Leah Elliott, IICP Diploma / BA Level 7 Graduate 2016

My name is Leah and I have just recently graduated with a degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy from IICP. My journey began in 2012, two years after I had qualified as a secondary school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, I quickly discovered that the practical skills I learned in teacher training in no way prepared me for teaching teenagers. Instead of empty vessels sitting in front of me waiting to be educated, I found young people who had worries, pressures and serious concerns that stretched far beyond the Modh Coinníollach. Worryingly, they and I both lacked the vital skills necessary to help them talk about their problems and discover their own truth.

I began with a certificate course in counselling which I attended locally. Having developed a hunger for knowledge during the course, I then decided to continue my training and embark on a diploma. I had heard great things about IICP in Tallaght, and after a successful interview for one of thirty places on the course, I gleefully cleared my Saturday schedule for the year.

Over the past two years I have learned a great deal about counselling theorists, their theories, the most desirable skills in counselling, and how to survive group process. All of these things have served me well in my role as a teacher, colleague and most importantly, as a counsellor. However, the most valuable piece of learning I have held on to over the course of my training has undoubtedly been about myself. Being a perfectionist, I struggled to accept constructive feedback from lecturers and peers, and felt defeated if a session with a client didn’t go exactly the way I’d wanted it to. I feared uncertainty, and felt uncomfortable sitting with clients in that space. Brené Brown describes counselling as “all about leaning into the discomfort of ambiguity and uncertainty, and holding open an empathic space so people can find their own way” (Brown, 2012, p.8). In order to be able to sit with client’s uncertainty, I have had to get quite familiar with my own insecurities and fears of the unknown, and delve into the messiness of my own vulnerability (ibid, 2012).

I wish I could say that at the end of the course I have it all figured out. That I have flourished into the perfect and all-knowing being. If I’m honest, that is what the perfectionist in me expected from the course. However, I’m acutely aware from my time with IICP that there is no such thing as perfection. I now know that it’s okay to not know, it’s okay to be vulnerable, and sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary to make a mess. Sometimes, it’s in the middle of the mess, when things are seemingly at their worst that we can find the diamond in the rough.