Part of why I chose University of Suffolk was because of the location. I had young children at Primary School in Suffolk, so for me the choice of where to go was limited. It was so fortunate that the University offered the course I wanted and the 10 week FdA course I did there first was a great insight into what it would be like to study at the university and get a feel for the tutors.
The course gave a broad teaching of different modalities and theories, along with having to also work on ourselves in terms of having personal therapy and group practical work. Having to get a placement volunteering during my three years on the course was really useful as this was great preparation for when I would qualify to either work for an organisation or for myself. With the tutors' support and the support from individuals where I volunteered it worked well in combination with university work.
Each module on the course was valuable learning; with a mixture of theory and practical each week. This felt like I was getting an all round experience of what it would be like to work as a counsellor and a chance to see what theories resonated with me. For example, every Thursday afternoon we would work in groups to counsel each other; starting with made up stories and eventually building up to our real-life experiences. Teaching us about maintaining confidentiality, how we would feel as counsellors hearing client’s stories, and also to experience the vulnerability clients might feel. On Tuesday mornings we would attend 'process group; where as a small group and a tutor we would discuss how we were doing and also let each other know what we might be finding challenging about certain relationships or dynamics in the group. It was very useful in helping us gain more self awareness, something necessary in order to be a competent counsellor! It was also compulsory to attend our own personal therapy and to keep a journal. So, not only was the course teaching us about theories and modalities, it was also teaching us about ourselves and how we are in the world. All of these have been incredibly useful in my personal growth and also in gaining confidence and belief in myself as a counsellor.
It was useful when we had people come in and teach us about how to best write, save and hand in essays/work and how to make presentations etc. Having been out of education for 18 years, I certainly needed some educating on how things have to be done now. I am aware that doing a degree in my late 30's will have been a different experience than if I had done it at 18/19. I didn't feel in particular need for any additional support, but if I ever did, I knew I could go and ask. What I do remember sensing from tutors was to go for it and not fear going into private practice, this was incredibly useful to encourage me to just jump in and see what happens!
I decided to put what I could away each year from my student finance in the hope that it would help me convert my garage into an office and counselling room, which I did in 2018. With the support of friends that I made on the course, also embarking on private practice, I began working for myself in May 2018, and my practice has grown slowly over the last few years. What works for me is that I can choose when I am able to work as it is also important for me to be available for my children. In 2020 with the virus issues, I had to either stop work or try online and phone counselling. Being open to trying this way of working has turned out to be very useful for myself and my clients. It has now added and extra way of maintaining flexibility of attending sessions. So we can turn to it if a client feels a zoom session would work better one week for example.
I think having been a part of a group of likeminded people, making new friends and learning from the tutors are all good memories for me. It felt good to be learning again and to be able to see an achievable career actually happen, which it has!