Each month, the 'Day in the Life' series offers PACFA members the opportunity to share their personal and professional experience as dedicated Practising & Registered Clinical Counsellors and Registered Clinical Psychotherapists who embody the art and science of holding space for others.
This month, we follow the day with Registered Clinical Counsellor®, Penny Wilkinson
My name is Penny and I’m a PACFA Registered Clinical Counsellor®, and an Addictions and Trauma Recovery Specialist at Penny Wilkinson Counselling Services and The Overcomers Place. I love this niche area of counselling because it was exactly what I tried to find so desperately back in 1992. My journey into this field began when I had my own children which inadvertently kicked off my own childhood trauma that had laid dormant in my body. It was a long journey to access the specialised help for the combination of addiction and trauma. Yet that wonderful journey led me to where I am today with a life filled with joy and struggle doing what I love.
Early forays into adult education began with a Cert IV in Communications in 2007, then a Grad Dip from Tafe in AOD&MH in 2010 along with 1000s of hours of PD in a variety of modalities. My goal initially was to be a Registered Clinical member of PACFA, so I completed a Master of Counselling and the practicum hours at Oakdene House in Fairfield. Post the Masters, I became fascinated with Interpersonal Neurobiology and its understanding of the Nervous System. My thesis was on Addiction, Attachment and Affect Regulation. This explained so many reactions my body experienced as a result of threat. I completed the three-year Somatic Experiencing training and I’m proud to be returning this year as an assistant for the Sydney Training cohort beginning in November. Somatic Experiencing has reset my nervous system after years of addiction. It is from this experiential learning, both of head and heart, that enables me to support others in their journey.
Today my focus is on providing effective coregulation for clients to support them building their essential window of tolerance. This enables their prefrontal cortex to operate more effectively under the duress of triggers. Somatic Experiencing is a bottom-up therapy that aids those suffering from substance dependence to learn to re-regulate in a new way.
I now run a FREE All Addictions treatment service called The Overcomers Place in Gladesville and Bronte, as well as offering zoom options - thanks to Covid! This unique service fills a gap in the market that supports additional one to one therapy, short term detox unit and residential care for substance dependence.
A team of 12 part time lived experience specialised therapists deliver this unique service with me. I also work alongside 3 peers in my private practice. It makes for a busy week, so I focus my weekends on refuelling especially through hiking and time with friends, family and my delightful grandchildren. Occasionally there is time to sit quietly and quilt.
My work life is supported by a fortnightly somatic body worker appointment, a fortnightly individual supervision appointment, a monthly massage, a monthly Yalom process group with other therapists, a weekly grandchild visit, a daily salad and a daily 10000 step walk mostly on Sydney Harbour’s foreshore. I once had a supervisor tell me she spent her week filling up to be poured out in her service.
After a fabulous month’s break this year, my goal is to sustain a 10-week cycle of breaks in the years going forward as I’ll be 60 years old in 2024. I recently had a taste of how good a month off can be. My husband and I hiked the TMB circuit in Europe – what a thrill to spend every day above 2000 meters in such beautiful countries as Italy, France and Switzerland. That song…” the hills are alive” rang in our ears.
As far as my private practice goes, I have a couple of days in private practice at Gladesville and via Zoom seeing both individuals and couples. I also have a day for my admin. Here I am sharing with you my day as a Registered Clinical Counsellor®, at The Overcomers Place.
A Day in the Life of a Registered Clinical Counsellor – Penny Wilkinson
7.15am: Daily Calm
I start my day with a meditation from calm.com either the daily calm or a body scan followed by a quiet soul time which ensures I connect to something larger than just me in this universe.
7.45am: Shoes On-Out the Door
Shoes on – out the door – the goal is 10,000 steps daily. Mondays and Thursdays are usually around Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Wednesdays through Cooper Park or if time allows up to Centennial Park, Tuesdays out to Rose Bay for a training and swim session and Fridays into the city to meet Friends. Weekends often allow for a search of the All-Trails app for something different like the Putney Punt 4hr circuit which I enjoyed recently with a therapist friend – that fed the soul!
9.am: Prep for My Workday
I prep my client files, pack my work bag, and grab the esky filled with salads (made from all colours of the rainbow), snacks (nuts, sultanas and chocolate pretzels) and a cuppa.
10am to 3pm: Interpersonal Neurobiology
I lead the Interpersonal Neurobiology Group for The Overcomers Place and supervise student counsellors on practicum with us. This is a group where the latest in neuroscience and how the brain works particularly in relationships where there's been interpersonal trauma and substance abuse is discussed with those in early addictions. Ideas like Dan Siegal's 'Window of Tolerance' are explained and interventions about how we can grow this through self-care, safe connections and effective mutual aid are used to encourage change in overcoming addictions. I’m very much looking forward to our free event here in March.
Fridays Afternoons: Downtime
From Friday afternoon onwards I enjoy quilting, reading, lie by the pool in the sun, gratitude practice, prep things to do with friends over the weekend – often some last-minute planning leads to all sorts of fun things happening like walks, mah-jong, shows, movies and meals.
6.30pm: Letting Go
I have an early dinner most Fridays after my grandchild sleepover the previous night and after my early granny start. My partner of 37 years recently retired after a long corporate career and is learning to manage our meal prep. I am learning to let go… a whole new delight this role reversal but not without its challenges like all relationships. It has given us both a new appreciation from each other’s skill set.
8.30pm: A Bath and a Book
It’s my daily bath time which involves a long soak and chat before reading and bed.We are both keen book readers – I search out autobiographies from Vinnies stores.
We rarely watch TV and have lost our Netflix connections this year! Recently, to our delight, our 28-year-old son moved back in with us temporarily, so it’s a delight to sometimes have long chats with him or play monopoly deal or a chess game before bed.
Connect with Penny
Penny Wilkinson Counsellor website
The Overcomers Place website
Register for an upcoming free event at the Overcomer’s Place
Open the door on your day
The ‘Day in the Life’ series is created and edited by PACFA Registered Clinical Psychotherapist® and founder of The Psychosynthesis Centre, Jodie Gale.
Each month, the ‘A Day in the Life’ series will offer participating PACFA members the opportunity to share their unique personal and professional experience as dedicated Practising & Registered Clinical Counsellors and Registered Clinical Psychotherapists who embody the art and science of holding space for others. Click here to read more and to find out how you can open the door on your day.