do believe that forewarned is forearmed and that as professionals we should be striving to improve our profession and keep it as safe as possible for our service users.
The work I value most is my working directly with my clients but the bigger picture of the profession is also very important to me.
*two days ago I received an official comment from the Professional Standards Authority on our report, requested on our behalf by Ben Bradshaw MP (my local MP and a member of the Health Select Committee). We are still awaiting as response from Jeremy Hunt.