The study of counselling can be a bewildering experience. Learning to be a counsellor involves developing practical skills, not just acquiring knowledge. And trainee counsellors must reflect on their own behaviour - the theory doesn’t make sense without self-awareness. In A Safe Place for Change, two outstanding teachers have set out to demystify that crucial first year of learning.
Always in touch with that it feels like to be a counselling student, Hugh Crago and Penny Gardner draw on many years of teaching basic counselling skills in universities and private training institutes. They write clearly about complex concepts and issues, and focus on the common ground shared by most recognised approaches to counselling and therapy. They present the fundamental and more advanced capacities and skills in a sequence that makes sense for the learner, but which also illuminates the client’s experience over an ongoing series of sessions.
Crago and Gardner emphasise how ‘holding’ skills must come before skills that assist clients to ‘explore’ their presenting issues, and how both must precede interventions that challenge clients with ‘gentle honesty’. They show why premature attempts to help clients change their behaviour are doomed to fail, and why counsellors should evaluate the appropriateness of their interventions by the way their clients respond to what they have said. They ask ‘what happens at the third session?’ and suggest what early dropouts mean, and how they can be minimised.
Written with warmth, humility and intelligence, this is a very different approach to the training of counsellors, one which even experienced trainers will find illuminating, and which beginners will immediately connect with. Delightful, thought-provoking illustrations by Meeray Ghaly enhance the book’s appeal, as do the many realistic counsellor-client dialogues.