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About Sweet Track Counselling Services

Our Story

Written by Collette Barnard, founder of Sweet Track Counselling.

how i mostly feel

I was born May 1957 into a Catholic & Protestant family and attended a Catholic school until the age of 16years. Some of my experiences with the nuns and priests were warm and pure, but some were not, and by the end of all my schooling I was no longer a Catholic. From a very early age I had a deafness and had only 30% total hearing, this caused me to develop a rich internal world and a hypersensitivity with some psychic abilities. As a child I had many experiences of other-worldly or supernatural phenomena. As a young toddler of 18 months of age I had a death experience from a strangulation, I have no actual recall memory of this event, but I still live through the trauma this created in my body, and I feel that in my life I have needed to walk, and challenge, that fine line that exists between life and death. At 22 years I again experienced a near death encounter through an accident in Asia; whilst ‘out’ I saw a vision of myself in the future as part of a fulfilling education community and I remember consciously choosing to return to my body and my life. I have known from then that Sweet Track Counselling in all its stages of creation was meant to Be.

From my earliest experiences I developed a healthy inner rebel/sub-personality. Others might debate this choice of adjective, as I was often a challenge to any authority or restrictive powers. I was a freedom quester, and a seeker and I threw myself into experiences often without care, travelling continents to meet many wonderful and inspiring spiritual teachers, and also meeting dubious and uninspiring teachers. I was motivated by ancient spiritual practices, and I have had many initiations and spiritual names bestowed on me. I carry all these names with honour and respect.

From my infant near death experience and my early trauma, I was a disembodied, ungrounded, out-of-body, expansive-existence person, and my feet barely stroked the Earth. This traumatised state of Being is not a safe place to exist-in, and it was in 2002, sitting at night in the Sonoran desert in Mexico on a vision quest whilst I was being circled by a pack of laughing coyotes that I fully entered the safety of my body energy field, and it was from this timeline I became an embodied individual and my life changed for the better from this new grounded state. The coyote has always stayed with me, and has been a wise, but often tricky, medicine animal in my life.

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This important lesson of being centred in one’s own life force, one’s prana, and learning to reside fully embodied and present, in a mindfulness presence, is my life quest. From this state of Being I was now able to listen to my higher-self, my wise guides, and this skill keeps me on my true path and in my energy flow.

These are the passions that have enabled me to write and create the Sweet Track Counselling Psycho-Spiritual Trainings, plus the discipline and willingness to work a 60 hour week.

The courses all arose in an organic process, one step at a time.

In 2002 I was working in Glastonbury, at the Isle of Avalon Foundation, creating different spiritual focused workshops and I was interested in finding a listening skills course for the number of body workers and psychic readers in town.

I couldn’t find one, so, along with Rachael Clyne, I created the first course. We took the name, Sweet Track, from the ancient local landscape, an area of outstanding and untamed beauty. Rachael brought her creative passion and psychosynthesis knowledge, I brought my own psychosynthesis and psycho-spiritual counselling Diploma training and some other materials. It was a success, and in 2005 we worked with CPCAB to become an accredited centre, we were the first centre to carry the descriptor ‘working within a psychospiritual model’ on our certificates.

After much encouragement from the students, I decided to write the level 3 course. Our first Level 3 course ran in 2008 and I was supported that first year by Sandra McKeever who worked well within establishments and was an enthusiast of the CPCAB system. She enabled me to overcome my resistance. I also introduced the more creative aspects, using Art as a therapeutic tool within the courses.

The level 4 was another story. This was a big piece of work, and took me a committed 6 months to write, and at times I almost gave up, it was daunting, and the responsibility felt too great. A colleague, Libby Forsyth, responded to this, and became a huge support to me. Her wonderful witty humour was the healing elixir. Libby and I were both committed Buddhist practitioners, and this Buddhist philosophy influenced the course material. In 2010 Libby was the teacher assistant, supporting me, in our first level 4 diploma course, and without her support this diploma course would probably not have happened. I also had two other mentors at that time, Will Parfitt & Jan Mojsa, beautiful and wise individuals, who brought theoretical expertise to the courses. This was later followed by Jane Sanders with her insights for Eco-therapy, and we became the first UK counselling centre to include eco-therapy as a module.

I was then on a writing roll, and along with Jo Read, we wrote the short Level 2 Essential listening course. Jo was very involved with working with young people, and this influenced the course material as it was written for young adults. We ran this in 2012, and thereafter a few times, but we were never able to market it successfully.

It was also in 2012 that we had our first level 5 Diploma course. The tutors, Jan Mojsa, Will Parfitt & Jane Sanders, sat beside me with their expertise and knowledge, I also had permission to include William Bloom’s Spiritual Companions Diploma course material. I really enjoyed teaching this level 5 course, probably my favourite of all the courses.

These five courses are laid out in a spiralling effect, catching the same themes continually whilst deepening the connections to the knowledge at each cycle of the spiral. The most wonderful teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, was my finest teacher example here, and his words are interwoven throughout the course materials. These courses have come together with the support and consultation of many wonderful and great minds. People have given generously, so many people have contributed, and you all are honoured here.

So too is my little writing shed which sat snuggly at the bottom of my garden, and on the Michael leyline. With great gratitude I thank you all.

In 2013, when we moved into our own new premises in Glastonbury High St, it was a natural step to create a counselling agency as we had the space, and the students, who needed client placement hours. The question was: should the counselling be full price and the income be used to support student bursaries, or should the counselling be low cost and then a resource for the local community? I chose the latter. Nerissa Shaw eagerly took the role as the first agency manager. She established practices, policies and the setting-up of the Sweet Track Counselling Agency CIC (Community Interest Company). The arrival of the pandemic brought intense and sudden changes, we were considered front line workers and we all, students, teachers, counsellors and clients, quickly needed to adjust to online working. In 2020 Michelle Di Lorenzo and Richard Southon became our new agency managers, and from their commitment and deep insights the agency has grown in reputation and strength from year to year, it is a wonderful resource for the local community and all the student counsellors on client placement.

Since 2022 I have pulled back, handing the work over to a team of directors, managers, and teachers, and in these new Sweet Trackers I recognise a healthy rebel/ sub-personality in them all too!

Without a doubt I did what I was expected to do, it was already in the records, the wheel keeps turning, the universe happens on its own, and the future is still to be written.

Thank you for listening.