After completing an Insights into Counselling course at the University of Suffolk, I was encouraged by my lecturer to continue my studies into counselling by applying for the degree course. Initially, I was very apprehensive at the idea of entering higher education. I do not consider myself to be ‘academic’ and still have nightmares regarding high school. The lecturer challenged my negative beliefs and invited me to reflect on why I felt that way. After much soul searching, I handed in my notice at work (12 years in industrial refrigeration) and became a full-time student at the University of Suffolk.
After 22 years of factory work, you get to rub shoulders with a lot of different people. People can be both fascinating and frightening, invigorating and draining. Regardless of the individual, learning to accept them for who they are and working alongside them as a team member has always been very important to me. Over the years, I found less and less meaning in my role as a factory worker and found greater satisfaction in learning about my colleagues. People would often open up to me and share their experiences, giving me a greater sense of who they were. I have always been a good listener with a non-judgemental attitude so counselling felt like a natural choice.
I have enjoyed all aspects of the counselling degree. It’s very challenging, both academically and psychologically, but you learn so much about yourself as you go. It’s been a real ‘Hero's Journey!’ You learn about so many fascinating theories and you can’t help but apply them to your friends and family, and particularly to yourself. The course is a great balance between class room based lessons and practical skills. In the second year you have to work in placement and log 100 client hours. This is a daunting task but one that is hugely rewarding. Having logged my 100 hours, I have been lucky enough to continue volunteering at my placement and gain further experience.
My time at the University of Suffolk has been a very happy one. I have formed some great friendships while I have been there and the lecturers have all been incredibly supportive. You have 24 hour access to the library and all the staff are very helpful. My confidence levels have grown so much since I started the course and I feel very proud of the work that I have done, particularly in regards to my client work. Witnessing positive change in a client is a humbling experience.
Having completed the Foundation degree, I have continued volunteering as a counsellor at my placement, Just Talk in Sudbury, and currently counsel six clients a week. In September, I will be returning to the University of Suffolk to complete my BA (Hons) Counselling degree. This will give me a greater depth of knowledge which I can apply to my client work. To be honest, it will be a relief once it is all finished but it will be worth it. After university, I plan on setting up my own private practice and working from home, alongside my voluntary work in Sudbury.
Learning about counselling is a journey, not a destination. There is always more to learn and always more you can learn about yourself. My advice would be to just trust the process. Trust your lecturers and embrace the whirlwind of doing a counselling degree. There will be tears, there will be frustration, but there will also be laughter and the knowledge that you are making a real difference in the world.
Also, be organised! Juggling the academic side of the course with the practical side can be tricky. Do your research into placement providers ahead of time and don’t leave anything to the last minute. Good luck!