I went to a conference on Saturday. It was the Bridging the gap student event put on by the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy).
So it was both really inspiring and deflating. Not in equal measure I feel.
The deflation ….
Firstly the average salary of a counsellor in the UK? £11,000. That is deflating in terms of what it means about who will come and work in the industry. I’m sorry but the majority of the attendees filled the UK stereotype of a counsellor. White, middle aged, middle class, female. One speaker pointed this out saying right at the start of their training they asked a tutor why that was so. His response was “Because they have white, middle aged, middle class husbands that can pay for them to play at counselling”. I don’t believe these people are playing at it at all I’m sure the vast majority are committed caring individuals but there’s some truism in the statement and that stereotype sadly. However as someone who is definitely not one of those categories – I’m certainly a male and doesn’t associate with another despite all appearances – I’ll be working class till I die no matter what house I own, car I drive or career I follow (for me being working class is in my genes not in my bank balance) I may have some unique selling points to offer clients.
Now the inspiration…
Loads of it. People talking about how they forged out a private practice using ingenious methods like swapping their spare room with someone else. Genius! Don’t want to counselling in your own home but can’t afford to rent somewhere? Know someone with the same problem? Do you both have a room you could convert to a counselling space? Yes? Then you use theirs they use yours and let your clients know it is only a business arrangement that you use that room. Simple genius!
One thing really struck me was a talk which touched on do we as a counselling profession actually help with the oppression of the minority and the diverse? By helping these folks integrate into society are we simply oppressing their individualism to ensure they look more like the rest of us? Like… WOW man! Got me thinking. Also if you work for an organisation to counsel staff or other stakeholders are you simply propping up a failing institution by helping those people cope week to week rather than deal with the systemic issues within that organisation? Say you took one day a week to counselling the staff of a company and every week every one of your clients moaned about the hours they have to work, that they are taking work home at the weekend and it was damaging their families lives etc? And that they all broadly said “Talking to you is the only way I cope getting through the week”. You look at the nice regular fixed income this company is providing and that you’ve promised complete confidentiality to your clients and that nothing will go back to the employer? But really… what should you do?
Actually those two situations sound bleak but to me that was actually inspirational about the value of being a counsellor to those people, to society and to the institutions we may be employed by. But it is an ethical dilemma labyrinth.
The big thing that really came out to me though was – be authentic, be who you are as a person as a counsellor, don’t just play the role as a counsellor. If you are acting a part you truly aren’t underneath the client will smell a phony and soon depart and you’ll never reap the benefit of helping people with the exploration that is potentially available to them. The inspiration far outweighed the deflation btw.
Okay now… where was I with that Case Study!
I read this story on the BBC website – a good news story about a house set up in Amy Winehouse’s memory by her family to help women in early stages of recovery.
I’m pleased that there is more focus on women in addiction. Too often even now I have to correct the misconception that AA is full of old guys like me. Many meetings I go to locally are at least equally split if not a majority of women at some. I also think women do seek help younger than most men seem to – which is a good thing in itself. Women do seem to generally say “I’m not well” easier than men seem to do so. Recently I was somewhere where a statistic was put up that most AA members were men. Nationally, in the UK, the last AA membership survey put the split as 40% women to 60% men. As I say though where I live I don’t agree with that split it is much closer to 50:50 to my eyes.
There is another women’s only project near where I live too that I should praise the Naomi project at the Kenward Trust.
Hopefully the stigma or at least talking about women having alcohol addiction issues is being broken down.
Sadly the additional syllable due to the five means it doesn’t scan into the opening line of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Referencing that song on 14th February has some irony …
25 years ago today (Valentine’s Day 1992) Mrs F, a very young Son-of-Furtheron (he was just 19 months old) and yours truly moved into the house we’ve called home ever since. Daughter-of-Furtheron wasn’t even a speck on the horizon, she didn’t arrive until 3 and a half years later. My memories of that day are some vivid and some blank. I remember a discussion with the removal men about my (then much more limited) guitar collection and why I insisted on loading it all into one of our cars rather than have them transport it. Him saying “we’re fully insured” wasn’t the reassurance I wanted or needed! I remember that we had to wait to get the key and the folks leaving the house we’re now in seemed to lack urgency so it was all a bit of a dash to unload late afternoon and early evening. It started raining as we unloaded. I then remember after the removal guys had left I was sitting on a chair surveying the chaos around us as as my father-in-law returned with fish and chips for us all. We ate them out of the paper as there was no chance of finding plates and cutlery. I then remember being in the garage moving boxes about as it was teaming with rain and the door had a large gap at the bottom so I learnt quickly not to store anything too near the door … until some years later when we had that replaced and a better drain installed. I’ve always joked this was the Valentine’s gift to trump all others I’ve ever bought for my wife. “Remember the year I gave you a house?”
Also today is the 14th of the month. That date for a long while was always met with a lift in my heart and smile on my lips. Another month sober. I take my sobriety day as 14th May 2004. As I was driving to a meeting last night I was thinking about the anniversary of our home that is today, realised it is the 14th and quickly totted up that I’m actually sober exactly 12 years 9 months today. That raised my spirits and made me feel really warm inside. Because unbeknownst to me sometime in the last few weeks I’ve past a significant milestone. I’ve spent more time in my current home sober than I did as an active alcoholic. For me there is something significant in that, it is like sobriety is slowly winning, slowly pushing back that demon so that a sober me is the more prominent in my history. Like in a war as one side slowly takes more ground from the other to assert its dominance.
I drank seriously from about the age of 16 through to 41. So that’s about 25 years. It’s difficult to be exactly precise with faded memories etc. However I’ve always stated I had a 25 year drinking career. So one day at a time I’m slowly nearing my 13th sober birthday on 14th May this year. That’ll be another big milestone for me as then I’ll have been sober more than half the time I was an active alcoholic. I’ll be on the backslope of the mountain range if that makes sense in terms of distance from my last drink. I hope to maintain the journey on the long and winding road (another Beatles’ reference hah!) and one day I hope to be able to report that I’ve been sober longer than I was a drinking alcoholic. That’ll be the day!… oh Buddy Holly – oops – the Beatles must have covered that sometime surely. (Just researched this after initially publishing this post. Apparently claimed to be the first song the Quarrymen recorded in 1958… queue spooky music)
In the end it is just one day, this day, away from a drink that really matters and I know that. However the days do add together and they have some significance for me in my journey.
I hope I’m not jinxing this but the boiler was fixed yesterday. A quick recap…
17th Jan – it started pouring water out of the overflow pipe every time we used it. There was an attempt to fix it. Failed.
New expansion vessel fitted – that’ll fix it… didn’t
Continued to use it with the fault.
31st Jan – attempt to fit a new heat exchanger. I can’t describe the disaster this was. Boiler left in a state that it was simply unusable and disconnected.
3 Feb – another attempt to fix this – another failure
7 Feb – a hero turns up. Removes what is left of the boiler off the wall – which frankly wasn’t much and begins to reassemble the boiler from scratch. More water everywhere when a seal failed, then flooded electrics denied it working although I had hope then as we had heating for about 15 mins. Finally after an epic build and fixing it was all fixed last evening. It was still working this morning. I pray I don’t get home to a flood and it broken again.
So… aside from that. I’ve finished my written exams, awaiting results due in late March now. Panic about case studies now. Honestly studying when you are older isn’t the fun it seemed when I was younger – maybe I didn’t care so much.
In other news my tinnitus has been really bad again – triggered by a trip to the dentist, whether the noise or vibration on that side or simply that I was really tense throughout the whole procedure I don’t know. I’ve got to have a wisdom tooth extracted on that side too and some more work elsewhere so frankly not looking forward to that too much.
On a grander scale I’m flabbergasted by almost every other news story at the moment. Brexit, Executive Orders, Populist support for banning Muslims coming to Europe etc. I feel almost like I’ve been thrown into some dystopian novel. I have to decide my level of comfort with involvement in these things. I very publicly on one social media site signed a petition about the UK leaving the EU and stated my position. I was somewhat surprised with the number of people who followed my link and signed as well. It at least showed me I’m not alone in my distaste for this post-truth world. However I can’t change the world so I have to accept it and determine to work with it in some way even if I am against it.
Serenity at the moment is a word I comprehend but seldom seem to have as a comfy bedfellow.
Where to begin. Firstly the good stuff…
We had a superb day out in Leicester for my son’s PhD graduation. So unbelievably proud of him. We took the train up, booked into a hotel then met up with him and his girlfriend. Once he had the gown and silly hat on we went to have official photos done then off to De Montford Hall for the ceremony. Impressive organ btw. Afterwards we popped into his old department then had a celebration curry to cap what was a really fantastic day.
I had part one of my exam. So pleased it could all be moved to accommodate my son’s day. I think I did ok but you rely on the assessor agreeing with you don’t you? Part 2, the written paper, this coming week… fingers crossed.
Now the rubbish. I got one of those calls you dread at 4pm Monday. My daughter was outside my mother-in-law’s house unable to get an answer. My wife arrived as I started leaving London. She couldn’t get in as the door was locked. By the time I got there the ambulance crew had arrived and smashed a window to get in. She’d fallen and couldn’t get up butto nothing else amiss. At least she now has accepted, however ungraciously, some help.
We’ve been calling in, one of us, daily to check on her and my daughter called when we were away moaning that she wasn’t using some of the equipment. So frustrating.
If that wasn’t enough stress and on the coldest week so far this winter our boiler failed and we’re still waiting for it to be fixed.
All that in 7 days or less.
Glad I don’t drink anymore frankly I’d have been accelerating and exacerbating all the high and low emotions and not helping the situation at all. People in AA often claim God will only give them enough stuff that they can deal with at any one time. Given I don’t believe in some omnipotent interfering being like that anyway this stretches my “faith”. But I hear people say these things that makes me then think, it is still stuff I can deal with without needing a drink.
That time of year isn’t it. Why is 23:59 on 31st Dec any different to 23:59 any other day? Well an artificial man made thing to do with calendars that Julius Caesar had a hand in along with Pope Gregory XIII. Clearly not a superstitious man. I was musing on this on one of Mrs F’s and my walks this holiday period saying to me that it would make more sense if our calendar was aligned to the solstice and that marked the turning of the year – why it is 10 days later seems odd to me. Of course the adoption in the UK in 1750 meant my forebears lost 11 days when the date jumped. Also it partly explains the stupid UK tax year start date – it had until then historically been Lady Day in March but jumped the 11 days into April, there’s another added day for some reason – anyway hence 6th April. Frankly all nuts.
Back to 23:59:59 31st Dec 2016 then. There we all were, drinks in hand – Horlicks in my case and a Hot Chocolate for Mrs F – how the big times roll hey?! And the next second… 23:59:59 – WHAT!!! Was this some bizarre time warp was 2016 never going to end? Was it wanting to claim another famous victim before it finally went, would 2017 ever come. Then 00:00:00. Phew!!!
So did you notice the leap second? Well 2016 was a second longer than most years as we have to adjust our super accurate physics derived atomic frequency driven reference clocks as the old earth is just so darn slow, and slowing down hence the need for the extra second. What did you do with yours?
2016 – not a year I frankly look back on with much love. I’ve not been well through a lot of it – my first ever need for surgery for example. My Ménière‘s Disease issues. Then the widespread culling of celebrities starting with Bowie (Lemmy was actually just in 2015) and end with George Michael. Then politically. I won’t go on about it as I’m still trying to come to terms with living in a country where I seem at complete odds with the majority of the population now it seems. Where did the country I thought I knew go? Well in June it took a massive step to the right and I’m not comfortable with it at all. But we weren’t alone as USA seemingly followed suit and now it seems you can dictate policy for the largest and most powerful democracy in the world in 140 character tweets. To say I’m sad is an gross understatement.
On a personal note somethings have been good this year – my studies have gone well and I secured the placement I wanting, even if at times that been a challenge and been frustrating.
Let’s look forward then. 2017 will hopefully see me qualify as a counsellor, at least on the course and exam even if I don’t have the requisite hours this year. However in working in placement and talking to many others it does seem like there is precious little chance of paid employment. That was my initial plan a big career change. I can’t see that happening now. I do see myself continuing to work in the voluntary sector, thereby exacerbating the issue of no paid employment but using my skills for good for those that can’t afford the £40 a week and upwards that private therapy with an experienced counsellor would cost them.
With a busy schedule of work, study, placement, recovery stuff etc. I’ll not make any outlandish resolutions I know I’ll fail to keep but I do hope to do some more stuff musically this year and some other fun stuff too. First off we have Son-of-Furtheron’s PhD graduation to attend later this month. I really impressed myself sorting out the cheapest ticket option on the train to get there – that possibly should entitle me to some form of honorary award – seriously why is it that so difficult!
I stumbled over this interesting article in the Guardian.Guardian Article
Essentially researchers asked over 25,000 people in 40 countries to give them an answer to questions like “What percentage of your countries population are Muslim?”
The disparity between reality and perception is incredible.
Here’s one of the charts from the Perils of Perception 2016 research –
Actually pleased, and a bit surprised actually if I’m honest, to see GB came 39th out of 40 as being the nearly most accurate terms of the estimates people gave.
One of the real saddest things is this graph – we all think we are much more miserable than we are – or we think others are more miserable than they really are.