Updated: Jul 23
I have been a qualified Counselling Psychologist since 2011 and this was my first ever conference. Until now I had never felt ‘qualified’ to attend. Tarnished by the trauma of Viva’s and failing essays, I was intimidated by all the academics, professors and lecturers who were going to ‘catch me out’ as not being clever enough or worthy enough to warrant my attendance at such an event. Even now I am still struggling to catch up with my own identity as a Counselling Psychologist; the incongruence between what my qualification infers I know and the lack of knowledge I believe I have. Even though I run a successful private practice I still question my own ability and justification to call myself a Counselling Psychologist.
But what this conference did for me was to challenge all of these misconceptions I had of myself and really make me feel I had a sense of belonging. I saw we were all confronted with the same issues as each other and fighting the same cause together because we all come from the same standpoint.
Dr Lawrence Gurstein introduced the theme of the conference ‘Social Justice’ and this ran throughout the two days at different levels There were of course individual issues within this such as embedded racism with clients and professionals so poignantly presented by Dr Isha McKenzie-Mavinga, of the fight for recognition of Counselling Psychology within managed services and governmental policy by Sheelagh Stawbridge and within the medical and neurological services by Dr Tony Ward. I was also extremely touched by the research being done by Meherangiz Press on the impact of grief on Syrian children, enabling us to remember that they do not come as a whole but as individuals who have lost their own personal life and culture.
I noticed I was able to have my voice heard in workshops by those professors and tutors I have always put on a pedestal and given a position of expert power. I also felt that being surrounded by those fighting the same fight I went away feeling BOLD enough to start my own fight or to join others in theirs knowing that along the way we are all in this together. My first step now though is to be congruent to myself and, whilst easily inspired by many great speakers, I need to find the cause that my heart lies with as a now worthy and confident Counselling Psychologist.