When I was 12 (there’s that age again…), I was asked by my step-father if I’d like a BMX. I jumped at the chance, being hooked on BMX, and reading BMX Action Bike cover to cover. That Saturday, we went to our local bike shop, I was given a budget, and walked out with a brand new Raleigh Burner. I rode that bike for years…


Fast forward to 1997, and I bought my second BMX, a Mongoose, then got my S&M frame and built it up the next year. I still ride that frame now. It’s bombproof and will probably outlive me! I’ve been riding BMX on and off ever since. Last year was probably my biggest lay-off, as I was focusing on studying and drawing comics. I still followed BMX companies online, checked edits, but riding wasn’t a priority.

With the knackered knee, I thought this might be it, no more riding. WRONG! This week, I’ve had two wonderful flatland (look it up if you don’t know…) sessions, one with my grandson, and a solo session today. I’m trying to learn one specific trick which is eluding me, but I’ll get it. I tried it again today, but my nerves wouldn’t hold out, so I tried something else instead, Barspins. I can do 180 degrees no problem, but the full 360? I tried it today, and cracked it first time! Not bad for a 45 year old on a 22 year old bike!

Today’s been amazing. I found out I passed my Level 3 Counselling exam, nailed barspins, soaked in the tub, and will be off out for chips and cider too. I am one happy dude!


Day One…

I enrolled on my Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling this morning. It’s a nice feeling starting a course, especially when it’s the start of getting another step closer to becoming a counsellor and being able to help young people through difficult times.

There was no clear idea of what the day would hold, as it was the first day of the course. For all we knew, we would enrol, have a coffee and go home. It was really nice to start as we mean to go on, and get our hands dirty, so to speak, and do a full day’s study. We spent the morning recapping the basics of person centred therapy, which is descriptive, and how it differs to other modalities, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is prescriptive. We have a really lovely group, as, bar one, we studied Level 3 together. Our ‘new’ member has fitted right in, and it’s really good getting to know the others in the group better. Two years of study and counselling is going to be exciting and hard, as we will be dealing with some very difficult issues. Some of them will be personal to us.

We have all grown so much as people through Level 3, and the growth through Level 4 will be incredible. It won’t be easy as we will be dealing with very delicate issues which some of us have held onto for years. Issues that run to our very cores and can define who we are and how we act and interact. Already, I have made a very big confession to some of the group about an issue I have held onto for years.

We learn the craft of counselling by working in trios, one counsellor, one client, one observer. This will be throughout the first year, as in the second year, we start counselling real clients in an agency setting. We have to have 100 hours of counselling under our belts before we complete the course.

I purposely chose to observe in our first trio, I was avoiding being a counsellor, as I am unsure of my counselling skills. I understand theory quite well, but haven’t always taken the best approach to practical counselling skills, as I tend to try and ‘fix’ people rather than listen, reflect and summarise. I made a conscious effort in our second trio to do better as a counsellor and use the skills that we are learning, and was really happy with how I did. When it came to my turn be client, I made another conscious decision to talk about an issue which has affected me for years, namely guilt and how it affects me.

I’m not going to go into details here, as I don’t feel it’s appropriate and it’s personal, but I am really happy that I have. It is a huge step forwards for me personally, and my tutor is really happy as our course is a perfect place to explore these kind of issues. We all need to learn about ourselves and what makes us tick so that we are better equipped to help others deal with their issues.

A really good start to a new chapter.

Never stop learning…

I got a letter from the college I’ve been studying (and used to work at…) at today, offering me a place on the CPCAB Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling Level 4 course. I’m really happy about this, as this is another big step to my becoming a qualified counsellor.

I started studying counselling 2 years ago, when the head of the counselling faculty recommended that I took the Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Studies, as there wasn’t an assertiveness course at the college, and this would be a good start. This was a short ten-week course, and as I progressed through it, the modality we studied, person centred therapy, clicked with me and made such sense. It was so natural and intuitive, and felt like this was something I’d known for years. I also had a new hero, Carl Rogers, the father of person centred therapy.

By the end of the course, I’d made some really good friends, and more importantly, realised I could help others. This was reinforced by one of my friends telling me to go onto Level 3 and become a counsellor, as there aren’t that many male counsellors, especially those that work with children…

See, after we’d been on holiday with our grandson, who was 9 at the time, I started researching child development. Our grandson was behaving like a stereotypical moody teenager at the time, and I really struggled with this. After some online research, I found out that puberty starts early with lots of younger children, around 9. This must be really scary, as it’s bad enough when you’re older dealing with mental and physical changes, but imagine going through it at such an early age… Now, the reason I’d been recommended going on an assertiveness course at my college (I was working there at the time…), was that I had issues dealing with disruptive ‘bad’ behaviour from teenagers, and needed to learn better strategies to deal with this kind of behaviour. They are going through massive changes just like our grandson was.

So at the time I started Level 3, in September 2013, I had decided that my focus was to work with younger people, and help them through this time of amazing transformation from child to adult. I got three weeks in and had a complete breakdown, and was signed off work for three months, due to mental health issues. My plan to become a counsellor had stalled, though our lovely head of faculty told me it was fine, and that I could restart the course the following year. Phew.

Level 3 Counselling was amazing. I learnt so much, about myself, about others, how we are all different and all have issues. It was also empowering for me as I became the only male student in the group, and I really learnt how to talk to and understand women as equals, not that I’ve ever had an issue with this anyhow. The course also allowed me to be completely open and congruent with others, talking about issues which had held me back for years, viewpoints I held, and attitudes which caused me issues in the past. I felt so much better as a person in all aspects, and I finally put to bed the notion that I was stupid, as I had not done well academically in the past. Being told that my course portfolio had passed was a very proud moment, as I focussed in a way I hadn’t before, reading, checking facts, cross referencing and evidencing my work. The exam was okay, and we have to wait until April for the results, but I was really happy with how I applied myself to revising, and was confident with all of the answers I gave.

Level 4 is two years of hard work, and I’m already determined to focus really hard on my studies. We’ll start counselling others too, as we have to have at least 100 hours of counselling under our belts. It’s going to be hard, but I’m relishing the opportunity to push myself and challenge my preconceptions and attitudes. After this, I’ll be looking for a placement to start my counselling career, which will run alongside my creative one.

These are amazing times, and the best is yet to come. Thanks for reading.