Before I even graduated with my Post Graduate Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling I had been approached by members of the gender, sexuality and relationship diverse communities who, due to previous negative experiences with therapy, wanted me to work with them. As I set up in private practice (post graduation) I realised just how little I had been prepared to work with members of the GSRD communities. Even though every second of my course had been valuable, and I was fortunate to study units such as abuse, which many do not, I felt the gap in both my theoretical knowledge and specialist guidance. Lived experience and CPD could fill some of those gaps, but I knew I wanted more. On a personal level I also wanted to study in an environment which was non pathologising and affirmative, where I could be the best I can be.
Thus it was with some nervousness, and a good dollop of imposter syndrome that I decided to enroll on the The Pink Therapy two year Post Graduate Diploma in Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diverse Therapy. We gathered together, from across the world, doctors, psychologists, counsellors, sex therapists and psychotherapists, all from very different backgrounds but all united with one purpose to be the very best we could be.
Therapeutic training should never be superficial, beyond the practical, and theoretical, it should also include a deep dive into the self. If, as Rogers argued, the therapist must be congurant and able to offer empathy and unconditional positive regard, they must have done the work on themselves prior to entering into the theraputic relationship. Which is not to say the therapist is finished, but rather that they have looked into themselves at a depth which they then can guide others towards. For the past two years in the company of my classmates I have gone further on that journey than I ever contemplated. An unexpected benefit is that I believe this has improved my practice with all my clients, including my diversity and inclusion consultancy not just GSRD therapy.
The course was not just about personal development though. With tutors and lecturers who are the leaders in their fields, and a reading list which balanced theoretical and academic with practical. I often tell those who come to me for therapy to take pride in their achievements, so if you will allow me a moments self indulgence, I shall list the units I studied over the past 24 months.
Therapist Disclosure of Sexual Orientation (TDSO) Living and Working in Same Communities
Working with Sexuality and Gender Conflicts
Shame and Internalised Oppression
Dimensions of Sexuality
Understanding Kink / BDSM
Mis/Use (incl Chemsex)
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
Parenting outside Heteronormativity
Working with Younger People
Working with Older People
Faith and Spirituality
For the equivalent of a dissertation I wrote a paper looking on how the minority stress model could be applied to sex workers, which I am hoping to be published now I have time to work through the peer review suggestions, and the final unit was the production of a video which would be used to introduce fellow counsellors and therapists to a topic from within GSRD they might be unfamiliar with. For this we also had to choose an area new to us, and so my video is looking at Adult Babies, an often misunderstood community.
Recently a colleague mentioned to me the way that you finish marathons is not by considering the full 26 miles but by getting from one lamppost to the next. It struck me at the time for very relevant to the past two years. Perhaps this is why this moment of reflection is important, to look back, and realise I have crossed this particular finish line, and celebrate the achievement.
Lastly I would like to thank all my classmates, without whom I would not have learnt, grown, and developed as a therapist and a person – you walked with me on an unforgettable journey.