She supports our counsellors and the administrative staff at Youth Talk
Youth Talk’s clinical supervisors provide leadership and support to both our counselling and administrative teams. We sat down with Margaret – one of our long-term resident supervisors to find out more about her role and time at Youth Talk.
1. How long have you been at Youth Talk and why did you join?
‘It’s been 9 years – I started in 2014. So next year would be my 10th year at Youth Talk. We’ve come so far since then. Back then we were happy to receive a grant because it would pay the rent for the next three months!
My job was meant to be a little stop-gap really. I retired from CAHMS, and I was very used to a schedule where you went in earlier and earlier, worked flat out and you got home at six. All of a sudden, I wouldn’t be doing that anymore – I thought I might miss that. So, when somebody said that Youth Talk was looking for a supervisor, I thought that might be a nice opportunity.
That’s how I started and here I still am!’
2. What’s your role at Youth Talk and how do you support our counsellors?
‘Having worked in CAMHS for many years, I do think that our counsellors have to be ‘better’ – in a way. They have a tougher job than someone with a whole team behind them. In CAMHS you’ve got a psychiatrist and clinical psychologists – you’ve got other people you can bounce ideas off or who can intervene. At Youth Talk – our counsellors have to carry a lot. The counsellor’s relationship to the client is everything.
My job really is to enable the counsellors. As a supervisor, you try not to lean over somebody’s shoulder as if you were doing it. That’s not the point. The point is to look at what they’re telling you about their relationship with the young person they’re supporting – and offer any useful comments and insight I can.
Because it’s in a small organisation, I also get involved in some of the clinical management – working with the CEO, the Operations Manager and my fellow clinical Supervisor. I have a hand in recruitment – in making sure we get counsellors who are able to deal with whoever walks through the door.
We have a particularly high bar to be a Youth Talk counsellor as we support young people with whatever is on their mind, our counsellors could be supporting a young person who once they trust their counsellor shares serious childhood trauma and abuse. I also play a role at Trustee board meetings, so it is a bit more than just supervising. It’s about trying to contribute to the organisation itself.’
3. Why is Youth Talk such an important service to you?
‘Well to me, the most important thing is that the young person refers themselves and that it is a completely confidential service. It’s their point of view that counts – not that somebody else has referred them and thinks they’ve got this or that. It’s about their own opinion and struggles. And what they want to do about it when they come to counselling.
Taking that first step is big – and scary. And you’ve got to be quite brave because you don’t know what you’re getting into really. Or a young person can see that Youth talk is a big open door. Our only criteria is ‘are we likely to be able to help?’ If we are, then we don’t measure the size of the problem we just ask ourselves what’s helpful for that young person.’
4. What changes have you noticed for young people at Youth Talk during your time with us?
‘Everybody changes during their sessions – even the counsellors change sometimes. Young people come to Youth Talk with different concerns too.
We see a lot more young people who come in with issues relating to their identity or sexual preferences. That’s been a big change. But identity has always been important for adolescents. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing – figuring out who you are, who you have been but also who you want to be!
Over the last ten years, we’ve seen more of an acceptance that mental health is important and that it can come in many different forms. Also, that each different struggle needs respect. It’s important because in acknowledging them we can continue to accept them too. People’s view of what they think of as ‘okay’ starts to change and widen. Because ‘perfection’ doesn’t exist – you don’t have to act or think a certain way, it’s the norm.
There are so many different stories at Youth Talk. Our counsellors have really stepped up to the mark – ready to handle whatever comes their way. I remember we once had a young refugee come through our service. We all looked at this young person and were just amazed at their strength and ability to push on despite everything. They came to counselling because they wanted to balance themselves – and eventually, leave the trauma in the past.
I’m very admiring of the courage of some people who’ve been through traumatic times – especially young people. They come hopping and skipping into your room – full of energy and life. You see enormous changes because young people have the capacity for change – more so than us adults!’
Outside of Youth Talk
‘I like to walk with friends and I belong to a walking group. I like to read – lots of fiction – and I belong to a reading group too! You can tell I like to discuss things with others and socialise. I also do Yoga, Thai Chi and a bit of Zumba – and again I like to do that with others. I’ve also become – I suppose – a proud ‘Lady who Lunches’ . You know – just go out for lunch, have a lovely chat and just have a good time with your friends! I come from a very big family. There’s always something going on – a wedding, baby shower – so I see a lot of family as well as friends.’
Margaret’s work as a counsellor supervisor is vital to ensuring that Youth Talk’s counselling remains high quality and that our counsellors receive the support they need. She helps all our staff stay informed on important and relevant clinical information.
She’s currently reading ‘Flight Behaviour’ by Babara Kingsolver and her favourite book is ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion.