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Janet's story

Janet's story

"I learned some surprising news things about supporting children"

After working as a teacher for 20 years, Janet chose to train as a counsellor, and she learned plenty of new things along the way about how to best support children

"Working as a teacher for 20 years, I all too often saw pupils who needed more support than I had time to give. I decided to leave teaching and apply for Place2Be’s level 3 and 4 Certificates for Counselling, alongside a diploma in adult counselling.

"I had seen myself as an expert in working with children - the all-knowing teacher. That belief dramatically changed when I started training with Place2Be and I learned some surprising new things about supporting children.

1. Play isn’t just fun – it’s important

The first thing I had to learn to do was play. This wasn’t easy as for me, play was a thing that happened at break times and had little value because it did not show progress. It didn’t take me long to be fully immersed in the sand tray playing with animals and characters, taking them on a magical adventure. The experience felt joyful and strangely rewarding. What helped was another student role playing the therapist, talking about what I was doing and sharing what they thought it might mean. Afterwards, I realised that my play had revealed parts of myself that I had not met, or fully understood, before. My internal way of being had been acted out in the play. Wow! This significantly expanded my self-awareness and gave me first-hand experience of the value of play for a child in therapy.

2. Sometimes children need to take the lead

"Role playing the therapist during training quickly highlighted the importance of allowing the child to lead the play so it was their experiences and world we were playing in, not mine. I learned that if I led the play then I would be influencing the child’s thoughts and actions.

3. We can help children build resilience and find their own self-worth

"As a teacher, I loved to give children praise. But in counselling, praise can encourage a child to look to their counsellor to confirm their worth. Was the child doing things for themselves or for me? This was a challenge as words like “great” or “super” slipped into many sentences. My technique was to replace the praise with something I had noticed. For example: “I notice you cutting that butterfly out carefully”, “I noticed you stopped and thought about what you were doing.” In therapy, I have witnessed children change from looking to me for praise to evaluating their own thoughts and actions. Powerful!

4. Our past shapes us – and the same goes for children

"I was adopted and this has been an invaluable piece of my life jigsaw. Place2Be training has helped me to be more aware of how that, and other experiences, are influencing my feelings, meaning I can now put “me and my world” to one side during counselling and focus on the child.

"But knowing how my past impacts how I relate to people also helps me understand what kind of approach a child might benefit from during counselling based on their own experiences, for example, whether I should play with them, play alongside them or simply be a witness to their play. This has really supported my therapeutic work with adults too.

"I’m a different person from who I was as a teacher. I look back now with eyes of gratitude as I reflect upon my transition from teacher to therapist; my way of being has been transformed. I can sense my freedom in a profession that allows me to grow while supporting others in their growth."

This blog was written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the view of the organisation.