Was I mad?

Just why would anyone in their ‘right mind’ give up a corporate career to become a counsellor?  I’ve asked myself many times.

I qualified after years of study, supervision and clinical practice in the evenings and at weekends. I saw clients for 200 hours, and my own therapist - a training requirement - at 7.30am to fit around my job. 

So what made me do this? Traditional therapists, based on Freud, wouldn’t want to tell you, arguing it stops the client’s fantasies about who I might represent from their past. But the type of therapy, or counselling, I offer is also based on a real relationship, where you can build trust and have a conversation.  And perhaps it’s comforting to know therapists have had their own periods at sea. We are all, as the well-known psychotherapist Irvin Yalom says, “fellow travellers”. 

A counsellor helped me change my life for the better about 20 years ago; she gave me a private, safe space where I could work out what I needed, when I didn’t feel I could share my feelings with others. I considered retraining then, but it meant an investment of time and money I didn’t have. 

By 2011, the recession and a merger had given my colleagues their own personal crises; they were no longer invincible or in control in the way they had believed and it made them quite difficult to work with, especially after a long commute! 

Eventually death woke me up: seeing family members with cancer reminded me our time alive is limited. And then two junior team members had their own bereavements and I realised I wanted to support them more than I wanted to do my job. It was time to do something I cared passionately about: helping people on their own stressful or uncertain journeys to find a way back to shore, or towards a new horizon. 

So what’s it like? People often wonder if it’s upsetting, or even boring. But it’s not. It’s a privilege to be with people as they find out more about themselves, and talk about their inner life, perhaps for the first time. An hour passes in a flash. Sometimes the change is rapid, sometimes slow, depending on how open people are  to facing parts of themselves and their past they might rather avoid. It gives me a chance to put my personal experience of change to good use. 

I appreciate the lifestyle that working in corporate life gave me, but I have found a more rewarding way to live; I wasn’t mad after all.

 © Catherine Cook BA (Hons), Couns. Dip., MBACP  2017     Site Map     Contact