069 – Getting-a-Counselling-Placement

069 – Informing Clients of Your Student Status – Getting the Most from Your Placement – When Counsellors Have Clinical Depression

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In episode 69 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes talk about whether you should tell clients that you are a student counsellor. ‘Practice Matters’ then looks at how to make the most of your counselling placement. Finally, the presenters discuss the dilemma of counsellors with clinical depression.

Informing Clients of Your Student Status (starts at 2.55 mins)

When on placement, should you tell clients that you are a student? Sometimes, trainees fear being seen in a different way if they do so, and perhaps being rejected altogether by clients.

However, it is really important that you are truthful about being in training. Clause 66 of the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, published by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, states: ‘Clients will usually be informed when they are receiving their services from a trainee’ (2015: 12).

It is the responsibility of the organisation providing the placement to ensure that the clients they allocate to you are appropriate to your level of experience, and to explain to clients in advance that you are a student. You should also cover this in contracting, not least as you may need to take some (anonymised) aspect of your work with clients to peer groups in your educational establishment.

The key point to bear in mind when explaining to clients that you are a student is that ‘student’ can mean very different things to different people. It is important to make it clear that you being in placement means you are at the very final stage of counsellor training. You might like to use the phrase ‘placement counsellor’ rather than ‘student counsellor’.

Another important reason to tell clients is that you need to be congruent and transparent if you are to set a good example of how you would like the client to be during therapy sessions.


Getting the Most from Your Placement (starts at 13.50 mins)

Your placement is an essential part of counsellor training; while its obvious function is to allow you to gather the practice experience you need to become qualified, it can also bring many other benefits if you follow these tips:

  • Network with other counsellors and staff at the placement organisation – you could make valuable contacts for the future.
  • Ask whether there are any funded or subsidised opportunities for additional training and continuing professional development.
  • Make the most of any supervision opportunity offered, making sure that you check with your course tutor that this is appropriate.
  • Consider joining any staff committees – this could help you understand more about how third-sector organisations work and give you access to service commissioners.
  • Ask your manager for ideas for research projects that would help the agency.
  • Get copies of the organisation’s policies and procedures if you can – these may be useful for your final assessment at college.


When Counsellors Have Clinical Depression (starts at 23.50 mins)

Can you work as a counsellor if you have clinical depression yourself? First of all, bear in mind that you are by no means alone: The Guardian (29 June 2017) reports that 64.7 million prescriptions were issued for antidepressants in 2016; this was an all-time high, up 3.7m on the previous year. There are no doubt many good counsellors who do take this medication on a regular basis.

If you are struggling with depression, it’s really important that you speak to your counselling tutor. They can help you decide whether it’s OK to carry on in placement or whether you need to take a break for some self-care and perhaps personal counselling. It is vital to be honest with yourself too, using your self-awareness to work out whether you are able to be available for full psychological contact with your clients. If not, then you owe to your clients and yourself to have some time out.