When I started my first counselling course and began to think of volunteering, Cruse was one of the first agencies I approached.
Death of a loved one, and the grief resulting from it, is a tangible experience that I had lived through, and I think there was an immediate affinity with Cruse because of this. Back then, I believed this personal experience was necessary for me to practice in the counselling role. Of course, this way of thinking has long-since changed. Empathy does not have a prerequisite of personal experience.
So, when I contacted Cruse again two years later, when I was undertaking my Counselling Diploma, my own personal experience of grief was not at the forefront. Having become aware of the practices of many counselling agencies, I was struck by the fact that Cruse required you to have specific bereavement training – which they offered – before working with their clients. Even though this was an additional commitment which some people may not be able or willing to make, I admired the fact that Cruse maintained this standard.
I have now been with Cruse for 18 months and have just completed my course work and client hours to complete my Diploma. I look at my experience so far through many prisms. The bright, airy space is of their premises in Leith are relaxing and welcoming to me as a counsellor, and I know our clients feel the same. I feel lucky to have had the privilege of attending Cruse group supervision, in addition to my individual supervision. Having the space to get together with other volunteers, and share knowledge and experience, has been a great support in my client work. This has been a source of inspiration and an additional skills pool for me. There is also something grounding in being together with fellow volunteer counsellors working with a similar client group. Through exploration with this group, I have grown in confidence and this has further benefitted my client work.
Listening to a client speak of the pain of their loss and not be able to offer practical support can be difficult. However, I have found most clients respond to my ability to sit with them, and witness with empathy, as they explore their feelings. My clients speak of their relief to be able to speak to someone who understands, who does not judge them for “still grieving after nearly a year!” I think the welcoming physical space as well as the therapeutic space within the counselling room, have led to many clients feeling they are better able to cope by the time counselling ends.
As a volunteer counsellor, knowing that I have gone part of this journey with these clients, gives me much fulfilment, and as I approach the end of my placement, I have decided without hesitation to continue to volunteer with Cruse.