Have you considered joining a counsellors networking group?
Do you have a counsellors networking group in your area? Maybe you've considered joining one, or even considered starting one, but aren't sure what they entail.
I've been involved in the Lincoln Counsellors Network since it formed in March 2013, and it's provided many benefits to local counsellors. Let's look at them.
As much as we love what we do, counselling is an intense occupation, and if you're running your own practice it can be isolating.
The chance to get together with like minded people is probably the thing that members value most.
When in training, you're surrounded by people that are as passionate about counselling as you are, and the very nature of counselling training means we can form close bonds with others in the group - it's literally life changing!
As you grow in self knowledge and self awareness, you're in a unique space - a space for sharing, acceptance and support.
But when the course is over, that comes to an end and for many that closeness and support is sorely missed.
A networking group will help to fill that gap. Okay, it's not the same as a training group, but it's a place to get together with like minded people and form friendships.
Counselling is an often misunderstood profession, and it's great to be around people that understand why we do things the way we do, who 'talk the same language'.
cpd (Continuing Professional Development)
As counsellors, the BACP requires us to have at least 30 hours CPD a year (CLICK HERE for BACP's 'A registrants guide to CPD).
Finding good quality, affordable, local CPD isn't always easy in smaller cities, and this is an issue that many counsellors site as a difficulty.
Networking meetings count towards your CPD hours, and you'll leave feeling re-motivated, with new ideas and plenty to reflect on. I know I always take away lots from our meetings.
Different groups will have different formats: some are a get together over coffee, and some have a training element to them.
Most months we have a guest speaker talk about a subject of interest, but sometimes we have a more casual 'Counsellors Question Time' where we can ask other counsellors about common issues.
- Self harm
- Existentialism and Phenomonology
- Couples counseling
- Domestic abuse
- Working creatively
- Sex therapy
- Challenging gender roles
- Relationships with food
Sometimes it's a guest speaker, and sometimes a member will talk about their niche.
Generally, they talk for an hour, followed by a facilitated discussion on the subject.
It's all pretty informal, with lots of sharing and input from the group and you'll get an idea of resources you might want to invest in - and book recommendations are brilliant, I'm sure I'm not the only one to buy an expensive book only to discover it's not what I was after.
Counsellor training is expensive. Books are expensive. Supervision is expensive.
It's great to have other people to ask - what do you recommend, what don't you recommend.
COLLABORATION vs competition
With few salaried positions and so many counsellors, in some areas competition for clients can be fierce.
If we see other counsellors as competition, then we end up feeling MORE isolated.
However, if we work together, we can make things better for us all.
If all counsellors in an area get together to promote counselling, everyone wins.
Sharing blogs, supporting each other on social media, approaching local radio stations and newspapers to comment on items in the news means we normalize counselling and dispel counselling myths, making it more accessible for the public.
You can also choose to collaborate with counsellors that have either a similar or complimentary niche to work together.
There's a saying - 'a rising tide lifts all boats' and that's so true. If we all work to normalize counselling, talk about the benefits and remove the fear around it then we'll all benefit.
If you run your own practice, or are thinking of doing you can get ideas and recommendations in the group.
Where to advertise, find a room, where to find a placement, what records to keep, how to start a website etc etc...
(Incidentally, if you need help setting up or growing your practice, I can help. CLICK HERE for more details)
Recently, a counsellor in training attended a meeting feeling that she could learn from counsellors with more experience. Which she could, of course.
But what she didn't see was what we could learn from her - her enthusiasm, fresh learning and the questions which promote reflection in the group. All valuable stuff.
I won't refer clients to someone I don't know, so Lincoln Counsellors Network has given me the opportunity to meet local counsellors with different specialities that I feel confident referring people to.
Some Lincoln Counsellors Network members have recently facilitated local peer supervision, and meet monthly.
At a recent meeting, it was commented on that it feels like a safe space in the meetings, and it is.
It's an environment where we feel safe to talk about the times we wish we'd done things differently, that we feel stuck, or feel unsure. It's not a substitute for supervision and we don't discuss cases (client confidentiality isn't breached) but people feel supported enough to be honest without fear of judgement.
There are many benefits to attending a meeting of your peers, so why not give it a go?
And if there isn't one in your area - start one! You can set something up on your own, or get together with others and run as a committee.
Make it free, make it paid for, formal or informal, in a venue or in your home, it's as simple or complicated as you make it.
And if you're thinking of starting a local networking group but don't know where to start, I'm happy to help, just drop me a line.
For more information on the Lincoln Counsellors Network, CLICK HERE