Becoming a Counselling Supervisor

This month we are delighted to include a blog post from our colleague Bev Gibbons, PTSTA who will  be co-facilitating Physis Scotland’s Diploma in Counselling Supervision course starting this November. Bev shares with us what you can expect from this interactive, dynamic, exciting and robust training programme.

5 Reasons to Train with us at Physis Scotland

1. Open and reflective training approach: Supervision is an essential part of the learning and development of practitioners. It provides a bespoke training space where the supervisee is facilitated to explore and reflect on experience, make meaning from that, put theory to practice, expand their knowledge. These ideas form the basis of our approach in training counselling supervisors.

2. A collaborative, unfolding training process that makes use of the experience of the encounter with another, what is evoked and co-created. Our training embraces the ongoing process of growth, self-discovery and learning from experiences of self with other, and self with self – essential skills in supervision.

3. Space to experience, develop and grow as counselling supervisors. Thinking is stimulated, as is the capacity for questioning, reflection, reflexivity and creativity all of which create and develops layers of the professional self and clear sense identity as a counselling supervisor.

4. A learning environment where participants feel encouraged to express themselves through discussion, creative projects, and choice of study areas. You are warmly invited to develop ways to find, express and use imagination and creativity in the learning process.

5. Creativity, curiosity and fun! Also essential within counselling supervision. These elements are key in providing positive learning experiences for our participants.

Physis Scotland Diploma in Counselling Supervision

The Physis Scotland Diploma in Counselling Supervision has Advanced Specialist training recognition with the National Counselling Society (NCS).

For more information please email or telephone 07927 557217.

Endings and Beginnings

This month, Fiona Cook PTSTA, one of the Directors of Physis Scotland reflects on endings, with a focus on the ending of our academic year and in particular the stepping down of our esteemed colleague and friend Barbara Clarkson as Director of Physis Training.

I wonder what your thoughts and feelings around endings might be? I imagine they will be linked to the many and varied endings we all experience throughout our lives; and how we feel about endings will be linked to our experience of the experience, if you understand what I mean. Whatever our experience, endings always involve change and something different happening from that time onwards.

So, speaking personally and generally, in the past I have often found endings quite tricky as there have been many endings in my life that I have had no control over. Endings that have not been my choice or decision, when my life and feelings have been affected by the decisions of others or the universe and I have had to regroup and take my life in a different direction.

So, are there ever ‘good’ endings? Or are they all ‘bad’? Does how I categorise or feel about them depend on whether it is my choice to initiate the ending or if they are planned well in advance? Possibly. But maybe not as there are so many variables to consider in each and every ending we experience. So how can I consider each ending in their own way and also consider the beginnings and opportunities every ending brings for me and others, so that I can feel and experience what I am feeling and experiencing without dread or reproach. Definitely a re-decision for me!

This last weekend at Physis Scotland we had many endings. Firstly, it was the final training weekend of the academic year and our Foundation year students completing their first year. For some, the decision to end their journey had been made at the beginning. They only ever wanted to complete Foundation Year as a stand-alone programme and so they have ended. It was sad to say goodbye and we were also able to celebrate with them, so a juxtaposition of emotions – sadness and joy. At the other end of the training taxonomy, our Advanced Year 3 students completed their 4-year journey towards becoming a Certified Transactional Analyst. Another ending, but also one to celebrate with them as they leave this part of the journey. We will miss them and we are proud of them.

Secondly, this past weekend marked the ending of Physis Training Ltd under the directorship of Barbara Clarkson and affirmed the successful transition we have made morphing Physis Training into Physis Scotland over this past couple of years. Despite the fact we knew this ending would come and has been planned for a number of years, it was still tough to say good bye to Barbara who has single-handedly been at the helm of Physis since 2010. Our Celebration Party to mark this event was a lovely evening where past students, colleagues and friends gathered to celebrate the many achievements of students and friends, to say a huge thank you to Barbara for helping to grow the TA community in Scotland this far, and also to say goodbye to this inspirational lady as she stepped down. It was a bitter sweet affair with tears of sadness, joy and celebration for many.

So where am I with endings now? Experiencing them is still tough and emotional, but I have learned they also come with change and opportunities for growth, the chance to review and perhaps do things differently. So they are not all bad, are they?

We hope all of our students positively grab the opportunities their endings will provide; we wish Barbara our gratitude and very best wishes for the next phase of her life and for Physis Scotland? Well, we will continue to maintain, sustain and grow the TA community in Scotland and take every chance this new opportunity brings us.
Endings are beginnings……

Challenges, Inspiration & Focus; How TA Holds My Process

We are absolutely delighted to welcome our colleague Susie Hewitt, PTSTA to the Physis Scotland team. This month we include a blog from Susie, who shares her reflections with us about what ‘challenge, inspiration and focus’ mean to her as a TA psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer.

I’m writing this on the train back to Manchester from Edinburgh and my first trip to the new home of Physis Scotland & meeting the Foundation Year Group during their “Contracting” module. The setting, tutors and students were inspirational and I am so much looking forward to being part of this organisation as a tutor for the Senior Training Group from October this year.

This feeling of being challenged, inspired and focused this weekend with Physis colleagues, reminds me of my process all the way through my TA journey, starting in April 2007 when I did my TA101. I know this TA training journey has enabled transformational change in me, and still continues to do so as I develop as a TA trainer and supervisor.

Last week, I was with our lovely Fiona Cooke at the UKATA Annual Conference in Birmingham. The first 2 days I was involved in the CTA & TSTA exams, and inspired by the competency, unique experience and collegial I+U+ demonstrated by all the candidates. We are a unique, international TA Tribe – and it soothes my ‘Don’t Belong’ injunction to feel so connected and proud to be part of this special modality. The conference theme was Autonomy & Attachment – and the challenge of being both at once.

This theme raised a personal challenge for me as I initiated some discussions with my other TA Training colleagues around the controversial SCoPEd framework (find more information on this initiative on the UKCP website). I wonder how we can be attached to our colleagues in the wider counselling and psychotherapeutic community whilst being autonomous in our TA Psychotherapy modality? I was inspired to write a short piece for submission in the next edition of the Transactional Analyst on the implications of the suggested SCoPEd framework and how TA brings much to the table in terms of training in different fields, yet belonging to the same modality. Our profession is not valued as it should be by our governments and many employers who are used to paying low salaries and offering zero-hour contracts, often forcing qualified counsellors and psychotherapists to continue with voluntary or low-paid positions. It’s a pleasure to be a tutor in a modality where many TA Diploma graduates are able to gain paid employment or be able to start a private practice where their skills and knowledge are valued.

Another challenge we face is that of reducing the stigma of mental illness and explaining to the public what exactly it is we do behind the veil of confidentiality and our therapy room doors. I have been invited to record a Podcast for the UKCP/Psychologies magazine partnership in July – we will be talking about how Mindfulness can help clients on their therapeutic journey. I have been an advocate of MBSR (Jon Kabat-Zinn’s therapeutic mindfulness approach) for over 10 years and urge my clients to daily use mindfulness apps such as Calm.

Whilst on the subject of technology in the therapy room, I have been focused this past month on the question of how we can ethically and safely harness the power of the internet and social media in our practice as psychotherapists, clinical supervisors and TA trainers. It has become more acceptable to receive tutorials and supervision via Skype, and as trainers we can attach to our students remotely to seed or consolidate learning prior to a module using YouTube/Facebook and other social media channels. As therapists (particularly those who work for EAPs) – we are used to giving therapy by phone or through online means. The question of how AI (Artificial Intelligence) maybe utilized in the psychotherapy profession is still to be seen. It has been my long-standing dream for us to receive a brain scan at client intake – although this is many years off (due to cost implications), neuroscience is already offering us new ways of understanding our clients’ psychological make up (we can spot an anxiously wired brain, a brain that has suffered from early attachment trauma, a brain with less connections between the cortex and limbic regions etc).

I have named a few of the challenges we face as individuals and as a profession, yet in these challenges I have found inspiration and an enlivening need to focus my attention on these important issues and how we can make a difference. Transactional Analysis has held me through my transformation into a psychotherapist then into a supervisor and a trainer. I am never through with learning something new – I have not yet read every TAJ article and book, never stopped being inspired by other TA professionals and never ceased to be satisfied by the privilege of witnessing the positive change journeys of my clients.

It’s my pleasure and privilege to journey further with you this next year at Physis and I’m looking forward to the joint challenges, inspiration and focus of our TA personal transformations.


The Gift of Therapy Training

This month we are delighted to include a beautiful blog from one of our colleagues Lucy Hyde, who
shares with us some of the ways in which therapy training has been a “gift” to her.

I don’t know if you know Irvin Yalom, an American psychiatrist who’s written many books in the field of psychotherapy. I love his writing, partly because he makes reading about psychotherapy effortless – my Try Hard driver has a tendency to make reading ‘work’ to justify it – but mostly because of the way in which he reveals his vulnerability, opening up about mistakes made as a practitioner – this godfather of psychotherapy gets it wrong too! The only driver that’s stronger than my Try Hard is my Be Perfect, so I avidly devour these reminders that it’s OK to be good enough, that making mistakes is human, that before anything else, therapists are human beings.

Anyway, Yalom wrote “The Gift of Therapy: an open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients”, when he turned 70. It’s a collection of his learnings about psychotherapy – tips, suggestions, guidance if you will – from the therapeutic relationship to ‘the hazards and privileges of being a therapist. I guess this blog is my open letter to anyone considering training as a counsellor or therapist.

Why is therapy training a gift? Because once you’ve committed to it – made that decision – you’ve taken the first step on a journey of discovery. Sounds a bit grandiose, doesn’t it? Yet it’s true – after that first step you can’t go back; you can turn aside and take a different path, you can even pretend that you haven’t learned what you’ve learned – but it’s still there, and you know a little bit more about who you are than before.

Here are some ways in which therapy training has been a gift to me:

1. I understand myself better
I’ve just moved back to my home in Scotland after living in Italy for two years (I mention this casually, as if it isn’t a Really Big Deal that I managed to summon up the courage to do that!)  As I was unpacking boxes that had come out of storage, I came across my notes and books from my COSCA certificate in Counselling Skills. This course is a prerequisite for many training courses; mine was unusually spread out over about 18 months which I’m very grateful for – it gave me all that time to really process what I was learning. The end of the first module required a self-evaluation. Here’s what I wrote: “I have realised that you can be a flawed individual and a counsellor at the same time – being a counsellor isn’t something that only comes once the individual has laid their demons to rest and become totally at one with themselves. In fact we never stop developing and discovering ourselves.” At that point I had never heard of TA and didn’t know what a Be Perfect driver was – but I’d already learned an important lesson about being Good Enough.

My last submission for that course included the sentence words “I have become able to be slightly kinder to myself as a result of understanding myself better and understanding the futility of beating myself up.” I read this wryly as I become slightly kinder to myself with each year that passes, even if the steps are small!

That learning about self never stops. A few years after leaving formal training, it’s become a habit.

2. I’ve learned the value of personal therapy other than in times of crisis
I’m thankful that I chose a training path that required I attend weekly personal therapy over an extended period of time.

I’ve written recently that when I was training to be a counsellor, my therapist asked me “Would you be here if it wasn’t a course requirement?” I saw it as a luxury I was obliged to pay for, to ‘do my learning perfectly’. I would still feel the struggle of justifying spending that money on myself now (I’m not currently seeing a therapist) but I’d be much more likely to go ahead and do it anyway.

Because I decided to see a counsellor during my COSCA certificate to better understand how to apply the theory to myself, and because I started seeing a TA therapist only weeks after I began the Foundation Year, I can’t separate training from personal therapy. The two are intertwined. My sessions were on a Monday and so after a training weekend my therapy session fed into, and was fed by, my processing of that weekend. But my life wasn’t just about training; as well as understanding the link between my family of origins and my attitude to group process, therapy over that four years helped me with grief, relationship difficulties, work stress and with the ultimate, self-acceptance.

3. My relationships are better
My first introduction to Transactional Analysis included the warning “people often decide not to continue because they realise that they’re changing and will lose some relationships” and that has certainly been true for some people I know – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself.

Training (and therapy) made a big difference to the relationship between me and my partner. In part this was because he was interested in it and would often ask what I’d been learning about, but anyone can understand the basic ego state model and recognise how they slip into a Parent-Child dynamic – and how they can choose to do things differently. We still use the Daily Temperature Check (maybe not daily, but regularly) after Ronen Stilman introduced it in a couples training weekend and it has made a huge difference to how we communicate.

Other relationships have changed too. I’m much more likely to be open about my vulnerabilities and fears than before, which invites intimacy from others. I’m also much more inclined to give love more easily; my stroke profile has shifted as I’m more ready to give positive strokes both to others and internally. I’ve learned that actually it’s good for the soul to be generous with your love – the Warm Fuzzy Tale of Claude Steiner in action!

4. I’m braver
Remember what I said about living in Italy? I think it’s probably true to say that without learning to be more kind and patient with myself, I would never have plucked up the courage to move to a country where I didn’t speak the language. It would have continued to be something that we’d talk about as an aspiration without ever actually taking the step to do it. Oh, other things contributed; I had a bit of money from an inheritance as a safety cushion; I’d taken the step of leaving full time work to work part time while setting up in private practice so I’d got used to budgeting and changing routine, the Brexit referendum gave impetus – but the change in me was crucial.

Don’t get me wrong; for much of my time there it was amazing and terrifying in equal parts. I was both living the dream and hiding in a cave sometimes. The change to my routine and the powerlessness of my not earning money for the first year were very challenging, as was the realisation that my Be Perfect driver would prevent me from ever speaking Italian quickly as I agonised over formulating the right phrases! But through it all I held in mind the wisdom of my very first TA trainer, that this was an AFLOG – Another Fucking Learning Opportunity for Growth. I learned to appreciate the amazing and accept the difficult, and to sit with juggling both of those at the same time.

Above all I’ve learned that it’s OK to push myself to do things outside my comfort zone (and it’s also OK to let myself stay in the safe place sometimes). I’ve got the confidence to get stuck into my next project – developing an outdoor therapy practice.

5. I’m more reflective
Therapy training encourages reflection as well as self-awareness. Reflection on what has gone well – and what could be done differently. I’ve continued with the practice of regular goal reviews, even while it’s been difficult to know where I’m going to be in six months’ time. That has been valuable not only in terms of giving me a sense of control at times when I’ve been floundering (even while the route meanders) but more importantly it’s helped me see how far I’ve come and to value that.

I really put it off this year because of transitioning back from one country to another – thinking “how can I know what I’m doing before I’m settled?” Yet when I knuckled down to it, I found cause for celebration as I reflected on my hoped-for goals of a year earlier, and the growth and development made since then.

6. I appreciate the meandering path
I often find it difficult to switch off the ‘shoulds’ – and the terrifying hierarchy of TA acronyms probably feeds into that a little. Though I knew it myself – somewhere – I was grateful to hear it when my partner said – maybe halfway through my training “You know, it’s OK if you decide you don’t want to be a therapist. You – we – have got so much from your training journey that it doesn’t really matter.” Learning that it was OK to not have a fixed end product was really helpful – especially as, at times through the training, there were big internal shifts that could push me off course. So my meandering path has included taking a part time job in a completely different environment to give me headspace to think about private practice and of course moving away from Scotland for a period of time.

My meandering means that I now have insights into things I didn’t before – the powerlessness of being in a country where you don’t know how things work; life as an immigrant or ex-pat; the cumulative impact of small changes – all of which feed into my work with clients. And I have added online counselling to my professional repertoire, which I had never expected to do – I work with clients by email and instant message as well as web-cam and phone. Through that work I’ve formed networks outside the TA community and have started to explore Inner Relationship Focusing. I’ve realised there’s plenty of time.

Therapy training isn’t just about therapy training.

“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” (Anatole France)


Yalom, ID. The Gift of Therapy. 2002. Piatkus; London.
Counselling & Psychotherapy in Scotland:
Steiner, C. The Original Warm Fuzzy Tale.