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.