Get Involved! How being part of a membership association can benefit your practice
As a newly fledged person-centred counsellor back in 2015, I was keen to remain steeped in the culture of core conditions and anything-can-happen encounters that my university training had made me accustomed to. There had been no other experience like it in my life and I knew that, to find it, I would have to actively seek it out.
Lucky for me that I found Person Centred Therapy Scotland (PCT Scotland). We had heard of this association during training, but by the time I qualified it had been struggling to stay afloat and wasn't taking new members. I was sad to have missed that opportunity. But not for long! Thanks to some of its members who worked hard to raise the phoenix from the ashes I became a member of PCT Scotland in October 2016 and attended my first event, the Autumn Gathering in November that year.
I was excited and nervous that day; really looking forward to meeting new people and hopeful that I’d learn from the wealth of experience I imagined would be in the room. I wasn't disappointed, and I knew very quickly that I wanted to become actively involved in PCT Scotland if I could. I felt comfortable to share some things about myself, enjoyed being back to the familiarity of sitting in a circle and found some really friendly and interesting people. I left having agreed to have some involvement in growing PCT Scotland’s social media presence and I have been an active member ever since.
I feel so many benefits from being a member of PCT Scotland. The modest annual membership fee has opened up opportunities for dialogue with a network of knowledgeable and hugely experienced colleagues, CPD, referrals and friendship. It’s worth every penny. So I thought I’d share all the reasons why I’d recommend joining PCT Scotland, or a membership association like it.
One of the first things I was struck by when I attended my first Autumn Gathering event was how many passionate person-centred practitioners were in the room. There were newbies like me who were looking to reconnect with a tribe, more experienced practitioners and even one long-standing member who came to the Gathering though she was retiring, to offer her good wishes to all the ‘new blood’ taking the reins and keeping the person-centred approach going.
There was so much positive energy in that room that I couldn’t help but be carried along by it all. During my counselling training I had felt like I had found my tribe, and so losing some of them had been a wrench when we finished training. I left the Autumn Gathering feeling like I’d found some other members! I was delighted.
Another huge benefit of being part of PCT Scotland is the personal connections that have come from it. After meetings there's often a wee visit to a pub, coffee shop or restaurant for food, a drink and ‘blether’, and this has been a great opportunity to forge some good friendships with other members that carry on outwith the realms of PCT Scotland business. It feels important to me to have friends who understand the 'mysteries' of being a counsellor, so these friends have become really important to me.
With experience comes confidence, and I’m in no doubt that my involvement with PCT Scotland has helped me with that. In terms of the PC approach, being with so many experienced colleagues with a steadfast belief that it is valuable, current and very relevant gives me confidence in my own practice.
Within the Association itself, my confidence has also grown. I became Secretary in May 2019, having previously been in the role of Membership Secretary for about a year. I also started up the Forth Valley Community meet-up in my own region open to members who live and/or work in and around Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire. This wee group is going from strength to strength since our first meeting in Summer 2018 and now meets every couple of months.
I’ve found so many opportunities for growth and development through PCT Scotland, in obvious and not so obvious ways. The training events and workshops run by PCT Scotland have been a great source of quality, low-cost CPD, giving lots of food for thought and providing new ideas and tools to integrate into my practice. Notably, workshops around gender, sex and relationship diversity, and the pilot of PCT Scotland’s Person Centred Group Facilitation training have really increased my confidence in working in these areas. Hosting a table at the Conversation Cafe during our 30th anniversary encounter weekend in 2017 and running groups within a school setting were both things I felt capable to do as a direct result of PCT Scotland's facilitation training.
As well as learning from training and workshops, though, I’ve found that my active involvement in PCT Scotland as a Coordinating Group member and in my various roles has provided me with learning curves to navigate and challenges to overcome. There are always opportunities to dialogue, debate and negotiate with colleagues about live issues that impact on the Association. These experiences have been valuable personal growth, particularly in times when the resolutions haven't been straightforward.
I hope that I’ve given you a sense of how being part of a membership association can benefit you professionally and even enhance your personal/social circle too, if you want it to. The beauty of PCT Scotland is that you can be as involved as you want to be. There’s no requirement to give your time at all, and if you want to become a member to support the person-centred approach without active involvement you can do that. But if you are considering joining, I would urge you to think about your motivation for doing so, and how being an active part of it could be of mutual benefit to you and PCT Scotland. We appreciate the knowledge and skills of our members and it’s through members giving their time and expertise that the association will grow.
I hope to welcome some new members soon and I'm happy to chat or answer any questions you may have about membership. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to have a conversation. You can also visit our website at www.pctscotland.co.uk.