Truth Joy Beauty

Just my thoughts and reflections about living and loving in the post-post modern age.

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7 simple life hacks to commit to in 2018.

Forget New Years resolutions. The news is out! We are not victims of circumstance or biology. No matter what your past history entails, the good news is change is possible. Our brains are flexible and wired for change and adaptability. It’s called neuroplasticity. The more we practice a behaviour, whatever that behaviour is, the stronger that part of our brain becomes. In other words, we become what we do most.

So, becoming more conscious of what we do on a daily, hourly and moment to moment basis is the key to change. Whatever it is you want to start or stop doing, there is no time like the present to take a step in the right direction.

Here are seven ways that you can change your mind, and life, for the better with the help of mindfulness practices.

1. Live mindfully

…that is, consciously, with awareness and conscious choice. Living mindfully means bringing conscious awareness to everything you do. It doesn’t mean you have to spend hours a day meditating but even a few moments of pausing, breathing and noticing what you are experiencing without overthinking can help improve mood and manage daily stress.

2. Relate to experience directly

Try using your senses rather than through thinking, analyzing or judging all of the time. Take a moment to stop, notice and check in with your self. A simple mindfulness exercise is the 5×5 pause. Going through your five senses and noticing the first 5 things you see, hear, feel, smell and taste. (Taste is sometimes a difficult one, unless you are seated at a sushi train…yum!) However, by the time you get to taste, you will have mindfully checked in with yourself.

3. Stay in the present

Resist the urge to dwell on past events or worry about future “what ifs”. Staying present involves noticing and accepting your day to day, moment to moment experience as real and valuable. Whenever you find yourself time travelling in your mind try a simple 5×5 meditation or simply stop and notice your breathing for a few moments, to bring you back to now. You can also take a moment to look around you and notice the small details of your immediate environment. It’s amazing what you see when you stop to look.

4. Avoid avoiding all unpleasant feelings at any cost

Try to welcome all feelings and emotions as temporary messengers who have something important to tell you. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are and they do pass. Emotions are our body’s way of communicating our truest needs, desires and wants. We don’t have to follow our emotions or do what they tell us to every time, however, acknowledging your feelings is the first step towards honoring our truth. Knowledge is power after all.

5. Accept things as they now are and go from there

…instead of how you would like them to be. Don’t waste energy or time on struggling with discontent. The more you struggle with feelings of frustration, unfairness and anger regarding those things (or people) that you cannot change, the less energy you have to put into changing those things you can. Take a deep breath, and take control of the only things you can control, your own mouth, arms and legs!

6. Learn to see your thoughts as just thoughts, not facts or reality

Some thoughts are factual, some may have elements of truth and some may be completely incorrect – learn to choose which thoughts are most helpful to you rather than focusing on whether they are true or real. Our thoughts have the ability to influence our emotions and actions. But, thoughts are really just words, symbols and images floating in and out of your conscious mind. They are not who you are. Your thoughts do not define you. One of the core mindfulness processes is taking a step back from your thoughts and watching them come and go. Like clouds in the sky, or sushi on a sushi train! You can choose your thoughts just as you can choose your sushi. Focusing on thoughts gives them undue power  however so, choose your thoughts wisely.

7. Practice self-compassion daily.

Be kind to yourself. Learn and practice how to be your own best friend and treat yourself with the kindness, compassion and respect you really want. Watch what you say, do and how you treat you. If you find yourself saying, doing or treating yourself in a way that you would never treat a friend then that is a sign that you need to be more loving to you. Take some time every day to say a kind word to yourself or give yourself some praise or encouragement. It might be useful to practice daily affirmations like, I am doin the best I can with what I have or Every day I get a little better at being me.

There you go. Seven super simple New Year strategies to practice daily to improve your mind, reduce anxiety and stress without having to start a new exercise class or join anything.

Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable end of 2017!

 

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What makes for a healthy relationship?

Relationships. Like it or not, we can’t really live without them. For better or worse, our world can be rocked by the quality of our relationships. That’s why our early relationships are so important. It’s from these early years that we learn a lot about what it means to be in relationship with another human being.

As babies and then small children, we rely on our caregivers (mothers, fathers, other adults) to show us what relating to another person involves. That is, how to act, what is and is not o.k., how to share, how to be alone and how to manage stressful situations. As babies and young children we trust the adults in our world to care for us. This makes it easier for us to explore our world, knowing that we can rely on our caregivers to be there when we need them.  This is what is known as secure attachment.

There are different types of attachment based on the quality of your early childhood relationships. According to attachment theory there are four basic attachment styles:

Secure, Anxious-ambivalent, Anxious-Avoidance and disorganized attachment. The theory goes that whilst we may have a dominant pattern or style of attachment, our attachment styles can change during our lifetime, depending on our adult relationships and experiences.

A healthy relationship mirrors a secure attachment.  In a healthy relationship we have a balance of security and independence. We feel safe with our partner and feel supported whilst also being free to follow our dreams. In a healthy relationship, our primary partner is our most important attachment but not our only attachment. There is room for friendships, family, career and self-fulfillment.

How do you know if you are in an healthy relationship? Well, the two wheel diagrams below help explain the difference. The Power & Control Wheel shows you what an abusive relationship is like so this is clearly not a healthy relationship. The Equality Wheel shows some elements of a healthy relationship, also pictured below.

 

 

DVWheel

 

EqualityWheel

 

I too have a list of elements or factors that I consider are essential for making a healthy, long lasting and rewarding relationship. This is my personal list of the sorts of things I consider to be important. I encourage you to think about and make up your own list. If your relationship is not as you would like it to be, perhaps counselling may help you and/or your partner have a look at why this is and what you can do about it.

My list of relationship toolbox essentials:

Communication – the couple that talk together, stay together.  If you can talk to your partner as if they were your best friend then chances are, when you are both older, greyer and hopefully wiser, you will still be able to just sit together and talk. When everything else fades, conversation is priceless.
The Comfortable Silence – Just as it is important to be able to talk well together, so is it important to be able to sit quietly in the same room together and not feel like you have to talk. Reading together, checking your social media feeds, watching TV or a movie, are all simple things that can be done quietly and contently.
Knowing the game plan – making sure you both want the same thing and are on the same page when it comes to the relationship’s strategic plan. Do you both want marriage, or not. Kids or not. Big wedding or elope to Las Vegas.? Whilst marriage and children are tricky topics to bring up, and perhaps not a good idea to do so on the first date, at some stage it has to be discussed. I had a good friend who spent 7 years with a man because she assumed he would want children at the appropriate time but when that time came, he made it clear that he did not. Ever. It was a heartbreaking situation.
Sex & Intimacy – Worthy of a blog post of it’s own, but in my humble opinion, sex is as important in a relationship as both parties deem it to be. Some couples are bonking all the time, some save it for a special occasion. For me, it’s about quality not quantity and as long as there is physical closeness, affection, intimacy and everyone’s needs are being met most of the time, that’s good enough for me.
Friendship – At the core of any romantic relationship in my book is a solid friendship. You know, the sort of friendship where it doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re doing it with your bestie then it’s a fun time.  Having a partner that is a best friend as well as a romantic partner is the best of both worlds as far as I am concerned.
Negotiating  – Sometimes you are not going to agree with your partner. He is not going to want to come to that family barbecue. She is not going to want to watch that movie with you. There are times when you both want different things. That’s when the ability to negotiate fairly becomes an essential tool in keeping your relationship healthy and thriving. Aiming for a win-win scenario, knowing when to concede a point, showing some restraint when it comes to pushing yours – the art and ability to negotiate is an invaluable relationship tool.
Time – The saying goes, All good things take time. And this is particularly true for relationships. If you are spending 50+ hours at work and are at the gym every other day then your relationship is going to suffer. Period. Likewise, if you cannot think of doing anything without your partner in tow or your partner won’t go anywhere without you then this is not ideal either. Finding a good balance of time spent together and apart is a delicate art at times, but one well worth trying to get right.
Laughter – Laughter is quintessentially human. Being able to laugh with (and sometimes at) your partner is a magical, beautiful thing. A relationship with plenty of laughter peppered throughout is like taking vitamins to keep your healthy on the inside. If you can laugh with your partner when things are going well then it just may be the balm you need to soothe the relationship when life gets more challenging.
Authenticity  –  the ability to truly be yourself when you are with the person you love is, to me, the most essential relationship factor. Feeling like you can say whatever is on your mind, take off your “professional” mask and relax with your significant other is so important. After all, having to pretend to be someone else for years can get pretty exhausting! If you can be your true self with your partner it makes the stress and anxiety that comes with every day life easier. I love that feeling of coming home to my partner and being able to just breathe a sigh of relief.

Well that is it for now. See if you can come up with your own list of relationship factors that you think make the perfect blend when it comes to a healthy, thriving and fulfilling relationship. If you feel I have left anything out that you think is super important, feel free to comment below.

The primal wound: Do you have one?

Great post and worth a read for anyone suffering with trauma and non-identifiable anxiety/depression or addiction.

ACEs Too High

Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition? Is it species normal for individuals to feel anxious—like impending doom, a fear of intimacy, or a sense of falseness and meaninglessness?

John Firman and Ann Gila, following the psychosynthesis tradition of Roberto Assagioli (1973), say no, this is not part of being human. The “anxious estrangement” that most people today feel is not normal but unnatural (The Primal Wound, 1997, p. 2). It is the result of a violation in early life that results in broken relationship to parents, others and the world. More deeply it is the missing connection to Ultimate Reality or the Ground of Being. The primal wound is:

  •  “a break in the intricate web of relationships in which we live, move, and have our being. A fundamental trust and connection to the universe is betrayed, and we become strangers to ourselves and others, struggling for survival…

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To my friends about to turn the big four Oh No!

A little less than 10 years ago now I wrote by first ever blog post. I was 39 at the time, newly single (again) and about to turn 40. I had just left a particularly nasty relationship and found myself playing the dating game again. That was the start of a long journey for me, a journey of discovery, fun, excitement, pain, heartache, joy, some hard truths and much more. I am very thankful for what I learned along the way however, it led me to where I am today and that is something I am extremely grateful for.

But that was my situation at the time. Every ones’ circumstance is different but whatever is going on for you, whether you are married, divorced, single, with or without children – whatever the case may be, turning 40 is probably the most anxiety provoking thing you will ever do. (Apart from being born, getting married, starting a new job and a myriad of other things that life throws at us.) Yes, turning 40 is one of those milestones that stumps us all. It’s the time to really say good bye to your youth and a time to accept that you are definitely on the downward slope now… (cue evil laughter).

Or, is it?

I certainly thought so at the time, and the idea filled me with a sense of impending doom and dread. Of course, I now know that I was having what Bugental may have termed an existential crisis. There is something about the shock of turning 40 that makes you feel as if death is just around the corner, that life from now on will be just that little bit worse and that it will continue in that vein until death. But, I can honestly say, that is just anxiety talking. The fact is that 40 is just another number, another year, another arbitrary marker that only has meaning because we make it so. For me, turning forty was the start of one of the most fruitful, productive, exciting periods of my life. I can honestly say, I had nothing to worry about. Now. But, that’s the benefit of hindsight.

Here’s what I wrote back in 2009:

I’m not forty, yet. But it is looming around the corner like the bus my best friend stepped in front of when she was 18 and which kept her in hospital for 6 good months. I mean, she knew the bus was close, on it’s way, due even… like, it was a busway she was crossing at the time, but still, she didn’t see it coming. But that didn’t stop the bus from whacking her one and leaving her broken up and unconscious on the side of the road. I have the feeling that turning 40 is going to feel a bit like that…

I can tell you now, it was nothing like that.

So if 40 is in fact just another number and reality is scary the truth may be somewhere in between, but, whatever that truth is make it yours and make it count.

To all my friends and about to or who have just turned forty and are, as I was at the time, freaking out, take comfort. Life is a process and every stage has its challenges and benefits, its good points and bad. I hope that your forties give you everything you ever hoped for and more, and try not to freak out.

 

 

 

Why more rentals should be pet friendly

When my partner and I first decided to finally move in together – we both lived in teeny tiny studio apartments, (which by Sydney’s inner west standards were quite spacious, I have since discovered) but certainly not suitable for two people, plus one Chihuahua and one cat (breed unknown) – we found it difficult, to say the least, to find a pet friendly rental in Sydney’s inner west. Something which may be surprising to some as anyone who has lived in the inner west knows, there seem to be more dogs than people! I am pretty sure that not everyone with a pooch  owns their own property so surely these numbers don’t add up?

In any case, it took us many weeks of looking to finally find a place that allowed pets. Note, if a property was advertised as NO PETS then we didn’t bother applying of course, but many don’t specify whether they are pet friendly so it is quite disheartening to find something reasonable that you like, only to be told either at the inspection or by telephone, Sorry the owner won’t allow pets. In many cases, even if the real estate agents say, Pets will be considered on application, you get no response at all to your application or an email simply stating your application was unsuccessful. Both my partner and I work, have a good rental history so I can only put it down to, what I call, The Pet Factor. Another factor I admit was that due to our budget and the ridiculously high cost of rent in inner Sydney, the properties we were looking at were mostly apartments or houses that had been split into apartments. I do understand that it is easier to find a pet friendly house as a rental but our budget simply wouldn’t allow for that.

My dog at the time was 10 years old and had spent most of his adult life living indoors. He gets walked twice a day and is quite content to just snore away in his little bed (or practically on top of the heater when it’s on) the rest of the time. Plus, he is a Chihuahua. The most apartment friendly dog you could ask for.

Over the years of renting in Sydney’s inner west I have always found it challenging to to find a rental. It is always a source of great stress and anxiety. At times, due to time pressure and the need to find something asap I have neglected to even mention that I have a dog and have gotten away with in on almost every occasion but one. Then I was asked to leave or give my dog away! As if. I’d rather live in a tent thank you very much.  In fact, many homeless people end up that way, partly as a result of having to give up their pets in order to access emergency housing. Many would rather risk life on the street than part with their animals. This to me illustrates how important animals are to our mental, emotional and spiritual well being. A fact that I can attest to from personal experience.

When I left a previous abusive relationship, and found myself alone in a different state and thousands of miles away from friends and family, it was my dog (the same one I mentioned earlier) that made all the difference to my mental health at the time. I know, for a fact that if I had not had his little, warm body sleeping on my bed, I would have felt a lot less safer and a whole lot more alone. And, if I had not had his little face looking up at me each morning, sometimes walking up onto my chest and staring right in my face with his big brown eyes silently yet intently imploring me to get up and take him for a walk, I would have stayed in bed a whole lot more. I would have given into the waves of depression that threatened to engulf me constantly during those dark days. Quite simply, in many ways, I owe my dog my life. He was the one thing that kept me going, getting on with things, got me out of the house and he always made me smile, somehow.

My dog was the one source of unwavering, unconditional love that was a candle in the dark that I will always be grateful for. He is gone now (passed away from a heart condition, ironically, in January 2016) but I will always have the deepest gratitude for his presence in my life.

This is why I implore landlords to reconsider their stance on pets. Pets do as much damage as children in many cases, but no-one would dare have a ‘no kids’ policy attached to their rental. I have personally looked at rentals that are still occupied where kids have lived there and the places always, like their parents, generally look a little beaten up. If anything, a ‘pet damage’ clause is something most tenants would be happy to sign. If my pet damages it, like anything else in a property, I would be more than happy to pay for it to be repaired.

Pets add so much value to our wellbeing that it is time to recognize that and place a little more value on humanity than the purely economic factors of property ownership as a growing number of studies are attesting to.

Lyon the Chihuahua

Good moaning!

 

 

If you want something to change

image

When working with persons who are struggling with any mental health or emotional issue, it is interesting to note how attached people become to the behaviours, beliefs and/or relationships that are the main cause of their difficulties and the reason for their appearance in the consulting room.

This is not surprising, in psychology, defensive behaviours such as addiction, depression, anxiety and related safety behaviours become so entrenched because at one time, for all intents  and purposes, these behaviours worked to relieve some psychological pressure that was unmanageable to the person at the time.

I still find it challenging when a client shows resistance to any suggestion that they change something they are doing in order to work towards their stated therapeutic goal, whatever that goal might be. Often, even after going through workability (what have you done so far, how has it worked for you, what has it cost you?) I find that clients are still reluctant to alter damaging behaviours even at the cost of health, valued relationships, money, time, goals etc.

They cling to their behaviours like a child might cling to a parent, even when that parent may also be the cause of suffering and pain.

Attachments can form in the most unlikely circumstances, such is our desire for connection and love. We will often put up with a lot of discontent in order to maintain the most tenuous connection to those, or that which we are attached to.

So the anguish this conundrum causes people is palpable and sometimes heartbreaking to watch.  But reality has a way of exerting itself in a variety of ways, and eventually the breakthrough realisation is as simple as knowing that, in the most fundamental way action needs to happen in order for change to occur. In other words, if you want something to change, you need to change something, no matter how small.

 

 

Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

This morning I felt in necessary for some weird reason to re-visit Brene` Brown’s now infamous talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I first watched it during a week long Counsellor Development W…

Source: Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

Meditation on flying

 

Caught a plane to Melbourne yesterday morning. I was allocated a window seat, first time in a long time that I have. I also had the entire row to myself which was unusual considering the plane was otherwise full. Not that I’m complaining.
It was a beautiful, blue and sunny Sydney morning, so I took the opportunity to not read, or look at my device but to just sit and enjoy the view and the experience. I augmented my experience with music by way of what I had on my phone, which was also an unfamiliar experience for me. I rarely wear headphones around, I’d rather hear what is going on around me, most of the time. But for this flight, I thought it might be a nice change.
As I looked out of the small window, my view was restricted by the wing. Not that I’m complaining about that either, I am really glad that it’s there but my mind did go to some future place in which planes were designed to be mostly glass – that way you’d really feel like you were flying among the clouds. But that hasn’t happened yet. As such, I had a small window framing my view and that would have to do.
As the plane gathered speed, about to take off, I marvelled at this feat of human engineering. This pinnacle of human achievement. What was once thought of as impossible was now an everyday occurrence, something we mostly took for granted, like so many of our current technological advances. I use that word with some hesitation, however, I cannot think of a better one for now. But, I think it prudent to sometimes pause and reflect on that which we take for granted lest it get away from us, or overcome us somehow…
The plane gathered speed and soon it lurched forward and the ground was no longer supporting me. A weird, unnatural feeling which gave me a sudden feeling of anxiety. This is not natural. Humans were not meant to fly! I am literally putting my life in the hands of a stranger. How do I know he isn’t throwing back tequila shots in the cockpit? Suddenly the whole idea of leaping into the sky in what pretty much amounted to a tin can with wings seemed completely preposterous. The definition of madness! I felt my amygdala ignite and my brain flood with chemicals which signalled ‘danger, danger’ to the rest of my body. My heart started beating faster and my breath felt short and strained. Was it too late to turn back?
Then, I was overtaken by the sight of a fluffy white cloud which seemed in hands reach – if I were able to open the window, and by how solid the clouds all seemed, I almost expected to see an angel or two, lazily plucking at a harp string. The sky beyond the clouds was blue and the ground had pulled away from us enough so that you could see the curve of the earth on the horizon. Another reminder to me that my existence is depended on the vehicle in which I am travelling. Be that a tin can catapulted by jet fuel, or a big round rock obiting a sun, which is itself moving through space. Or the body that houses my consciousness.
Nothing is that stable, or that permanent. If this was my last day on earth then I was grateful for the time I had been alotted. Beauty comes at a price, truth depends on your perspective and joy is a choice you make every day. Yesterday I chose joy, and gratitude, and hope.

Don’t be afraid of change

Ch-ch-ch-chaanges! So sang David Bowie in the iconic song of the same name. One of my favourite David Bowie tracks, and probably one of my favourite songs of all time. Definitely in my top 10, if I had a top ten.
Anyway, in that song Bowie reflects on change and what it means both from a personal and societal point of view. Change is something that often occurs whether we want it to or not. Sometimes change is thrust upon us, in the form of say a change in work status, or a lover leaving us, or the death of someone close to us, or having to move out of your dwelling because the landlord has sold the property…and the list goes on. Change happens every day and can happen in an instant, for better or worse.

But change can also come on gradually. You may even plan for it, and want it, know that you need it, desperately, yet when it comes it can still shake you to your core. Change is the cause and cure for much of what presents itself as anxiety.

In ACT we speak of clean and dirty discomfort, or in other words, anxiety in the service of good or the anxiety that leaks out of the darkness, the anxiety of staying stuck and the anxiety of moving forward.

Wherever you look there is anxiety, fear, discomfort …for that there is no cure.

To be honest, I’ve never been all that good with change. Even when it’s a change I want, need and desperately desire. Even when it’s a change that I know will be for the good of all those concerned, myself included. Change is both exciting and terrifying. The dip in the rollercoaster, the curve in the bend, the unopened door.

So considering I was contemplating the above, I was taken aback when I casually informed the man that comes in once a week to clean our fish tank at my current workplace that I wouldn’t be here next week, as he strolled out the door saying, “See you next week!” as he often does.

He stopped in his tracks and came and had a chat with me, for the first time in the 2 years that I have been working here, and asked where I was going. I told him I had a new job so was leaving to start a career in what I had been training for, counselling and pyschotherapy. Turns out he taught psychology for many years before turning to the ‘fish tank business’, as you do.

We had a brief conversation reflecting on how different my role was going to be compared to my current role, during which he dispensed some unsolicited wordly advice, for which I was very appreciative. It’s nice to have anyone show an interest in what you are doing, but it was his parting words which really made me think, ahhh, is someone trying to tell me something here

“Don’t be afraid of change..”

Weird.

So where ARE the counselling jobs for counselling graduates?

In May of 2015, I finally completed my post graduate diploma in counselling.  After three and a half long years of sacrifice, studying part-time while working full-time (whilst getting paid the equivalent of two thirds of my former salary as a brand manager), I started looking for work as a counsellor only to find that many advertised roles which have the word “counsellor” in the title, don’t actually ask for specific counselling qualifications. Many seem to ask for social work or psychology qualifications. To be honest I was kind of confused. If you are advertising for a counsellor, why ask for a social work qualification? Asking for a psychology degree seems to make more sense, however, even the post graduate psychology course (which I was considering at one stage) does not have counselling specific subjects.

Below is an example from the Sydney Universisty Post Graduate Diploma course outline:

GRADUATE DIPLOMA IN PSYCHOLOGY – POSSIBLE STUDY PLAN A
Semester 1 Year 1 PSYC2011 Brain and Behaviour *
PSYC2012 Statistics and Research Methods for Psychology *
Semester 2 Year 1 PSYC2013 Cognitive and Social Psychology *
PSYC2014 Personality and Intelligence I *
Semester 1 Year 2 PSYC3018 Abnormal Psychology *
Plus one of the following:
HPSC3023 History and Philosophy of Psychology & Psychiatry **
PSYC3011 Learning and Behaviour
PSYC3012 Cognition, Language and Thought
PSYC3015 Personality and Intelligence II
PSYC3017 Social Psychology
Semester 2 Year 2 Any 2 of the following:
PSYC3010 Advanced Statistics for Psychology ***
PSYC3013 Perceptual Systems
PSYC3014 Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience
PSYC3016 Developmental Psychology
PSYC3020 Applications of Psychological Science

As you can see, there are no counselling specific subjects or counselling placement requirements.

I’d like to contrast that with the course I did, the Graduate Diploma in Counselling at ACAP (Australian College of Applied Psychology):

Graduate Diploma of Counselling (GradDipCouns)(Re-accredited)

Year 1

1.  COUN5131 Counselling Practice

2.  COUN5141 Counselling Theories

3.  COUN5151 Cross Cultural Counselling

4.  COUN5161 Counselling Over the Lifespan

5.  COUN5171 Ethical Decision Making

6.  Elective

Year 2

7.  COUN5201 Counselling Skills and Models

8.  COUN5211 Grief Counselling

9.  COUN5221 Mental Health Practice

10. COUN5231 Field Placement and Supervision 1

11. COUN5241 Field Placement and Supervision 2
12. Elective

Electives – choose two

COUN5801 Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselling
COUN5811 Narrative Therapy
COUN5821 Creative Therapies
COUN5831 Groupwork Theory and Practice
COUN5841 Family Counselling
COUN5851 Trauma Counselling

As you can see, most of the subjects are counselling related and counselling specific. A counselling degree trains people to be counsellors and therapists. A psychology degree, on its own, does not.

If I was recruiting for a counselling position, then it would make the sense to ask for a counselling specific qualification, however this is not happening often enough, as far as I can tell.  In 2015 when I called up the advertisers of some of these roles and asked, would they consider someone with a counselling specific qualification for the position, I was been met with somewhat defensive or ignorant responses. Clearly the question made them uncomfortable. To be fair, some said, yes a post graduate diploma in counselling would also be considered and encouraged me to apply …but my next question was then, (as it is now), why not state that in the ad? At the very least, from what I have gleaned so far, there seems to be little knowledge in the community services sector about the difference between counselling, psychology and social work. The way some advertisements are written you would think these disciplines are inter-changeable. I can tell you, they most certainly are not.

My suspicions regarding jobs for counselling graduates were depressingly confirmed when I came across this article written by a counselling educator at UWS,  Where are the jobs for our graduates? (This blog post is kind of in response to this article). I say depressingly because the Google search phrase I used which delivered this article, (third result from the top) was, “graduate jobs counselling”!

After spending three years studying to be a counsellor I can honestly say this article was a low point. As someone who also has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism, I can tell you the ACAP Grad Dip Counselling is not an easy course, not academically nor practically. Don’t get me wrong, if I had my time again, I probably would have started with a psychology degree and continued with the post-grad in counselling. I think psychology degrees are useful for many career paths including counselling, research, business etc.  If I was interested in social justice or community work then a social work degree would be the right qualification to have. But I see myself, quite specifically, as a counsellor or psychotherapist. Someone that wants to work one on one, or in small groups, with people who need the sort of help only a therapeutic counselling relationship can offer. I strongly feel that what we know of as counselling can be the most effective agent of change for many people.

So, why is it so difficult to find a counselling role that asks for counselling qualifications? In the first instance, more work needs to be done by our governing body, PACFA (The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia) and educational institutions, such as ACAP,  – to educate the sector and government about the differences between these three different occupations.

The fact that Medicare does not cover counselling does not help. Similarly, most private health care funds will cover psychology, but not counselling. Interestingly, most will also cover alternative therapies (such as aromatherapy, massage etc) as well, but only Medibank Private offers a rebate for counselling. PACFA, have been campaigning to get counselling and psychotherapy covered by all Private Health Insurance companies. You can read more about their campaign here. This is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. Even though the evidence base for the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy continues to grow, I sometimes fear that we are preaching to the converted.

Considering I originally wrote this piece in 2015, the situation is still very disheartening and frustrating for counselling graduates. I am lucky to have found a full-time position in a counselling related role however I know that many counselling graduates struggle to find full-time, counselling related employment. In one sense, this is the plight of all new graduates – companies ask for on the job experience which is impossible to get without, well, experience. At least with a counselling qualification I exited the course with actual counselling experience already under my belt, something employers may be interested to know.

In my case, putting in extra work and volunteering helped me get the job I wanted. However, I believe there is more than one set path to achieving any goal.  As long as you are following your heart and living your values there is hope. Let me leave you with this inspirational quote which I have always liked:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

William Hutchison Murray

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