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Gillian Hill - Professional Portfolio

-- Anonymous, April 28, 2001


OC – Gillian Hill’s diary 5

I am going on holiday in two days’ time and thought, at 5 am this morning, how pleasant it would be to leave with a clean slate so I will start this final diary now and, if I complete it, can go on holiday with a fully-polished halo.

First surprise was that there was another term. I started this course thinking it was about three weeks long, just before Christmas 2000, only to find that that was the lead-in and the real work started in January. So then Easter was the end, in my mind, only for me to find that another term had sprouted. The advantage of this is that the end was always in sight, so it did not feel daunting. A nine- month course ahead would have been a harder option than three weeks! Early in the year, my family all had back-to-back illnesses, which put this course on hold rather and I have really appreciated being able to do it at my own pace. I have done so many courses as an adult which trumpeted that I would be treated as an adult and this really is the first one where that has been the case. The computer medium is sufficiently humbling, showing you all the time what you do not know, so it is a real joy that the course format and atmosphere has not reinforced what I do not know and cannot do and should already have done.

Second surprise was losing the internet on our computer. We asked a man to come and fix it, after Simon had done his utmost, and the problem defeated even him. He could not admit to it however and just disappeared after saying he would ask his boss and come back to us. This all delayed the moment of accepting that it really was time to buy a new computer. In the same week, the washing machine died and the TV and the video and the printer. We upped our purchasing of lottery tickets.

Again, not knowing the implications is beneficial because you just get on and cope. I thought we had been computerless for a fortnight and it was only when I went to the website to register that I saw I had not visited it for five weeks. Ignorance is definitely bliss. I had the pleasant feeling that everything would be sorted in a day or two – for five weeks! There were three worrying aspects here, though: 1 I was letting down my supervision group 2 I could not work with my volunteer client 3 Gemma, Brian and I had an assignment to complete. It is handy to have a telephone at a time like this and so I kept in touch and once we were online again and I had cleared the, I think, 75 emails, I could get underway again. Useful to bear this in mind with potential clients. One cannot assume that the computer will always be available and AOL has been appalling for several days recently, which delays communication, too.

Reading through the emails was very useful – rather like a crash course in online counselling. I have not routinely copied my emails to everyone as most do not seem worth it but I have certainly benefited from reading everyone else’s, even if it is just to give me an illusion of working. What it does do is to maintain continuity so, when I did eventually get down to an assignment, it was in the context of ongoing contact rather than me occasionally doing a big burst of work, followed by a long gap, when it all goes cold.

Which brings me to the assignments. Ian’s ‘viruses and firewalls’ was stunning. Most of it was technically beyond me but I understood it as I was reading it. I really appreciate the effort and thought everyone has put into the assignments. Similarly with Jane’s document on ethics. It converts it from an onerous task into a worthwhile assignment. I found that my Code of Ethics was out-of- date so had to ring Rugby for a new set, which meant I read them. I last did that about 13 years ago so I am inadvertently and painlessly being brought up-to-date. Trish’s paper on ‘narrative writing’ is obviously on a subject close to her heart, which makes it eminently readable.

The deadline for the paper about ‘hoaxes and obscenities’, on which Gemma, Brian and I were to collaborate, came rushing on and I was still computerless. Brian was going away for a few days and Gemma was off to a conference in Switzerland so Brian emailed me a section from some Relate notes, Gemma and I had a phone call, I mulled a few ideas over and produced the paper and submitted it just past its deadline. Peoples’ response to Captain Marvel was so varied and so impressive. This was the first time I had seen an extended set of responses from quite a few group members and I felt so reassured as I read the replies that this was a professional, competent and caring group of counsellors. By the way, the little paper clip man thinks he knows better than I do and keeps deleting one of the ls in counsellors. I will believe computers are intelligent when he learns that I will persevere with my spelling, not his!!

When the new computer was finally installed (and the new washing machine definitely washes cleaner!), Simon loaded everything back on. The only materials we had lost were our address books and lists of favourite sites. We went about compiling these laboriously and Simon decided to save them in case we lost them in future and, in saving them, he lost them again. Not pleased. This has been the only real problem, though, and the new computer is much faster, too. It took a while to adapt to the ‘natural’ keyboard but we have both persevered with it and it is no longer a problem.

Communication was also helped this term with another meeting at Angela’s. Ian not only knows about firewalls, he also knows a lot about olive bread. A man of many parts. It is lovely to meet everyone and to notice how much better everyone looks in real life than in their photos on the website. There is such a repository of knowledge and experience in the group, too. There was talk that day of two cohorts going through in September, one of which would be a group of Relate trainers. In the event, Relate has decided to send two of its people to the main group. This feels more comfortable as then we can concentrate on getting that right and there will not be any confusion between the two groups.

Apart from assignments, there is also the ‘live’ work. My special client was ‘John’ and he kindly waited while we sorted out our computer problems. He is also on AOL so he suggested we use the instant messenger service. We booked a time and he came online as John – we had set up the preliminaries by email beforehand – and it was brilliant. John was a recently-retired teacher whose friend had just died and he could not understand why he could not get over it. I read some of his responses with tears in my eyes. I can see how this would be a method where you could reach a deep, intimate level very quickly. We had two one-hour sessions and then email feedback. He said the material was semi-autobiographical and this definitely added to the experience. I attempted some things like contracting, boundary-setting, challenging strongly-held beliefs as I wanted this to be a learning experience rather than a nice warm bath and then asked him how it had felt to him. His reply was that he had been totally tied up in the content and had trusted that I knew what I was doing so had not noticed any of it ie as in f2f counselling, if you get the relationship and the trust right, the client just leaves the rest to you. He was very complimentary afterwards so the whole experience was enjoyable and satisfactory.

Pauline B was my OLT group client. I lost all my emails when the first computer went AWOL and I have little recall of what happened except that she was Greg, a 19 year old boy in his first gay relationship with a very demanding older man. We reached the first plateau in the counselling as my computer ceased so we ended then. Again, it felt live very quickly and Greg said he felt heard and understood.

Supervision is the other aspect of the live work. The two Paulines and I were one group. I am very sorry Pauline B is not continuing with us because as a client and a supervisor, she was consistently spot-on. We supervised as a group on the website and it felt like the Tower of Babel to me. Great fun and a wonderful experience but not to be undertaken with anyone not feeling up to par. Hilarity set in from time to time. In fact, it was very similar to the end of term champagne party, which was an inspired idea and an excellent way to end the term.

I am near the end of the usable space so need to round off soon. There is still one thing for me to attempt so I can tell future students that I completed the whole course, and that is to post material onto my personal portfolio on the website. I lost all emails with the other computer but I thought I would post this diary up there as a synopsis of the term.

Thank you. A wonderful experience. I hope it continues.

Gillian Hill 15th August 2001

-- Anonymous, August 15, 2001

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