Lisa blog  (3)

Counselling placements at Place2Be – a day in the life


Ever wondered what it’s like to take up a voluntary counselling placement with Place2Be? Lisa walks us through her daily routine and what you can expect when you apply.

Why counselling?

I have always been interested in understanding people. From an early age I tried to remember and interpret my dreams and loved reading ‘agony aunt’ columns in magazines. I wanted to study Psychology at university but didn’t have the science A-levels that were needed.

I ended up studying languages and my career went in a completely different direction until I felt the pull of counselling almost 20 years later.

I was working full time and started studying counselling in the evening. For my third year I needed to find a placement and my course tutor told me that Place2Be offered placements that came with good training and supervision. As I was quite nervous about finally working with my first ‘clients’, I liked the sound of being in a supportive environment. Also I have a 6-year-old daughter so it appealed that I could just do the placement in term time.


Before my placement

I applied and received a quick response with an invitation to interview. The process involved an in-depth chat with someone who had been on a placement before working as a School Project Manager and was now a Cluster Manager responsible for a group of schools. I was nervous and she really helped to put me at ease and so it didn’t feel too much like an interview in the end.

I was really excited when I was offered a placement but still wasn’t sure what to expect. I attended 3 training days, 1 on child protection and policies and 2 focused on the more practical parts of the placement. The 2 trainers were friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. They had both started their time at Place2Be on placements and had worked as School Project Managers so could really answer all our questions.

We were able to use paints, sand trays, puppets and practice our listening skills. I learnt so much and felt so prepared and excited to start my placement after this training; although it was exhausting!


My first day

I was allocated a school not too far from my house and on my first day felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. My School Project Manager (who also acts as my supervisor) was very open and approachable and reassured me that he would be there to support me. On my first week I not only had a session with a child but also the opportunity to observe another child in his classroom. This helped me think about how the service slotted into the school environment and what impact it could have on the ground.

I learnt that the most important thing to do at the start of the session is to set the boundaries in a way that is easily understood by the child. It sets the framework for a safe place, so a therapeutic relationship can be developed. This is kept simple with only 3 key things; we respect the room (i.e. we don’t break things and we clean up at the end), we keep each other safe and everything said is kept confidential within Place2Be.

I helped the first child to write this down and we put it in her box. Each child has a small box that they can decorate and use to store any artwork that they make and it is kept safe in the School Project Manager’s office and given to the child when they end their therapy.


How we work

The room is equipped with paints, glitter, glue, art materials, sand tray, puppets, a dolls house and many other things that can be used during the session. I have been amazed to see how the children develop over the course of several sessions from being restless and unsettled to being able to sit down and focus on a specific task.

1 child I worked with was at first unable to choose what he wanted to do. After several sessions, he suddenly decided to paint and made 8 enormous paintings using the brushes, roller and his hands, mixing all the colours with vigour. He said he was showing me how he felt. This was a breakthrough session and in following weeks he was much calmer and settled to very careful, detailed painting with a small brush and 1 colour at a time.

I always make a conscious effort not to expect anything from a child as they can bring something very different to the room each week and I need to be open to meet them where they are.

I currently see 3 children in a day with time in between each child to write up my notes.

At the end of the day I have a 1-hour supervision session with the School Project Manager. In this session I can talk about anything that happened in the session that I might be puzzled about or ask for some help on how to explore some issues that come up. I am also supported to explore how what has happened in the room might have affected me.

Being able to talk about the sessions on the same day and to feel fully supported is a highlight of the Place2Be placement for me. It is a relief to be able to share whatever is on my mind and to be helped to explore meaning and relate this to theory. The 6 months of my placement so far have transformed my understanding of the practice and process of counselling.


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