How I set up my Counselling Practice by Esther Lohneis

I gained my Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling through Sweet Track, qualifying in October 2015. In many other industries, gaining a professional qualification would mean that I would have started looking for and applying to jobs, however in the field of counselling, without accreditation (550 client hours), the cuts to public services over the last years and living as I do in a rural area, although I looked there are very few jobs. I took the decision to go part-time self-employed and set up in private practice.
There were several issues to work through to be able to do this, the first being, where would I work? Most therapists tend to work at home but I lacked the space and didn’t have a separate room to use, or even a garden where I could potentially have converted a shed to a therapy room. I only had a through lounge (with kids’ toys & books at one end), the usual furniture as well as a dining table. Therefore I found space to rent at a therapy centre. However it didn’t work for me as I had no client base and the other therapists that worked there were mainly body workers, so what I offered didn’t really fit. I ended up sitting in an expensive empty space a lot of the time. I couldn’t afford to wait it out and take that financial hit, giving notice after a few months.
Having exhausted other possibilities, I eventually did end up working from home with clever use of folding screens and rearranging the furniture / taking down pictures, when preparing for clients to arrive. It has its pros and cons, but mainly the flexibility suits me and I have few overheads. Also my house has never been so clean!
The next major consideration was a website. Having very few funds, I decided that I would do a create-your-own website course at the local adult education centre. It didn’t bode well when we were told on the first session that the duration of the 6 week course had been halved in length due to lack of numbers. The course turned out to be technological gobbledygook, taught by someone who obviously knew their stuff but couldn’t transmit that in an easily understandable manner to us, the students. The best thing about it to me was that I found out that the cheapest domain names and hosting were available from UK2.
I scraped together some cash, luckily my mum helped me out, and found a website designer. The first website was not what I’ve ended up with now, but it gave me a starting point and the designer created, on my instructions, my logo for me. What I discovered about website designers is, choose one who actually listens to you! I’ve since rewritten my website content about 3 times over the last 18 months or so and changed the images and look of it until now I have one that I am happy with and that reflects me and what I am offering in an authentic way – although I still retain the original logo. I found a great designer (on a friend’s recommendation) who does listen and upgraded my website to one that I can change details on myself, rather than always having to pay out to someone else to do that for me.
Other things I needed to do was take the BACP (Br. Ass. of Couns & Psychotherapy) proficiency certificate, which required a trip to Bristol and a month’s wait to see if I had passed. I also had to create a working contract, which I have altered and added to as I have evolved my practice and find out about tax and tax returns with all that entails. I needed to create an invoice & an assessment form for my clients. As well as this I had to make sure I was aware of BACP’s guidelines around CPD, data protection & updates on the ethical framework.
I also decided to take the Level 5 Advanced Diploma, also with Sweet Track. Although I found this quite gruelling with stopping and starting the business, caring for my younger children as a single parent and struggling for money, the huge advantages were that I consolidated my knowledge, got the support of a group half of whom were also setting up in practice and now I am offering a workshop based on the research project that I did on the course.
I had specialised in bereavement & end-of-life a little way into my practice; the bereavement work I loved and had a lot of experience in through one of my voluntary placements, which I continued to do as I progressed through the Level 5. The end-of-life work had always appealed to me, but I found when I went to the training days at a hospice that I simply did not want to do any more voluntary work and the role that was on offer was not in the professional capacity that I wanted. At the end of the first day I came to the decision not to continue and the sense of relief I felt as I drove away told me that I had made the right decision. Likewise after 4 years seeing clients on behalf of a bereavement charity, I realised that I needed to free up my time so that I could earn a living, or at least work towards that and that again, I was so over voluntary work although grateful for what it had given to me in terms of experience and client work.
It is over 2 years ago that I began my journey of setting up my counselling practice and it is only now that I feel fully grounded in what I am offering and that it reflects all facets of me as the person I am. This includes also offering shamanic healing and a fusion of shamanic techniques and spiritual counselling, which I have called shamanic counselling. I tiptoed around offering this for a long while as well as what to actually call my counselling work – ultimately for me I am here on earth as a spirit having a human experience – so ‘spiritual’ counselling it is!
I am glad to report that my practice is now gradually growing, but it took a lot of false trails, explorations in trial and error, as well as the determination of my own inner knowing that this is the work that I am here to do, so I better persevere despite any setbacks. I am now learning all about marketing – the journey continues!
*For more information on what I offer please have a look at: www.seeinginthedark.co.uk or contact me on esther@seeinginthedark.co.uk / 07572 848925.

Coming Home

"Coming Home"

‘Coming Home’ 2015 (oil on canvas)
By Lorraine Hazell-Linder BA Hons, PGCE
Psycho-Spiritual Counsellor (Level 2 and 3 Certificate in Counselling Skills)
Click to see a larger version

A few years ago I embarked upon some 1-1 counselling. I was guided to a Psycho-Spiritual counsellor (unbeknown to me at the time). “Just a few sessions” I said on the phone – maybe six at the most – when he phoned to organise our first appointment. Three years later, transformed and self-actualised I emerged! I was far more confident and self-assured and I had made several personal life changes for the better. I had learnt to listen to myself deeply, using my art and the skill of visualisation as kind of ‘doorways’ in. I also learned to be honest with myself, to sit with pain and other difficult feelings, to understand myself and my relationships with others with greater clarity.

Two years into my 1-1 counselling I decided to embark on my own counselling training. I had previously applied for Art Therapy training, to no avail, and I wanted to work more deeply with people than my special needs teaching was allowing. Psycho-Spiritual training has been the right thing for me, it has actually enhanced my artwork and creativity tremendously and has led to a fascinating exploration of what spirituality means to me.

This painting is the second of what turned out to be six large oil paintings (they are all 1.5/1 metre) that follow on from each other. This painting ‘Coming Home’ 2015, came about, inspired by a meditation we experienced during the first weekend of my Level 2 Psycho–Spiritual counselling course at Sweet Track. To my surprise I astral planed. This left me with a slightly disassociated physical feeling for a few days, but it allowed me to be emotionally and spiritually ‘uprooted’ from my current situation. The experience allowed me to make a ginormous and necessary leap of faith in my personal life. In isolation the experience would have been scary. But it was the final push needed for me to make a necessary change and after two years of counselling, I was ready. Continue reading

The Symbolisms and Archetypal Qualities of Astrology

The Symbolisms and Archetypal Qualities of Astrology

astro

The 12 Constellations of the Zodiac

Aries

‘I am the creative fire’

The sign of Aries is the spark of Life. It is your burning desire to express yourself with a free creative spirit. It is time to act impulsively, to become fired-up and meet head-on the race and challenges of new beginnings. Wearing your heart openly, you act out your passion, whilst waving high the flag of courage to mask your vulnerability. You may feel compelled by fate, driven by desire, or overwhelmed by intensity, but immediately direct your enthusiasm behind your willpower, for this force can be short lived, hot, and easily consumed. Shout out loudly your own praises and explode out into life. Aries symbolises where you must forcefully push ahead using your creative self, with a bold enthusiasm that demands immediate action and attention.

Taurus

‘I am the abundance of Earth’

The sign of Taurus, the sensuous Bull; slow, methodical and in no hurry, ploughs through all the mundane tasks. Connect with the powerful stability of the earth, and work alongside the organic cycles of nature, appreciating the texture and beauty, to touch and feel the world around you. Then move these physical sensations in your body, to flow in an exquisite display of embodied spirit, thus releasing your creative passion. Dig down deep your heels to ground firmly your stubborn determination and strong will-power; for you are productive, and must create to enhance the security you desire. Taurus symbolises where you take your time and work methodically to embody and materialise your purpose in a practical and physical form. Appreciate the abundance and beauty of the world around you, along with the security it offers.

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Mindfulness for Therapists, for Counsellors and for Practitioners

clear waterMindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment, and to life. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing.  (The Community of Interbeing)

Mindfulness is not a belief, an ideology or a philosophy; it is a description of mind, emotion and suffering. It is an idea that develops over time and is greatly enhanced through regular disciplined practice, both formally and informally, on a daily basis. Mindfulness helps to disengage individuals from automatic thoughts, habits and unhealthy behaviour. (Perls).

Mindfulness is attention to and awareness of the present reality, and when we are aware in this way we are able to observe both our inner, and our outer, environment. Mindfulness practice helps us to see more clearly the patterns of the mind, and allows us to stay more fully in the present moment. Living in the here and the now, rather than spending our time reliving the past or pre-living the future. First of all we learn just to be conscious and accept whatever is arising within us. Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in this moment. We cultivate acceptance by taking each moment as it comes and being with it fully, as it is! And by this very acceptance we will experience that change happens within this space.

Mindfulness requires a  complete emotional experience  of  this present  moment  without  the  influence  of our typical escape or all our creative avoidance patterns. It allows us to perceive things deeply, and with clarity, but it cannot exclude us from the natural difficulties and pains of life.
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Psychosynthesis: Self Identification & Disidentification, by Will Parfitt

avalon orchardWe  are  all  identified  with  our  self  image,  view  of  the  world,  specific  beliefs,  attitudes,  feelings,  sensations  and  so  on,  identifications  that  change  as  we  go  through  life.  What  is  important  at  one  time,  for  example,  a  particular  relationship  or  religious  belief,  may  become  less  important  at  another  time  of  life.  This  is  because  we  have  disidentified,  are  no  longer  attached  in  the  same  way  (you  might  still  care  for the  ex-partner  but  you  are  no  longer  obsessively  in  love;  you  cannot  imagine  how  you  became  so  caught  up  in  that  religion,  and  so  on.)  Whatever  we  are  identified  with  controls  us  and  so,  conversely,  whatever  we  disidentify  from  we  have  choice  about.  The  purpose  of  disidentification  is  to  create  the  right conditions  for  this  to  happen,  that  is,  to  be  able  to  separate  from  the  contents  of  the  personality  (albeit  temporarily)  and  take  a  separate  position  from  where we have  not  only  a  clearer  perspective  but  also  from  where  better  choices  can  be  made.  If  we  don’t  disidentify,  in  the  words  of  Ferrucci  (2000,  63) our  identifications  “can  submerge  us,  control  us,  limit  our  perceptions,  and  block  the  availability  of  all  other  feelings,  sensations,  desires  and  opinions.”
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Dimensions of Death

Mendip-20130708-00056Love, Freedom & Death

The one certainty in life is death. A Chinese politician, a native of the Amazonian jungle, a Wall St banker and a single mother in a Manchester housing estate lead very different lives but they have one thing in common – one day they will die. Yet death remains the great unknown. A recent survey revealed that discussing death is still taboo for 80% of people. It seems we are afraid even to think about it.
 
Perhaps we have enough on making a living without pondering our dying. But death is not separate from life; death is life. Without death, life would have no meaning. In fact being alive at all depends upon death, after all, the First Law of the Jungle on this planet is: ‘Eat or be eaten’. Being alive involves a continual encounter with death whether we are aware of it or not.
 
I was not aware of it. I never thought much about death at all; my focus was on coming alive, learning to love, being awake to the wonders of life. What mattered was life here, not an afterlife with white lights, smiling bodhisattvas, angels on harps or thousands of virgins, depending on which brochure I read. I had the vague notion that when we die we dissolve back into existence, God, the light, stardust, I didn’t mind what word was used, and we live on in whatever is our legacy, in memories, in the hearts of people who loved us. Then, out of the blue, my son Tim died. Many inexplicable things happened and I could no longer accept such a simple description of death. Neither could I accept the versions of afterlife given to me by various religions. I began a journey into death.
 

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What is psycho-spiritual counselling?

Image 1_ World ReligionsPsycho-Spiritual Counselling takes the Soul, rather than the Mind, as its starting point of balance. It has an expanded view of life, recognising that the world is a complex mystery and it takes into account belief systems, universal & personal energy systems, intuitive psychic realities, karmic interplay, subconscious and superconscious states of awareness, metaphysical experiences, spiritual theology, spiritual presence and higher-self cosmic connections.

Spiritual Counselling sees that life is innately personal and individuals want to build their own unique, flowing relationship with it, organically and without force. With the Soul being the starting point individuals come from the heart, whilst not forgetting their head, and from this heart space they care for the sacred interdependence of all life. Compassion for self and compassion for others is a core concept for their personal and collective growth. As Spiritual Counselling is holistic there is no separation, no duality between personal or collective responses and reaction, all is intrinsically linked. There is awareness that life experiences become the greatest tool, with the integration of personal pains and personal journey. The aim is for clients to express themselves and their world with intimate wisdom, spiritual awareness and personal authenticity; using integrity and wise use of their spiritual gifts, skills and knowledge.

Spiritual counsellors need a cross cultural awareness and an understanding around spiritual emergency and other issues of spirituality. They recognise, and are committed to, a spiritual journey in their own lives, and the lives of others. By focusing on their core inner connection, creating an open heart connection and a mindfulness state, they create a holding and sacred space for the personal unfoldment of their clients. Continue reading

The place of Spirituality within Counselling

I believe that a person is more than just the sum of their parts – whether those parts are our physical body, the contents of our minds or something more difficult to define.

sunsetIn Psychosynthesis a person is said to embody of a host of ‘subpersonalities’ – all the different roles into which we fall and the different people we become in different situations. However, above and beyond all of these subpersonalities is something more – an ‘I’ – who could be described as the central core of who we are. A classic Psychosynthesis exercise that I learned from Will Parfitt [1], draws our awareness to all the parts of us but then helps us to see that they alone do not totally describe us. In the exercise, attention is drawn to our bodies, our minds and our emotions. Once we have noticed each of these things, it is easier to let go of the various ‘identifications’ that we carry and to look beyond them to try to find the ‘I’ at the very heart of our Selves.

In the practice, we focus our attention on aspects of ourselves – body, mind, soul, emotions and say ‘I have a body, but I am more than my body’, I have a mind, but I am more than my mind’. I found this exercise was immensely useful in expressing the idea that I was all these different things yet none of them entirely defined me. I believe I am more than all of the parts of me – there is something more.

The nature of this ‘I’, this ‘something more’ is a question that has occupied humans for as long as we have existed and the opinions are as numerous as the individual people who hold them. In some sense, this search or connection with this part of oneself can be thought of as a spiritual act.

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Wellness of the Mind

Sweet Track CounsellingAs a counsellor and also as a human being who desires to be happy, I think a great deal about mental health and what it actually means to be mentally well. The phrase ‘mental health’ is a part of modern language. It’s used all the time in lots of different situations from the medical profession to singer Lily Allen, in her track ‘Smile’, telling her ex that he ‘messed up her mental health’. But what is mental health really? What does it mean in relation to our everyday lives?

When is a person mentally ill?

The dictionary defines ‘mental’ as: ‘relating to the mind’ or ‘relating to disorders of the mind’, whereas ‘health’ is perhaps best defined as ‘a person’s mental or physical condition’.

So mental health then, is a statement about the wellness of someone’s mind. It isn’t however as simple as that! Mental health seems to take in other things – our state of contentment; whether or not we can derive pleasure from things; our relationship to others and to the world; our spiritual state; whether or not how we experience the world is in line with those around us or with societal ‘norms’. Continue reading