Guest blog: How I came to be a cancer counsellor
This is a guest blog from a lovely lady called Claire who is a counsellor and life coach working with cancer patients. In this blog, she tells us how she got to be in this line of work and
Tell us a little about yourself…
Having grown up in a vibrant and diverse market community in South London and surrounded by people from all walks of life, I’ve always seen that life is ‘real’ so I wanted to choose a profession that helps me to continue connecting with people. I’ve dealt with a lot of my own struggles in life by myself and had many of those real-life experiences, postnatal depression, divorce, bereavement, redundancy, losing family and friends to cancer, the list goes on; in return I had my own counselling, which I dipped in and out of as major life events happened, I kept the same counsellor for 20 years who became my rock. It’s funny, the first time I sat in the seat as a client I knew one day I would want to be on the other couch helping others in the same way. With all I have been through I believe; this has helped me to become the person I am today and has given me an invaluable perspective on Life to which has helped me to be a more experienced and empathic Counsellor and professional Life Coach which is what I want to be. Of course, everyone is different and has their own personal challenges and everyone’s challenges are unique to them.
So how did I get to be a counsellor you may ask? My daughters were growing up and in secondary school and then one day I walked into work with a career and the same day I walked back out being made redundant. It was here I thought about what is it I wanted to do. One of my colleagues had already asked me if I wasn’t doing what I was at the time, what would I want to do, I immediately replied ‘a counsellor’. So, the next few weeks I took on cleaning jobs, I talked to friends, clients, looked up what I needed to do and signed myself to a six-week induction at Kingston University and so my journey began. I then went back to the office after a year and took up evening classes to study and then I just followed my nose to the next step and the next step, finally finishing my diploma. The last six months of training were exhausting as I held a full-time job, counselled in a GP surgery 3 evenings a week to gain my practice hours, had counselling once a fortnight and supervision on the alternative fortnights.
In-between this I studied as a life coach the two can complement each other sometimes, however a coach will help you set your goals and timelines and a counsellor is more for your own thoughts and feelings. Both are client lead
I really have to mention my two amazing daughters who were teenagers at the time, who supported me through all my studies, helping with cooking dinners, doing the dishwasher and generally helping out around the house, I really couldn’t have done this without them. So, Thank You!
After qualifying I was like no more, no more studying for me but somehow, I have this hunger for it and it’s a forever learning and the more people I help the more grateful I become. So, what came next?
Macmillan, a position came up as a volunteer counsellor at Macmillan and I applied, got the position and started almost straight away once my DBS check came through and I have been here 3 years on. I had no idea that I would be here, what I would learn and how I fell into the niche of cancer. When I look back on the diversity of training in the GP surgery and how I have landed in Cancer, I ask myself how did that happen, it’s rewarding beyond belief. You really get to know your clients and their families; you learn about so much and what someone has to go through to survive and the devastating affects this has on them and their families. Some go it alone, but no one has to travel this journey of cancer alone and no should have to travel this journey of cancer alone. I have learnt medically about secondary cancer, where is travels, how it travels by learning this from my clients and courses I am able to hold my clients, not only in the room but in between sessions. In counselling it is said ‘the client is the expert’ and is so true they really really are.
Currently as well as volunteering for Macmillan, I also run my own counselling Private Practice. With the current circumstances, I’m offering online and telephone counselling to anyone who comes into contact with Cancer, being patients, members of the family, friends etc. Working with Macmillan, I have first-hand experience and I’m also in touch with the NHS and working with their patients. Claire believes ‘Cancer Changes Everything Forever’ and affects you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Along with my forever learning my training is constantly kept up to date and I am training to support Covid19, alongside Cancer I work with couples and anyone affected by Covid19, the mental health around Covid19 will be here for years to come and we will see a huge wave of support needed. I have some up to date and exciting news for you!
I will be working as a volunteer counsellor with the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher, I am really excited to be working on a project with NHS frontline workers and the public around Covid19 as the counselling suite grows, I am sure I will be supporting patients and families through their journey of cancer. I have had tea and chats with charities, you can find me on lots of different listings and follow me on Instagram. I am also a registered member of the BACP.
The services that I offer through Macmillan and Princess Alice are free as I am currently not funded, I do charge for anyone who comes through private practice but the first consultation is free and fees can be negotiable based on needs and requirements. The most rewarding thing about my work is helping people in a profession I love. When they come to the end of their counselling and they feel different, especially when it’s a natural ending, you feel your work is done and they are in a much happier place and in the moment. However, like myself I hope my clients can feel they can come back at anytime when life events occur or an odd drop-in session is needed.
It’s a nervous time getting in touch and speaking to a counsellor, some say they are full of fear and not sure how they feel speaking to a stranger. I offer a comfortable and non-judgemental approach, an active listening ear and all I can say is give me a try and face that fear, my clients have always given me good feedback so I must be doing something right. Don’t just take my word for it there are lots of testimonials on my website.
What are my values: For my clients to have a much happier life, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Thank you for reading