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Place2Be bids farewell to Clinical Director, Dr Niki Cooper

Place2Be bids farewell to Clinical Director, Dr Niki Cooper

Niki Cooper

Dr Niki Cooper

Clinical Director - Niki is a trained counsellor who joined Place2Be in 2002 as a School Project Manager before moving into the Learning Team. As Head of Learning, she developed Place2Be’s professional qualifications pathway. She was appointed Clinical Director in 2019.

Niki Cooper has been at Place2Be for over two decades and is stepping away from her role as Clinical Director to take a break, do some travelling and then re-orientate for the next leg of the journey. In her final blog as Clinical Director, Niki reflects on her 22 years with the charity.

Hasta Luego/Au revoir Place2Be 

I am stepping away from being Clinical Director with a wild mixture of emotions from really, really sad to a bit terrified to deliriously excited. It’s a weird old time; a proper rite of passage to later life. I have been here for over 22 years and although I have changed roles many times, Place2Be has been my secure professional base and a rich compost for the professional me. I have found my groove here. I honestly can’t think of anywhere else that could have kept me passionate and interested for so long. It's challenged and supported me to keep stretching myself so much. The current professional me was like a whole different species of human being to the me that joined Place2Be in 2002.

I honestly can’t think of anywhere else that could have kept me passionate and interested for so long. Dr Niki Cooper, Place2Be Clinical Director

When I started out as a Supervising Counsellor in Enfield, I felt like I had really landed on my feet. I had been delivering 7 sessions a day for an adult counselling agency and had total compassion fatigue for adults. However, I'd had a much more satisfying experience of working with teenagers which persuaded me that early intervention was my mission. Having a small private practice alongside a part time job in a Place2Be school mostly during term time doing something I felt passionate about felt like a real gift.

The combination of teaching and delivering the service in a school started a dynamic cycle of teaching improving my practice as a counsellor and practice improving my teaching. Dr Niki Cooper, Place2Be Clinical Director

An opportunity came up in 2004 as a contracted trainer. The combination of teaching and delivering the service in a school started a dynamic cycle of teaching improving my practice as a counsellor and practice improving my teaching. Each activity reinvigorated the other. I can remember saying repeatedly during this phase that I had found the perfect job. I could have happily stayed there for the rest of my working life. However, another door opened to develop our professional qualifications pathway and twelve years after that another to become Clinical Director. Both of these felt like huge and very scary steps. But Place2Be founder Benny Refson, Clinical Advisor Peter Wilson, and our current CEO Catherine Roche seemed to have more faith in me than I did in myself at that time. Both big steps required a massive amount of deep breaths, internal adjustment and external support.

I am still slightly bewildered as to how I got to such a senior role but one thing is totally plain, nothing would have been achieved without collaboration. I have worked with some amazing people in Place2Be who have been committed to creative solutions and being greater than the sum of our parts. Also people who have skills that I completely lack.

I have worked with some amazing people in Place2Be who have been committed to creative solutions and being greater than the sum of our parts. Dr Niki Cooper, Place2Be Clinical Director

I have a ridiculous amount of energy, I do everything at a hundred miles an hour, I can be procedurally clumsy and rush processes, especially when I have the bit between my teeth. I sometimes energise and enthuse people, and sometimes annoy and overwhelm them (apologies to those affected). I do some things really well and struggle with others. Being here for this amount of time has got me comfortable and accepting of the whole package.

I have been here through many periods of big change and tough decisions but have never doubted that the heart of what we do here is unique and brilliant. However hard it has been to change things, the rationale has always made sense to me. I always said that if Place2Be’s trajectory didn’t make sense to me anymore then it was the right time for me to go, but that has never happened and here I still am.

Now, I am leaving because the time is right for me to spend some quality time with my family and do some travelling while I am still fit and healthy. I don’t think I will ever stop work altogether but am looking forward to taking a complete six-month career break. I'm hoping to emerge with a next-steps plan in January 2025. The time for change is right too for Place2Be as what's needed now in the clinical space is a different energy. We need a fresh look at where we've got to and how we can establish, deepen and package our clinical delivery model flexibly for the future without losing its integrity.

So welcome to the fantastic Rebecca Kirkbride as Clinical Director. She has all the skills, knowledge, energy and passion that we could hope for and more. There are big challenges across in our sector right now but with great leadership and a passionate and talented workforce Place2Be could not be in better shape to navigate those challenges.

I will never be far away.

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