The Journey

This month we are delighted to include a blog from our Director of Training, Barbara Clarkson, TSTA

Everywhere, from Strictly Come Dancing, to the local gym, you can find people talking about their “Journey” these days. The journey to fitness, the journey of learning to dance, the journey of the Bake Off contestants etc. At the start of the new year of training for the Senior Training Group at Physis, I’ve been reflecting on the idea of the “Training Journey” in the world of counselling and psychotherapy, and how we are changed by it – all of us, including the trainers.

At the start of each training year a new group of people comes together to co-create a learning experience. The full year’s syllabus lies in wait, new notebooks and pens have been carefully selected, and the group notices what has changed since the previous year ended. Perhaps there are new group members, as well as familiar faces, and those returning after time away from training, (who are sort of connected but not known as well), and the sense of the empty chairs where people sat last year, who have now left the group, either having completed the training or having taken a break. And the trainer of course, familiar or foreign, known and experienced, or yet to be tried out. The sense of expectation and some hint of trepidation is palpable. We are all waiting to see what will happen this year.

Often, we settle quite rapidly into being “back” – the usual start of year administrative stuff seems to provide reassurance that not too much has changed, and provides the familiar backdrop against which we can tolerate “what’s new this year”. New assignments, new demands as placements and supervision need to be fitted in, and a new sense of where we are on this “Journey” – how far away is the Diploma exam now? What does it mean to be in the final year – are we the “big kids in the school” now? Are we meant to know stuff?

As a trainer, over many years, I have come to love the start of the year and the anticipation of what will unfold. I love Clarkson’s placement of Berne’s theory of groups alongside Tuckman’s model of the stages of development of a group – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing – and have come to believe, through lived experience, that groups really do have an energy, a unique personality and an identity all their own, with an organic need to grow, to enable the members to challenge and be challenged, to support and be supported, and to discover more of who they are and what they are there for. The new group will “do its thing”, the unconscious processes that each member brings into the space will help co-create the focus and the task of the group organism, which will then permeate the “how” of our learning together. What does this group welcome, what does it avoid, how does it tackle the bumps in the road, and how does it celebrate and support. I am the trainer, both part of and separate from the group at the same time. For me, each group I work with will become part of my “journey” as it enables me to see more of myself reflected in its dynamic, including those parts I am less comfortable with. I think this is what each new group offers to its members, in a unique and fragrant stew of many ingredients.

Of course, this training year too will come to its end. And this group will then have completed its work, both the external individual requirements of the year (essays, case studies, hours of practice etc), and the internal yet mutual process of being and experiencing each other and ourselves in our uniqueness. My hope is that each time the cycle turns, and the journey comes to an end, it simply makes it easier for us to move forward into a new stage, a new group, some new learning and discovery. For us, unlike the Bake Off and Strictly contestants, there is no final and no trophy. The continuing of this lifelong Journey of learning and personal growth is the prize.

A New Home for Physis Scotland

Home is where the heart is or so the old saying goes. Many of us can share this sentiment for our own homes and will perhaps have fond memories of the homes we have lived in over the years. It’s been so interesting for us these last few months after Physis moved out of Relationship Scotland, because we have felt a bit like hobos, with our library and other training materials scattered around the country quite literally, and having to rent various premises in Edinburgh to run our taster evenings, open mornings, CPD events and also our training weekends for the Foundation Year just started and the existing senior training group. It’s been tricky and costly on many levels to be honest.

Having a home became top of our agenda over the summer and we started looking for premises that would house us all and become a place that we associated lovingly with the training programme we provide. One day when we were driving along, ‘Hawkeye’ Firman spotted a to let sign outside a beautiful property in Drumsheugh Gardens. Wasting no time, we were in touch with the estate agents and went to view the property a week later. To say we felt charmed by the place was an understatement, but more importantly for us, it felt like home.

So, we set to work, negotiating the deal with estate agents, landlords and solicitors until we were happy with what we could afford and were comfortable with. The result is that we have signed a lease and picked up the keys this morning for a beautiful lower ground apartment at 22 Drumsheugh Gardens in Edinburgh. We need to furnish the space now so it will become a beautiful place to work in. A home in fact.

The 2 Fionas plan to move their respective private practices in very soon, and hope to start running the rest of Physis business from there in January 2019.

For interested colleagues, we will be able to rent out a therapy space at our new home Tuesdays to Fridays, and also have a training room to rent for supervision groups or training, so please do consider this option and get in touch with us if you are interested.

Watch this space for details of our opening bash.

Firm Foundations

The Physis Scotland Foundation Year 2018 began with 19 new trainees in the last weekend of September. So exciting! We appreciate that this reflection is from the trainers’ frame of reference, but we did want to mark the excitement and the new beginnings for us all.

Over the last 18 months or so, we have been working hard to recruit a viable Foundation year group to launch Physis Scotland. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we might have a group this size which brings with it both great opportunities and great responsibilities. A larger group can be daunting for both trainers and trainees, but we were delighted to observe how the group was able to talk about this and come up with ideas to encourage and support each other both within and out with the training sessions.

Below is a potted reflection of our first weekend:

Fabulous new group meeting, forming, sharing and learning together

Open Communication is being modelled from trainers and invited from all

Unexpected learning happening as we share together – learning what cannot be taught

New direction for many as we review the opportunities for our futures

Diversity within the group is vast with trainees from all over the world bringing richness and different frames of reference into the room

Admin session was necessary, but time consuming, to understand the key things we need to undertake and embrace training in all its fullness

Tuition from Matthew, Student Advisor, on how to write and structure an essay was informative and soothing

Identifying personal training goals for the year ahead was liberating and exciting

OK-we discovered we are all ok, we can all think and can make decisions about our futures

Negotiating our group contract helped us to co-create a safe environment within which we can learn, be ourselves and flourish

Year Handbooks are the necessary reference for us where we know what we are doing and what we need to work well together

Exciting curriculum ahead with experiential and creative techniques to help us learn

Autonomy is key for us all as we plan for the future

Ready now to journey together into the rest of our lives, personally and professionally

We are excited about the year ahead and look forward to meeting up later this month.

What A Journey…

As we approach the beginning of a new academic year, we are delighted to include a blog from one of our colleagues Lynn Esslemont about her experience of being a TA student.

What A Journey…

When the two Fionas invited me to write about my experience of being a trainee for the Physis blog I was both honoured and perplexed. Honoured that my ramblings continue to be of interest to others and perplexed as to how to concisely condense fours years of training onto a page or so of text. Thank you both for the opportunity and the challenge.

My previous experiences of education and training have been merely a series of tick box exercises and jumping through hoops. Something to endure rather than to embrace and enjoy. While there has been an element of that this time around, in terms of coursework and other practical requirements, there has also been a whole other part of the training process which I wasn’t quite prepared for. I have shared in previous blogs for Physis how I got started on my TA journey so I will not repeat myself here. I will only restate that since the fire started there has been no turning back. There have been times when I doubted my ability and desire to do the work. There were other times when I felt certain that working towards CTA and TSTA was my ultimate goal. Through these ups and downs, highs and lows, there has emerged a certainty.

The certainty is not that I am becoming the perfect therapist, nor is it around the end goal. My certainty is simply that I am on a path, and I am heading in a direction. In times gone by this would have freaked me out; no certainty, no end in sight, endless work. Today, however, I am liberated in my ability to trust the process and have faith in my journey. This has become a bit of a mantra among myself and many of my fellow trainees, often with the F word eloquently slipped in for maximum impact! I would like to note that I am not wandering aimlessly along the path. I still have thoughts and ideas about my destination and the direction of my path. These ideas ebb and flow, linger and leave and come round again in different guises. As my supervisor is always keen to remind me “all things are possible”. There is also a wee part of me that wonders if this has all been an elaborate exercise in self awareness and personal development. That too will be ok.

For me, the real work of the training process has not been in the academia of it all. It has been in the self awareness, the pain and discomfort, the emotional work, the breakthroughs and the aah moments, the growth, the tears and the joy. The real work is in the connection with others. Being part of an intimate group of people who have been so generous and courageous. Who have been willing to see and be seen. Who have shared themselves throughout the journey. Friendships forged in fire, like anchors, which provide safe harbours in stormy seas. I have never experienced anything quite like it. What a journey!

If I may be so bold I would like to leave you with my first ever pantoum. A poem written as part of my ending process during my final training weekend. The words used were selected from a page of free writing about my thoughts and feelings at the end of this particular part of my journey. Little did I know at the time how perfectly they would sum up my experience of being a trainee, of being part of both the Physis family and the wonderful world of TA.

Becoming Me

I am more me


I am more me