I’ve been in the community and welfare sector for about 30 years. I started off in my early 20’s doing some volunteer work for lifeline, that was my first step into a counselling space. I had 3 young children at the time and was working with a local family support agency, volunteering, and studying. I got pretty good at juggling things along the way.

It really opened my eyes up to not only what’s out there, but also to how I was responding to things in the community and my own personal stories and triggers. It put me in a really good place to differentiate between what’s happening for me and what’s happening for other people out there. For me, it was a lot about my personal growth within that. In a counselling role, it’s essential to be aware of your own stories, your own triggers, your own biases and be aware of how that may affect you or get in the way. Those journeys to me have been some of the biggest learnings and are different to more formalised training.

Being open to grow as a person has been an ongoing learning for me. It certainly requires boundaries an openness, and a willingness, to hear other people’s stories and perspectives that are different to your own.

I find that being curious, and having a genuine interest in people, their choices, their lifestyles, goals and what gets in the way of that, are invaluable in this line of work. It can take a lot of self-development to know when curiosity might become invasive, or to know when my own lenses might be directing the course of the counselling session.

I can only speak for myself, but I know the toll it can take. Working with people can affect our well-being, so self-care is very important to me. I think one of the biggest keys to this, is really good clinical supervision. Someone who is really going to be open to unpacking what’s going on. Also, having the courage to be open to discussing what is coming up for me when I’m working with clients. - Giving myself permission to be vulnerable in a space where we might seem to be the expert.

It’s very welcomed; to have an environment where you feel ok to step into that space, where you might be challenged on an idea or perspective. It’s taking a bit of a risk, and also taking that time for self-reflection.

It’s a fine line though, sometimes self-reflection can quickly become self-criticism. It’s ok to have that, and it’s there for a reason - it might prompt me to think of something another way. It’s ok to have that question about can you do better, but you’re also thinking; is this a true reflection of that situation or is it the critical voice? I try not to beat myself up in a critical way, but that’s taken some time and practice to develop that voice and become comfortable with it. I think I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways to work for places that have really nurtured that growing space.

Over the last 30 years I’d say one of the most important things I’ve learnt would be; “don’t forget the simple things”. Don’t underestimate the power of presence and listening or let the therapy get in the way of the therapy, so to speak. It is about the human side, and those human centred- characteristics that brought us to the work in the first place.

Keeping it simple, and striking that balance, where I can still be a relational manager - this is the difference between being a leader and a manager for me.