Thinking over my life history can be difficult, but also empowering. From a young age, I was always the parent within my family. My father was an alcoholic and I recall countless hours spent wiping away my mother’s tears and trying to cheer her up. I was desperate to rescue her and make everything ‘ok.’ I hated seeing her sad. Today, I can see how no child should have that responsibility on their shoulders. That little girl should have been having fun and playing with friends, not hiding away in the bedroom with her mother, both crying and wishing for a better world.
Despite this realisation, I wouldn’t change things. I feel this experience made me who I am today, which is someone who wants to provide a safe environment for others to express their emotions and deal with their problems. This is why I am on this counselling course. The difference this time around is that I am not a child, but more importantly, I am not trying to take responsibility for the way clients feel. I recognise that I am not there to rescue them, but to offer them empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence, so that they can help themselves. In this sense, my childhood has impacted my decision to go into a counselling profession, but at the same time it has also provided me with invaluable insight into what the counselling role can and cannot entail. It can entail the provision of a trusted and safe environment for clients to explore their true selves. It cannot entail rescuing or taking on any responsibility that should remain with the client.
My life history has also impacted me in other areas of my life, creating experiences that I feel will inform my work with clients and equip me to work with a diverse range of people and circumstances. I was abused by my father and his friends, which I feel will provide me with the sensitivity required when working with a client who has been abused. I have struggled with an eating disorder, a complex condition that I feel it is hard to understand unless you have experienced it. Linked to the eating disorder was depression and anxiety, which are frequently experienced by people who attend counselling, to lesser or greater degrees. In addition, I have overcome social anxiety and, in many ways, taken a journey of self-discovery that I feel is inherent within the counselling process. I will therefore be familiar with the process that clients are going through, although also recognising that their journey will be unique to them.
As a result of a number of issues I have contended with during my life time, I have received counselling. I feel that this first-hand experience is fundamental to becoming an effective person-centred counsellor, hence why it is part of the course requirements. Indeed, I have no doubt that my personal experience of counselling has benefitted me in terms of skills development, especially in regard to active listening and unconditional positive regard. Experiencing these qualities helps in the recognition of how fundamental such skills are.
I feel vulnerable after writing this and being so open, but I also feel I was ready and that in itself is empowering.