I put four years of my life and £12,000 of my hard-earned savings into training to be a counsellor. I sacrificed my time, relationships and mental health so I could give my all to this exhausting and emotionally draining course, which included spending two years in personal therapy.
While in the final year of my training, undertaking a placement in a mental health service, I was exposed to how stretched these support services are. Despite still being a trainee, I saw clients who were suicidal, psychotic and seeking help for borderline personality disorder. I was not trained to help these clients, but I didn’t have a choice. They had to see me or go back on the waiting list for six months. Staff did their best to support me but they were so stretched, I was left to cope with difficult situations by myself.
A month ago, I qualified with the highest mark possible. My pride and joy were overwhelming after four difficult but rewarding years of training. However, for every job I’ve seen, I would need to have at least two years of post-qualifying experience. This means I would have to spend the next two years in placements, working for free. Despite being told I am qualified and a good enough therapist for paid work, this work does not exist. Many industries have banned internships and free labour as they are exploitative. Not the counselling world.
Meanwhile, I need money, so I have to get a full-time job and have had to pretty much give up on my dream of becoming a counsellor. People praise me for my dedication, but all I can think is how stupid I’ve been for wasting all that time and money.
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