The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. (Amelia Earhart)
I am in the process of building a counselling career after 25 years (more or less) as an engineer in the corporate world, including 10 years as an independent consultant. There are a number of reasons why I pursued a counselling career in mid-life but, at the core of it, what I love most about the business world is the emphasis on team work. This passion became a calling to explore new and deeper forms of human collaboration. I enjoyed my Master of Counselling program at Athabasca University, taught through collaborative online interactions rather than one-way lectures. My practicum at Providence Healthcare, a Toronto-based rehabilitation hospital, provided an inspiring multi-disciplinary collaborative environment, where social workers, physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, dieticians, speech language therapists and one counselling student (me!) worked closely with patients and families.
Upon graduating, a combination of private practice and volunteering seemed the right fit for me. I had the idea of pursuing a professional development model common in the corporate world—an internship/junior position with an experienced supervisor. I would become a better counsellor by watching, doing, and receiving feedback. My supervisor’s practice would be enriched through collaborative work, and would benefit financially through seeing more clients, paid supervision, and cheap help. I am drawn to post-modern therapies and assumed that therapists must regularly collaborate with each other or how would reflecting teams and outsider witness practices be possible!?
I learned quickly that private practice therapists supervise and consult other therapists, but direct collaboration is less common. Potential supervisors offered to review audio/video of my sessions but wouldn’t let me see them work directly with clients. One person gently told me that internships or junior staff made no sense for private practices, and many people simply didn’t return my calls and emails. I realized I had entered a different cultural landscape. Private practice was starting to seem like a very lonely way of making a living.
I asked Trish McCracken from the CCPA for advice, and she was generous with her ideas and time. She suggested exploring AAMFT supervisors. I followed her advice and found William Cooke (www.williamcooke.ca). William is a Narrative Therapist, and has had two previous successful experiences with collaborative supervision in his practice. Similar to me, William also had challenges gaining support for this approach, including being turned down as a supervisor by a social work program that didn’t support student placements in private practice.
I do know that other private practices are engaging in collaborative work but it seems to me that this way of working is still the exception rather than the rule. As I blog about my private practice adventures, I hope to hear from others about their collaborative experiences, both good and bad.
Rhea Plosker is an Engineer and Counsellor. She is starting her adventures in private practice with www.williamcooke.ca and also works as a project consultant in health care and not-for-profit organizations. Rhea can be reached at [email protected] or at www.inspirationsolutions.com.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA