This month we are delighted to include a blog post from one of our Advanced Year 2 students, Jacqueline Hill, who shares with us so beautifully, some of her reflections on her training experiences to date, particularly the power and strength of her training group.
There are many things I have been told which I cannot recall; like the artist or title of a familiar song. No matter how many times I ask ‘who’s that by?’ and no matter how many times I am patiently told the answer, the holding of that knowledge is fleeting and temporary. But it’s not the same with all things, my training group is one such example.
Training groups are unique, memorable and meaningful. I’ve been together with my group for two years. On our penultimate training weekend in Advanced Year 1, we covered Attachment Theory which got me reminiscing on the very beginning of our journey together.
Prior to applying for the course I was in the unusual position of having home educated my children, by choice in the pre-Covid days, and my application to Physis was the start of a second career. It was a big step and commitment; not living in Scotland meant travel and weekends away – though staying in Edinburgh was not a hardship, especially on discovering Friday night swimming in the beautiful Glenogle Baths and wandering the iconic setted streets.
As our first training weekend approached, I began to wonder about the people I would be training with. People I had never met and with whom I would be sharing many intense hours. Who were they? What had they done in life? Were they successful career people? How old were they? How skilled? Having had therapy I imagined they were all as proficient as my therapist. Were they comfortable and familiar with groups? And then I wondered where they would be coming from; I imagined a map with dotted lights illustrating our journeys converging on Drumsheugh Gardens.
As the day approached, I wondered what was going through their minds – were they excited, nervous, committed to a new career, merely interested, full of confidence or self-doubt? Were they thinking or feeling what I was thinking and feeling? Were they wondering about me as I wondered about them? Were they as excited as I, and as fearful? What were they sacrificing to do the course? Having been out of the paid workplace for many years, I was full of trepidation, fearing ‘I might not be OK enough’.
I had gained the confidence to apply to Physis Scotland when I realised I would never know if I could be a therapist without doing some training. ‘Just do one year then see’ I told myself. This was my mother-in-law’s method to get her children to school when they felt unwell: ‘just get up and see how you feel, just get dressed and see how you feel, have some breakfast and see how you feel…’. The desire to be a therapist was there yet so was my script. In my imaginings, everyone else was professional, sorted and already qualified. I even found it hard to imagine there would be people who were as excited as me.
And yet there were. During the first weekend of counselling skills, I experienced an Ugly Duckling moment; here are people who speak my language; people who want to know themselves and others; people who want to learn and develop; people who were different to me and also like me; maybe here, I wondered, it’s OK to be me.
I had expected to meet individuals, hoped to make friends but I had not been prepared for the power and strength of the group. I’d never heard of the group imago; the group as an individual, with its own identity and developmental journey. I had expected to learn about theory, skills, people and myself but I hadn’t accounted for learning as a group with the group having its own personality, momentum and process. I had anticipated laughter and tears, ruptures and intimacy but I was unprepared for the group soul.
For some reason that concept still blows my mind. And what was this thing called group process? I remember my terror of silence in the first group process and the incomprehensibility of other people enjoying the calm! Two years later, it is a highlight of my training weekend and an hour often feels too short. It’s a living, dynamic experience; each transaction being a chance to learn and see things anew, within and as a group; and the group emerges changed.
Now, as I enter my third year, it seems impossible that there was a time in my life when I did not know these people, a time when the group did not exist. I even wonder if maybe I have known them all my life; a group space waiting to be filled. There is a joy and comfort for me, in knowing that I will never un-know my training group. This continuing sense of interwoven paths holds a deep sense of peace and connection for me. Covid months have been soothed by the knowing and companionship of the group.
When the therapy training path is rightfully rigorous and demanding, true fellow travellers are essential for balance and growth; being accompanied in this way is a blessing. And, if I’m really lucky, my companions may even know the names of the songs I can’t recall. That would be an extra blessing.