By Sue Flint – Retired Person-Centred Counsellor & Supervisor
My journey started in the 1980’s when I became a volunteer for Samaritans and CRUSE bereavement care. I studied various theories at colleges until qualifying at Diploma level to be a Professional Person Centred Counsellor and later a Supervisor. Along the way I undertook a placement at Warwickshire Association for the Blind and joined a team of voluntary counsellors in Tamworth, Staffordshire serving the community for general counselling at no cost to clients.
I set up private practice, Soul Friend Services, in 2006 initially renting a room in Bentham, Lancashire then relocating to my home town. Setting up private practice made me feel I had ‘arrived’. I absolutely loved being self-employed and working with clients. After four years of renting a room I had a log cabin built in the garden and so began a new chapter of working from home. I loved preparing the room for clients, working at relational depth with long and short term clients, having supervision, offering supervision, CPD, everything – well not quite everything – tax returns, changes in governing bodies etc. Counselling students were my greatest joy. They always worked hard through their training and were open to working creatively in counselling sessions. However, as my 60th birthday loomed I toyed with the dilemma of further accreditation requirements or retire.
A friend I had trained with retired before me. We met regularly with another younger counsellor (and still do although we are no longer offering our services) and we discussed our thoughts and feelings about ‘letting go’. A growing feeling I was ready to retire came as another dream began to take over – to be a published author. I had been attending writing workshops, retreats and even took myself abroad for a two week adventure to give me the kick-start I needed to believe I could make it happen.
And so the wind-down year began. I started to tell new clients that if long term counselling was needed I would not be available after March 2016. I informed BACP, my Insurers, the Counselling Directory, the Tax office, PO box, etc etc. Then I started to refer clients to other counsellors. Finally I accepted my last client who had experienced a sudden bereavement. She worked so well and her loss so devastating. We related at depth – I empathised easily having had a lot of bereavements in my life. And then she was gone, having thanked me for my help and giving me a gift to wish me well in retirement. I closed the door and wept for her loss, growth and kind words and for my own chapter ending.
I began to ‘sort out’ books and offered a great number to other counsellors, keeping a few precious ones. I archived client notes carefully labelling by years, in order to be shredded after the statutory time for keeping them. I bought pink voile curtains and painted a chair in my cabin. New cushions and a bird house theme emerged. I was creating a new nest. A writing space. This would be my job now. I planned my novel and started off well but there was a big gap in my life – writing is a lonely job and I missed people. Before long I was seeing friends for coffee in garden centres far too often. I occasionally got an enquiry phone call for counselling and referred them to someone else. I missed it. I wondered if I had made the right decision. I took on one more client making sure they knew I was no longer operating under a professional body. He only needed two sessions thankfully because it felt ‘uncomfortable’ ‘not right’ – I had moved on but needed this clarification.
After a period of adjusting it felt very liberating to ‘just be me’ – no job title, no expectations, no responsibility. With that came no money and savings dwindled. I now have a part-time job until my pension arrives!
I have a novel written, as yet no publisher, and a sequel has begun. The protagonist has a course of counselling – well you would expect that now, wouldn’t you? My life has become very full of all the lovely things I like, want and can do. I am living another dream and enjoying the process/journey.
Shedding a professional cloak is like becoming a new you – counselling language, practice and thoughts fall away like leaves being shed in autumn. You stand strong but bare until spring arrives with new growth, new avenues to explore and enjoy.
©Susan M Flint 2019
Sue Flint is a retired Person-Centred Counsellor and Supervisor. Formerly a member of BACP and Accredited with the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) having been in private practice and voluntary counselling for over 25 years. She has written a women’s contemporary fiction novel awaiting publication, writes for a local church magazine and blogs which you will find on this website and on https://sueflintsfs.blogspot.co.uk. She enjoys crafting, reading and leads two well-being groups in Tamworth, Staffordshire where she lives.