A Day in the Life of a Cruse Scotland Counsellor

Volunteer Bereavement Counsellor, Lilian, shares her approach to counselling and how she prepares for each session.

February 09, 2022

Hello! My name is Lilian and I am a Volunteer Counsellor with Cruse Scotland. Let me tell you about how I became a counsellor and my typical ‘counselling day.’ 

How I became a Counsellor

I actually worked for Cruse more than 30 years ago when the training was purely ‘in-house’, but having children and working meant that I stopped counselling for a good number of years. Two years after my younger son Daniel’s devastating death 20 years ago, I studied for a Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling at Jordanhill College in Glasgow. This course involved a lot of hard studying, writing long and complex essays, plus having a practical placement at a counselling facility. For my placement, I volunteered at the Tom Allan Centre where I counselled for three hours weekly and spent two hours per month having supervision from an experienced Counsellor, both in a group and individually. This was in addition to my day job and looking after family,so it was a tough call!

Volunteering for Cruse Scotland

Several years ago, I came back to volunteer for Cruse Scotland and I have come to realise that this is an important part of my life purpose. (I believe that each one of us has something to offer to the world and that service to others is paramount.) Because I have lost both parents plus my younger son, I feel that I can truly empathise with other bereaved people.

I volunteer as a ‘Person-Centred Counsellor’, which means that I believe that every client has the resources within themselves to find their way through their difficulties. My role is to help them unlock that potential and to build their resilience through careful concentration on what they are saying, giving ‘unconditional positive regard’, never being judgemental, and feeding back insights which come to me while we are engaged in the counselling conversation.

How I approach my sessions

A typical counselling day for me starts with the preparation of myself and my spare room where I speak with clients on the phone - the wonders of technology have brought a big change from when all my counselling was done face-to-face in the Cruse office in Glasgow!

I do not follow any particular religion but I think of myself as a spiritual being and have belief in a ‘Creator/God’ who is benevolent and can be invoked, so I create a ‘sacred space’ within my room through prayers and lighting a candle and asking that only higher, positive energy will be within my room. Counselling is a work of love after all and it is so important that the person with whom I am speaking feels held, listened to and sincerely cared for.

Each client is an individual with unique needs and responses to grief so I have prepared already by reading the latest writers and researchers: I read about trauma and its effects, guilt and how to deal with it, how grief affects the body, what things have been shown to help a person while grieving and many other related topics. As I prepare for the session, I put a few drops of Agua De Florida into my palms (bought online, smells delicious and can be used for purification) and I breathe deeply, meditating for a few minutes to focus myself. I then phone the client and introduce myself and the session begins.

Counsellors always explain to clients that what passes between us is confidential and I am always humbled by how trusting people are as they confide their innermost feelings and fears to me, really a ‘stranger’. The counselling relationship is a contract between the Counsellor and the client involving confidentiality, time boundaries and other aspects. In each session I listen intently and follow the client’s lead on what aspect of their grieving they want to talk about – everything is client-led. I remain highly sensitive to what beliefs and attitudes they may have, and to their response to grief and loss. I only say what I feel is appropriate to that individual. I may tell them that I have lit a candle for their loved one (as I always do) and I am sometimes sorry when the session ends as time seems to pass very quickly and the client may not really want to finish at that point, but Counsellors have to keep to the boundaries of time already set.

After the session has ended, I reflect on what has passed between myself and the client and assess what I have heard, how I have responded and whether I need to do some research into any particular aspects of their grieving process.

Supervision and support for Counsellors

Every Counsellor has a Supervisor with whom we meet for an hour per month for every 12 hours of counselling done. In these sessions, the Counsellor can discuss any aspect of their counselling that they may feel unsure about or would like a second opinion on but of course, clients’ names and identities are never used.

A rewarding role

Overall, I find counselling for Cruse Scotland very rewarding and varied and I hope to continue for many years. I learn so much from the clients and I speak to people from all over Scotland and from all walks of life. I feel very privileged to be able to do this worthwhile work!


If you are struggling with your grief, find out more about our one-to-one counselling service here.

A Day in the Life of a Cruse Scotland Counsellor

About the Author

Lilian McDade - Cruse Scotland Volunteer

Lilian is a Person Centred Counsellor/Therapist who completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling in 2002. She had previously counselled with Cruse in the 1990's and later at the Tom Allan Centre and the Marie Curie Hospice, returning to Cruse in 2017.

In 2002, Lilian's son Daniel suddenly died, aged 21, from a virus and through that loss and the aftermath, she decided that she wanted to concentrate on Bereavement Counselling. Lilian has always been interested in the 'mysteries' of life and death and wrote her dissertation at University (in her 40's) on "Western Attitudes to death" - being aware that, in our Scottish culture, the rituals of grieving have been lost with the general decline in religion, leaving many bereaved people trying to deal with a loved one's death without the background support and comfort of a belief system. Having been through the devastation of the loss of a child, Lilian believes that she can understand and support those who are in the throes of finding their way through grief.