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Finding a placement, a guide for trainees

'Applying for a placement' - a guide (from a placement provider) in 15ish easy steps.

I (LJ) wrote this for the person-centered trainees group on facebook (with some helpful suggestions from members there), but it occurred to me that it might be useful for people outside of facebook so I'm reposting it here.

  • Congratulations on getting on your course! So you need a placement? Find out (if possible) when you will be needing to start a placement. On an 18 month diploma/2year foundation degree you will (can) probably start placement in about 3 months. On a 3/4/5 year foundation degree/ba-bsc or ma/msc you probably won't start for a year. If you're on a shorter course, you will need to start looking for potential placements asap.
  • Work out how many hours you can do a week and plan for that. On a BACP-level course you will be looking at 100-150 hours over 18months-three years. On a UKCP course you will be looking at 450 hours over three years. The commitment variation is vast (and if you're on a UKCP course you will also have to factor in 40 hours of personal therapy per year, and also a fairly high supervision ratio).
  • Find out what the limitations are on placements. Some courses allow you to set up your own placement (so you would approach an interested organisation and offer to run a counselling service - more likely in independent institutions offering courses at degree level) and some won't.
  • Scope out possible placements in your area by searching online for 'charity counselling' and your nearest town/city. Also look for private counselling services- you can get a placement in an organisation that isn't a charity.
  • Check out if your preferred service has an application deadline. Some have only two intakes a year- others are ongoing. Try and get the application deadline that is several weeks before you want to start SEEING clients, not the one that's at the time you want to start (paperwork can take months)
  • Find out if your preferred service wants you do to training in advance and plan that in to your application process.
  • Expect the process (from interview to start) to take up to 3 months, possibly more.
  • Find out when the service would like you to apply (I can't hold a place open for someone for six months when anything might change, but other services like to plan well in advance). Tell them when you apply, when you would like to start.
  • See if your counselling service offers any training or any open days etc. Go along. Meet people. (My service offers training. Whilst someone coming to training isn't guaranteed a placement, we know you by the time you apply for a counsellor placement and would probably look more favourably on you).
  • Find out whether all of the client group will count towards your hours. Some institutions only let you count hours with over 18s, and some placements start with children. You may be able to count a percentage of your hours or none.
  • Find out whether the placement can meet your hours-based requirements. If they have no waiting list and/or no regular referrals you may find you struggle for hours.
  • Find out if you will need a counselling organisation membership (BACP/UKCP/NCS etc), or whether the placement has a membership you will be covered under.
  • Find out if your placement offers in-house supervision. If not, try and have a supervisor in place before you go to interview.
  • Find out how stable the client base is. Some places have very chaotic clients with a high rate of DNAs. Others have very low rates of DNA. Plan this into your hours needed and consider taking a second placement.
  • If you want to take a second placement, find out how many hours your training will let you do in a week, and how many your placements want you to do. Be upfront with your placements. If your insitution lets you do five hours and both placements want you to do three hours, let a placement know. Alternatively, discuss with your institution that one place has a high DNA rate and would it be acceptable to do three hours at each placement
  • When choosing a supervisor, they are there to work for you. Interview them. Make sure you see more than one, even if you go back to the first one.
  • When applying, read up on the specialist areas. Don't expect your person-centeredness to carry you through. Rogers called for cultural competency and so will counselling organisations.
  • Find out what hours you can go on placement. If you need evening and they don't do evening, you needn't waste your time applying (or their time reading). Find out whether you would be lone working or not (and if so, if your training course is ok with that).
  • If you get an interview, go in smart casual or formal. Don't ask your interviewer, but make up your own mind and dress as well as you can.
  • Do not turn up too early. Check if your placement has a waiting room (my service does not and it says so on the website. People who turn up ten minutes early immediately give me a bad time-management impression).
  • In the interview, be prepared to be reflexive. My service is unusual in asking applicants to do a 30 minute triad. After the triad we ask the applicant to tell us what went well and less well. If the applicant can't self-reflect, we won't take them. More standard interviews will also ask you to self-reflect however, so do that.
  • If the supervision is in-house, make sure you know what ratio of supervision your course requires and ask if the placement can meet that.
  • Ask who does the assessments for you. Find out if there is scope to do your own assessments whilst still in training. If you can do this at any point with the support of your course and your placement it's valuable experience
  • If you are offered a placement, congratulations. Make sure you get all the necessary paperwork organised as soon as you can :)

Other placements may differ, of course - feel free to tweet us your tips and questions 

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