The counsellor's story
What is it like being a counsellor? What is it like to spend many hours each week listening to the troubles of strangers? What kind of impact does this work have on those who are counsellors? What is the effect of a training that can involve undergoing personal therapy, exploring the influence that the most personal and intimate memories and feelings might have on one's response to clients? It is, of course, impossible to offer any definitive answers to these questions. The experience of being a counsellor is unique to each individual. It is impossible to be prescriptive about the way that members of an occupational group experience their work. Nevertheless, there are certain common themes that emerge when counsellors talk about what it is like to do this job. There exists a set of counsellors' stories that convey the sense of being a counsellor. The aim of this chapter is to describe some of these stories, and reflect on their meaning and implication in relation to the theory and practice of counselling. Throughout the chapter, the terms 'therapist' and 'counsellor' are used interchangeably, to reflect the fundamental similarity of the work done by members of these professions, and also by those who offer counselling alongside other work roles. There is a core experience of listening, attending, and following the other person that is shared by all varieties of counselling activity.