Thinking of Becoming a Counsellor? - Author's notes

I was prompted in part to write this book by a study in Counselling & Psychotherapy which discovered that more than eighty four percent of counsellors in training withheld information from their supervisors because they were hesitant about disclosing aspects of their attitudes and ways of thinking which they feared would elicit criticism.  I was surprised at how high this number was but, on reflection, recognised that probably most people who decide to take up counselling as a career ― myself included ―thought of it primarily as a skill that could be taught like any other.

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At the Certification phase of training the main emphasis was on learning about a range of counselling modalities. We were introduced to the Rogerian principles of empathy, being non-judgemental and having for the client unconditional positive regard; the main purpose at this stage, I think being to protect potential future clients by following Florence Nightingale’s dictum : ‘the first requirement  .. is to do [the client] no harm’.   But relatively little attention was paid to genuineness as the concept applies to the counsellor in training.  So whilst we were taught how to be sympathetic to clients, which we practiced with others on the course, the importance of understanding and of recognizing our own prejudices and constructs and how these might influence our work as therapists was given much less attention.

I was uncertain how I wanted to practice; what approach I would feel most comfortable with and how best to channel such resources and skills as I had.  On the advice of my supervisor I attended a six-week course, the essence of which was essentially ‘Counsellor: know thyself’.  This was both an unsettling and an invigorating experience.  Under the scrutiny of a beady-eyed tutor who was quick to spot equivocation I was obliged to acknowledge how little I knew of myself in the full sense and came to realize that without the understanding of my prejudices and the influence of my background and life constructs, I was hardly less vulnerable to my emotions of the moment than any clients I might eventually have.  Importantly, the course also enabled me to make an informed decision on how I wanted to train for my diploma.

In writing the book: Thinking About Becoming a Counsellor?  I had two objectives:  firstly, to help those thinking of training to be counsellors arrive at an understanding of their inner selves and the emotional and practical resources they will need in order to practice, and secondly to help them determine which approach to therapy might best fit in with their temperament, background and aptitudes.  I set about doing this by exploring the back-stories of the pioneers; the factors ― education, family history, life experiences, both positive and negative, and abilities ― that led them to develop their therapeutic approaches in a particular way and seemingly, in some cases, limited their willingness to accept ideas outside their own self-imposed criteria.  This was not to try to offer training in these modalities but to provide a template from which the reader might conduct their own self-analysis and assessment.

I was concerned that the content of the book should not seem too pedantic so I tried to make the text as accessible as possible with an occasional element of humour.  I know from producing training programmes for doctors that unless such programmes succeed in fully relating  with their audience the enterprise is wasted.

Jonathan Ingrams

Jonathan Ingrams

I feel it is probably true that sustained and informed communication between client and counsellor is one of the keys to successful therapy.  The course of true counselling rarely does run smooth, but if both parties share a common language and understanding, it is much more likely that problems and glitches can be overcome.  I am working on this theme in my next project.

Jonathan Ingrams
Author of Counselling... Me? (2011) and Thinking of Becoming a Counsellor (2012).