Photographs © Avigail Abarbanel

Colleagues

The Highlands & Islands Counsellors Forum

I am the founder and current facilitator of the Highlands & Islands Counsellors Forum. The Forum exists for networking, professional development and support for practicing counsellors and psychotherapists from the Highlands and Islands. There are more than 80 people on the mailing list at the moment (I’m writing this on 28th January 2013) and our meetings are well-attended.

The Forum has been going for almost two years and seems to have become a good resource for our profession in the Highlands and Islands. Word about the Forum has also been getting around, and we are starting to receive all kinds of opportunities for CPD and other contacts from members of our profession outside the area who know that many professionals here can be contacted through the Forum. The Forum is community-based. It has no formal structure and no money. This keeps things simple and makes it accessible to everyone. In future things might change but for now we are keeping it simple…

The Forum does not have a website yet so I decided to use my practice website to provide this information. We could use blogging software that is free of charge but I haven’t worked out how to make it password-protected, so that only Forum members have access to meeting notes. So for now, our technology is basic and I send the notes by ordinary email. If anything changes I will let everyone know.

Membership

The Forum is intended for qualified counsellors and psychotherapists. Trainees who are studying in the Highlands and Islands cannot join while they are still in training. The only reason for this has to do with boundaries. Some of the Forum members are tutors and lecturers in counselling in the area, and we feel that given the nature of the Forum, of our profession and of counselling education, it would be inappropriate for students to sit in meetings alongside their lecturers. If you are currently a student, you are welcome to join the Forum as soon as you graduate from your course, even if you are still in the process of looking for work or of setting up in private practice.

If you are a counsellor or psychotherapist working in the Highlands and Islands and wish to join the Forum please contact me.

Forum Meetings

We meet around once a month at Inverness College Midmills Campus in Inverness, usually on a Tuesday, 3-5pm. There is no need to RSVP. If you decide to turn up to a meeting, please arrive at the college, sign in at reception and I or someone else will show you to the meeting room.

I am grateful to Inverness College for allowing us to use a room at the college for our meetings.

The meetings are informal and I run them using the ‘coffee shop’ model that I am familiar with from a similar setup my colleagues and I used when I lived and worked in Canberra. At the start of each meeting people suggest topics that they would like to discuss, and then the group decides together what topic or topics to cover. We often cover more than one topic but it depends on the time. This is an organic model and I often find that we flow naturally and smoothly from one topic to another. Because the topics come from the group itself the meetings are always energetic and what is being discussed is always relevant to everyone. So far we have covered a wide range of topics directly relevant to our profession.

I take notes during the meetings and after each one (almost) I send a summary of the meeting and an invitation to the next one. The meetings and the notes are confidential and in my summaries I don’t mention anyone’s names, or any specific information or details they shared in the meeting. I will only mention a member’s name if specifically asked to do so.

At the end of each meeting I ask each participant to say what he or she got out of the meeting. The feedback on the meetings so far has been consistently excellent. Here are a few examples of comments from the end of our last meeting on 15th January:

  • “You get here something you can’t get anywhere else. It’s the only forum where things are discussed in a different way to supervision, training or counselling.”
  • “I’ve been very engrossed in the discussion. I appreciated the diversity of experience where we are trying to reach each other and share our concerns and some of our ideas.”
  • “It’s good to get practical knowledge coming from a variety of modalities.”
  • “The discussion in the group is done without defensiveness. It’s safe to talk about everything and get ideas from others.”
  • “In the environment of the group we can be challenged and learn from others. It makes us think more about how and what we are doing in our work.”
  • “It’s really useful to learn about how other people work.”
  • “As usual the meeting was stimulating”.

The Forum’s Mailing List

I look after the Forum’s mailing list and as I mentioned above, we have more than 80 people on the list at the moment. From time to time I send CPD or other relevant notices to the Forum and if members have any notices of their own or wish to ask a question or need advice or a referral, they write to me and I forward the message to the Forum. The reason I do it this way is because as the keeper of a mailing list, I feel that it is my duty to keep it confidential to respect the privacy of the members.

If you are interested in joining the Forum please email me and ask me to include you in the mailing list. If at any point you wish to be removed, all you have to do is send me a message to that effect and I will remove you immediately.

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