A Day in the Life of a Relate Counsellor
Ever wondered what a counsellors day might be like, well here is a snapshot from one of counsellors Terry describing a “day in the life” of people who work for Relate in North Hampshire.
11:00 a.m. Arrive at the Centre at the Grove House Chineham. Check with the receptionist what clients I’ll be seeing today, it’s one of my longer days with seven counselling sessions scheduled – I won’t be finished until nine this evening. I’m told I have 2 initial assessment meetings with potential clients and five ongoing cases. I pick up my case notes and settle into the counselling room to read the notes and prepare for my first couple.
11.30 a.m. The receptionist tells me my first couple have arrived and I go through to the waiting room to bring them through. The clients are a young couple I’ve seen for more than 15 sessions. With a history of drug addiction, alcohol abuse, violence and police involvement this has been a complex case. During the time I’ve worked with them we’ve coped with their anxieties over potentially losing their children through Social Services, their struggle to overcome their drinking and the changes they’ve made to stop their intermittent bouts of violence. I’ve come to like them a lot, their stories of their early lives have been heartbreaking and they have shown real devotion to each other and their children to begin to build a more positive future. This turns out to be our last session, the couple feel they can now continue to reconstruct their lives together without our help. I have a sense of real privilege to have witnessed their ability to overcome problems few of us will ever experience.
12.30 Time for Lunch
1:00 My first assessment of the day. Relate offers a one off assessment meeting for people to come and see whether we can be of help. These assessment sessions can be quite complicated, I’m never sure what might emerge. In this instance it’s fairly straightforward. The couple are concerned about the increasing frequency of their arguments, the effect this is having on their children and the cessation of their sex life, both seem anxious to get things back on track and I’ve no qualms over saying that Relate would seem to be the ideal place for them to come for help. As they are on low incomes I agree a reduction in our normal charges, which, thankfully, we can offer via the grants we receive from the local authority.
14:15 My third client of the day, a man on his own. I’ve seen him for a few sessions now as we’ve talked through his despair as a carer for his disabled wife. When we first met he was desolate as he could only see a bleak future of loneliness and lack of affection. Slowly we have begun to construct a more empowering story of his future, one that includes support and friendship and the rediscovery of his creativity.
15:30 Next assessment. It’s immediately clear this is not a normal assessment session. The woman has just come from her GP where her bruises were being examined after a beating she’d received from her husband. She came to Relate not knowing where else to go for help. We spend the time deciding what she could do to keep herself and her child safe. We organise her ringing a relative so she can stay there with her child that evening, and I sit with her as she calls the police to report the incident and arrange for someone from their Domestic Abuse unit to visit her that day. There’s just time after she goes to ring the Relate Practice helpline to report the incident and get some advice and what we should do next, I thank my lucky stars that Relate has the capability to offer this level of support to its’ counsellors.
16:45 I’ve recently completed my training to be able to work with young people, a service called U-talk, and I have one of my first clients. Aged 19 she is distressed over the way she is being used as a go-between for her divorced and warring parents. Thankfully we can offer this service at a reduced cost as we receive grants from Hampshire County Council, otherwise there might be no help available. We talk through how she might be able to assert herself more with her Mum and Dad and she leaves feeling more able to tell them that it’s not fair for them to use her as a proxy for their anger with each other.
17:45 Time For a sandwich and a cup of coffee
18:15 My next ongoing case. I’ve only seen this couple once before, and they had spent much of the session shouting at each other. I’m feeling a bit apprehensive as I don’t enjoy these sessions in which the anger is very apparent and the couple seem to see me as a referee in a verbal boxing match. Nevertheless I’ve spoken to my clinical supervisor about this couple and we’ve formulated a possible way of conducting the session. Drawing on our domestic abuse practice I’m going to try and insist that they only talk to each other through me, this gives me the chance to take the heat out of things. Thankfully, apart from a couple of incidents, they stick to this approach and we are able to agree a contract and some boundaries for future sessions – I think I may be seeing them for some time!
19:30 I’ve seen this next client for six sessions. Originally she came for counselling to get over the breakdown of her marriage but as we have proceeded it seems this has triggered one of her periodic bouts of clinical depression, she spent an earlier session crying continuously and unable to talk. Whilst we are trained in mental health issues, it isn’t an area we specialise in. I’ve agreed with my supervisor that we can provide support whilst she sees the GP who has prescribed anti-depressants but to keep the focus of the work on her current and future relationships. The anti-depressants seem to be working and we are able explore how she might go about rebuilding her life.
20:30 Time to check I’ve got my notes up to date and leave just before 9:00. As I leave I consciously shake off the day, I don’t want to carry the problems back home – if I did I might end up as a Relate client myself!