My first day: I came from Chile, a far away country to study here. I have been working as a counsellor for seven years, and now I have made a huge effort to be able to work in Scotland. I do not know how it will work.

I am in front of the building, 13 Smith's place. I take a breath. I can feel the nervousness in my guts. As it is the first time I prefer not to use the keys, so I ring the bell. 'Hello, Janette' 'Hi Gabriel, welcome. The first day, no?' 'Yes, first day' 'The meeting is upstairs, room 5,' she says.

I walk through the stairs and enter to room five. There is a circle, and people look at me with a smile. I sit and Maggie, the clinical manager, asks 'who can offer himself to chair and to take notes'. I got scared; I do not want to take any role now that I am new. Gladly, someone else says 'me'.

The person who chairs says, 'please let's do a minute of silence', at the same time that somebody else lights a candle in the centre of the room. It reminds me of my times at Catholic school, however, this time not praying, but making a ritual, a minute of silence surrounding the light.

This is so different than my experiences on my previous placement. 'There is here something sacred' I say to myself.

I stopped to identify as Christian at the end of high school, but I have been a spiritual seeker from this time onwards. Sadly, in my previous placement, the words 'spiritual' or 'sacred' was not on the table, or named as 'places of meaning', in this abstract terms that take out of them any life...

The meeting starts and people make comments about the administrative staff. I am not sure what is the propose of this moment. I thought until now that space would be a kind of supervision. But it was not. It seems to be a place for sharing. A place where the therapists have a voice; some make complaints, some say 'thank you' for the changes taking place. I see a horizontality here. The clinical manager seems to be the head, but at the same time, I feel there is no hierarchy. I feel a kind of democracy.

'Yes, I will tell the board what we have discussed, and we will see if it is possible to achieve' says Maggie at the end. And the second scene begins 'Somebody has some personal or clinical topic to share?'.

Some people raise their hands. And I get surprised by them...

'Well, I made a shamanistic imagination process...'

'I have been working with Buddhist psychology...'

'I work with dreams and using art expressions...'   

I came to Scotland to study and to develop some of my own ideas at a PhD level. It has been hard for me to escape from a materialist, positivist psychology and being able to allow my art and my spirituality to be part of me as a counsellor. I am used to hiding this interest; not to say it out loud. I was trained to work on the side of a psychiatrist. I was trained to work into hierarchies and power dynamics where you needed to be validated with a scientific voice.

'So, we are working with this images from the dream, and then the client makes this drawing...'   

My thesis for my PhD is about these artistic-spiritual experiences, the relevance of 'the places' that are between our inner world and the external world at the same time. That there is a sacredness in some interactions, object and rituals; because they are part of our unconscious and conscious at the same time.

 I feel that Wellspring conserves the spirit of its founders. Appealing to an unconscious that is spiritual. Which allows us to see the worth of art, of expression, of playing, of acting.

Working at the University of Edinburgh and Wellspring has been a healing process for me as a counsellor: I have been able to work with my art and spirit without fear. And that is possible because I have seen people that embrace the sacred, opening their hearts to the clients in an ethics of kindness and care.

 'How was your first meeting, Gabriel?' says Janette, 'Very good. I am quite surprised though; I like the spirit of this place' 'Glad to hear' she says with a big smile.      

 

Gabriel Soler