Published in the What I’m Really Thinking slot in Guardian Weekend was a piece that got many therapists and counsellors talking. A trainee therapist had just graduated after four years studying but was struggling to see how they could make a living without having to do an extra two years of post-qualifying experience.

“This means I would have to spend the next two years in placements, working for free, despite being told I am qualified and a good enough therapist for paid work …Meanwhile, I need money, so I have to get a full-time job and have had to pretty much give up on my dream of becoming a counsellor.”

This anonymous trainee therapist also explained that during their placements in the mental health service they had seen how stretched support services were. “Despite still being a trainee, I saw clients who were suicidal, psychotic and seeking help for borderline personality disorders. I was not trained to help these clients, but I didn’t have a choice. They had to see me or go back on the waiting list for six months. Staff did their best to support me but they were so stretched, I was left to cope with difficult situations by myself.”

Setting up with a mix of private and NHS or charity work is surely a better option for this newly-trained therapist, rather than turning their back on the profession. Many of the members of are recently graduated, still working in other roles, but offering slots in the evenings and weekends (clients can see what’s available via their online diaries). We also take on trainee or student members of the BACP, UKCP and BPS if their training organisation will provide them with a letter stating they are sufficiently trained and experienced to see clients. Slightly lower fees will usually reflect their junior standing, so this is beneficial to clients too.

The therapist in the Guardian, now so disillusioned, writes that they  “put four years and £12,000 of my hard-earned savings into training to be a counsellor” and is clearly frustrated with the position they now see themselves in. With the pressure on NHS services, using hard-won expertise to help the tens of thousands of people who see private therapists can be an option that benefits everyone. 

As one of the readers commented below the piece, “An excellent counsellor helped me through a difficult time, guided me safely through it. My gratitude is immense. The world needs people doing this special work. I'm astounded and dismayed by the employment conditions you've encountered. I wish you every happiness and hope you'll find a path realising your gifts and skills.”

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