088 – Reflective Journaling in Counselling

088 – Reflective Journal Writing – Working with Clients Going through Court – Disclosing Personal Problems as a Student

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In episode 88 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes offer tips on writing a reflective journal (a common requirement of counselling training courses). In ‘Practice Matters’, Rory talks about what you need to know when working with clients who are going through a court case. The episode closes with a discussion on disclosing personal problems to the group as a counselling student.

Free Download: Working with Clients Going through a Court Case

Reflective Journal Writing (starts at 1.41 mins)

Counselling courses frequently require students to write a reflective journal, as personal development (often known simply as ‘PD’) is a big part of training to be a therapist. There is often a PD-related element in the final assessment at practitioner level – for example, in the external portfolio.

Keeping a journal can be really helpful in tracking your development over time, enabling you to look back and see how you have changed over the duration of your training. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can also give you a different perspective on these.

Ken and Rory offer tips on writing a reflective journal:

  • Try to apply the theory you’re learning about, using this as a framework to write about your PD.
  • Clarify with your tutor whether you need to use any particular format for your journal.
  • Check too whether the journal will be for your own use only, or whether you will need to submit it.
  • Try not to worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation and neatness (especially if the journal is just for your eyes): the most important thing is to express yourself freely.
  • If writing is really hard work for you despite this, try asking your tutor whether you could use a different medium (e.g. audio or video recording).
  • If you write about any of your work with clients, respect their confidentiality.
  • Make sure that you store your journal securely – both now and in the future.

How do you go about protecting your reflective journal? Do let us know via the Counselling Tutor Facebook group.

Working with Clients Going through Court (starts at 12.06 mins)

With an increase in the reporting of rape and sexual abuse, many clients may be going through court cases while coming for counselling. Based on his own experience of working as a counsellor, Rory offer his insights into working with clients in this situation, looking in particular at:

  • what you need to think about as a counsellor
  • who you need to contact
  • how to recontract to work with feelings rather than the case itself
  • who can access your client notes and how
  • how to use supervision to support your practice.

Rory reminds us of his adage: hope for the best; plan for the worst! He has detailed his advice on working with clients going through a court case in a handout, which can be downloaded here and is also available in the Handouts Vault and Counselling Study Resource (CSR).

Free Download: Working with Clients Going through a Court Case

Disclosing Personal Problems as a Student (starts at 25.09 mins)

Counselling training by nature requires students to look at themselves and their own lives: as mentioned earlier in the podcast, PD is a big part of such courses. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to disclose your personal problems to a group of peers.

When you start a new course – and so probably find yourself among strangers initially – it is bound to take time to build trust. It is usual for tutors to work with each new group to draw up a group contract. This will often include agreed rules such as offering each other the core conditions at all times, and respecting the idea that what’s said in the room stays in the room.

If it feels too daunting to speak about a personal problem in front of your full training group, you could instead try doing so in your PD group (which may be smaller and self-selecting). Of course, it’s always possible to speak just to your tutor too, if you want them to be aware of something difficult that’s going on for you, or you’d like to discuss with them your reticence to speak about your personal problems in front of your peers.

The good thing about talking to others about what’s happening for you is that they can give you a more objective view, so helping support you to practise safely for both you and your clients.

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