I became part of Free Psychotherapy Network in January 2021.
I am comfortable with being paid a reasonable wage for my work and am utterly against the pressure on trained counsellors to work without pay in organisations with paid staff. I recognise and value all the training and experience that has gone into making me what I am in the therapeutic space.
However, I have always believed in the importance of there being high quality services in the care sector that are free at the point of delivery, and I have worked in those services most of my adult life. So coming across FPN was like a breath of fresh air.
Since January I have delivered over 100 hours of free person-centred therapy, and I have loved it. I love working as a therapist anyway, but I have found something special in my FPN experience. I wouldn’t be able to give large sums to charity in the way that I would wish to, but through the simple gift of my time I can give more than I would have imagined, and I can see the benefit of it too in the lives of the diverse group of people I work with.
Firstly, I was glad to be done with sliding scales and the agonising bartering with someone to ascertain what they can afford. It feels like an intrusion and a threat for them, and only adds to the power that I wield from my side of the room. People come to FPN knowing exactly how it is – they are asking for free counselling and the counsellors are looking to offer it. Hooray for a lack of ambiguity!
Secondly, I have found that the removal of the profit motive and the explicitly open endednature of the offer has given both myself and the client space to breathe, time to think and explore and build trust without any pressure at all. For me this has added immeasurably to the relational depth I feel, and I see the growth and change in my clients that comes from an experience of that too.
Thirdly, I am always learning from my clients, but the learning gained from the work I have done has been immense. Perhaps this is down to the sense of space described above. There are so many aspects of intersectionality for instance, that have been explained and explored in the course of the year.
Finally, the work I have done with one client has led to the development of a new initiative that is in the process of being funded, that will see many young people have access to process led learning and personal development as part of a package of input to help them value themselves more effectively when faced with rejection from the world of professional sport.
My only regret is that I have had to turn some people away, as I have been at full capacity for most of the year. There are an awful lot of therapists out there. I do wish that as a profession we could all offer even one free space. If my experience is anything to go by, both the client and ourselves would be the beneficiary of that gift.