My PCI Journey

It was a Sunday morning, mid- August 2012. The Olympics were in full swing. Katie Taylor had won gold a few days previously, John Joe Nevin had just narrowly lost out on the same feat, the country was on a high. Where was I? I was in bed, crying tears of despair. The sporting highs of the week had brought into sharp focus my own perceived mediocrity. Katie Taylor, was an Olympic champion, on top of being a multiple world champion, aged 26. I was 29, overweight, unhappy with my work and my life and going nowhere fast - or so I thought.

This may seem like a strange place to start a reflection on my counselling journey, but it was a pivotal moment. Having suffered two prolonged episodes of depression, aged 18 and 23, I decided I was going to nip this in the bud. A few days of feeling like this was bad enough without letting it spiral. I made contact with my best friend to talk to him and over the next few weeks and months I began to take back control of my life. It was in November 2012 that the Eureka moment came, while judging a public speaking competition on mental health. After years of thinking about it, I was going to finally do it and embark on the journey towards becoming a counsellor.

In February 2013 I began a foundation certificate with another institution, having completed this in July 2013, I then was accepted for a place on their diploma. Unfortunately this did not work out, but never being one to give up easily, I applied to PCI College and in September 2014 began their BSc Honours Degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy, accredited by Middlesex University. What a journey it has been.

Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional and personal journey of counselling training. Fortunately, already having an MA in Sociology, the academic side of things comes reasonably naturally to me, which is a help. I would certainly feel for anyone coming into this line of training who may have a bad experience of education. Writing at an academic level for those who may not be used to it can be daunting. However, my advice to anyone in that situation who may want to study with PCI is, do not be afraid, and always remember, you can look to your fellow classmates for support. More than any course I have ever been on, this really is a team event. We, as students of counselling and psychotherapy, of PCI, have to work together. Some can be a great help from an academic point of view, some for skills, others then, can be great for the emotional support for those times when our 'stuff' comes to the surface.

Anyone who thinks the training journey is an easy one, please lose this notion now. It is a fallacy and will not stand you in good stead. The training experience at PCI is challenging, but worthwhile, and like any investment in education, both the demands on your own personal involvement and your finances need the commitment to achieve the rewards.The learning does not finish at the end of class, it is an ongoing process of personal discovery. Not a weekend goes by where I don't learn something useful about my own 'process'. Behaviours, thought patterns and inter-personal relationships that I had not previously given a thought to, suddenly come to the fore and open a new wave of discovery.

In my own situation, with Saturday being a normal working day for me, a course including a full day every second Saturday has meant sacrificing a lot of annual leave, but it has been worth the sacrifice. After years of frustration, trying to figure out what my 'role' was in society, I now know where I fit. My own struggles have helped me develop my empathy to a level that I feel will help me in my therapeutic work. The core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard are certainly, for me, the bread and butter of therapy, but humility and being comfortable in our own vulnerability are also important traits. Even in this early stage of my client work, I can see how that appreciation of what it is like to be vulnerable, can help immensely with clients.

The journey towards becoming a therapist is an immensely personal one, so for any institution or student to claim that theirs is the one true church, would be churlish in my view. That notwithstanding, I can honestly say as someone who has experienced two different training institutions in this field, that PCI is unquestionably the right fit for me. PCI College treat their students as adults and value them as individuals. The beauty of this field of study, is that if you are interested in pursuing it, you will find that those who have been through or are going through, the same journey, will be more than happy to give help and advice. We are a rare breed and from my experience, we tend to support each other. The decision to study counselling and psychotherapy is a brave one, but in my view, is one you won't regret making. I certainly don't.

Donal O' Driscoll 

Bsc Honours in Counselling and Psychotherapy Student year 2

PCI College Cork, Cork Education Support Centre, The Rectory, Western Road, Cork


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