I never cease to be surprised and disappointed when I meet students of counselling failing to see the necessity of therapy for themselves. Personally I think it would be very arrogant to sit with a client and hear them disclose personal information which they may never have uttered before and to never have gone through a similar experience. Personal therapy is important for a counsellor, as it can be for anyone, for several reasons. It would be a very exceptional person who had not experienced negative conditioning of some kind, or had not had an experience with a negative effect. We are the result of the conditioning we have experienced since the day we were born and continue to be influenced to a greater or lesser extent by life events, parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, work colleagues, role models and with whoever we have a relationship of any kind. We are influenced by our educational experiences, religious belief or non-belief, the clubs or organisations to which we belong. We are influenced by the media, newspapers and magazines, television and radio and not least, if we are cyber surfers, the Internet with all its social networking possibilities and blogs – such as the one that you are reading now!

Therapy helps us in our personal development. Our self-awareness is raised allowing us to recognise ‘where we are at’. We become aware of the choices available to us. We can continue with our old thoughts and behaviours or we can make amendments, adopt new ones and maybe ditch a few which are no longer relevant. Did you once believe in Santa Claus? How appropriate, or helpful, is it to continue that belief beyond the age of about seven? Perhaps we continue with some beliefs and behaviours because they have been passed on to us by our parents, either consciously or unconsciously – ‘If it was good enough for them then it’s good enough for me’ perhaps? It’s not to say that what they said and did was not appropriate at the time, the question is ‘does it remain so?’ For counsellors, in addition to our personal development, therapy is also an essential aspect of our professional development and something we need to address regularly.

I first entered into therapy in the 80s when I realised there was something amiss and was inclined to think it was the ‘other’ rather than me who was ‘at fault’. How wrong I was. Of course it is no-one’s fault when relationships get into difficulties – it is the equal responsibility of each member of the relationship, whatever the relationship – parent/child, teacher/student, manager/employee. I soon discovered what my responsibilities were and set about changing my life – a journey I am still making. I have made some painful discoveries about myself but I have also enjoyed the excitement of self-discovery. I began to eagerly look forward to my next session having realised that I could, if I chose, make significant changes in my life and consequently enhance my self-esteem and feeling of well-being. I began to think that with this insight I may be able to assist others in doing the same. A few years later I began my counsellor training.

I continue to visit my therapist on a regular basis and I was inspired to write the following poem. I don’t claim to be a poet but someone who occasionally writes poems. I hope you enjoy reading it as I did writing it. Coincidently(?) my therapist’s name is ………………. Dawn

The Dawn of Enlightenment

Greeted by a welcoming smile
Guided toward a comfortable chair
We gaze at each other.
The pregnant silence broken by the utterance of my uppermost thought
Seemingly innocuous its significance is unthreaded
Yet another journey begins
Twists, turns and connections
Perceptive interventions
Parallels drawn
Intuitive observations and reflections
Mysteries exposed
Thought and purpose clarified
Perceptions and beliefs challenged
Unease and discomfort lead to understanding
Confidence in my guide develops
A team of two
A common goal
A fascinating journey full of excitement
Greater discoveries of self
What could be more fulfilling?
I am empowered and enlightened
Horizons have broadened
Life has never been so good
The shared adventure comes to an end
‘Au revoir’ not ‘goodbye’
Another chapter is yet to be discovered.

Geoff Cox
July 2007