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Staring At My Shoes – The Power of Personal Development Groups,

Staring at my shoesStaring at my shoes – The Power of Personal Development Groups,

I am an expert on Doctor Martens shoes, I should be – I spent enough time looking down at them in my first Personal Development group back in 2000.

Like most students (I Guess), it took me some time to understand what the purpose of a process group was, and more to the point what part I played in it.

The first few weeks were quite uncomfortable, I remember asking the tutor what the purpose of this was, only to get the reply “whatever you want it to be”, it felt like I was in a game where someone else had set the rules and not bothered telling me!

Slowly I began to realise that this was time I could use to explore my own process, and begin to develop what I call my ‘courage muscle’ – let me explain.

When I began training in 1999, I naively believed that everyone on a counselling course, had much the same values as myself, so it came as a bit of a shock to discover that some of my peers had opposing views on such things as politics, gender, diversity issues as well as counselling itself .

I discovered that far from singing from the same hymn sheet, some of us were singing to a completely different tune and some had not picked up the song book at all!

It dawned on me a little late in the day, that the PD group was a forum which I could establish my own identity and develop a stronger moral compass, the facilitators role was to keep us grounded, safe and most importantly to help us see the common ground of our shared humanity.

As Dr Maya Angelou so wisely observed “Without courage, one cannot practice any virtue consistently “, in other words being courageous in both our practice and personal lives is essential, to develop ourselves and be of service to our clients – consistently .

Through the years, professionally – I have had to make some tough decisions, which to be frank have not made me popular and sometimes have put me emotionally in ‘harm’s way ‘, without the uncomfortable process of developing my ‘courage muscles’ facilitated by three years of personal development groups I wonder if I could live up to the expectation in the BACP Ethical framework, which asks us to have-

“Courage- possession of sound judgement that informs practice, the capacity to act in spite of known fears, risks and uncertainty.”

Finally, one last observation, the only time I look at my shoes is when I put them on in the morning and take them off at night, I look people in the eye nowadays, and if I do not agree with what is being said or done, I say so without fear or aggression.

How do I consider PD groups now?

They are an emotional gymnasium that help build courage and develop resilience, you just have to stop staring at your shoes and start exercising your courage muscle !

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