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300 Degree Change

The counselling course I have completed has an over 90% pass rate, yet here I am convinced that I just wrote my name two hundred times on my exam paper. I am currently waiting for both my exam result and diploma course to start, with new stationary at the ready.

I decided to look into a career in counselling in 2014.The frequent occurrence of people expressing, that they found me someone they could talk to candidly prompted me in the counselling direction. I even had customers in my sales job tell their stories about their own challenges. They would often then say ‘I don’t know why I just told you that'.

It goes right back to school; when I was doing my GCSE’s, I knew I wanted to do a job that helped people but, at aged 15/16 I really didn’t know how to articulate that. I remember talking to the career adviser at school, explaining whilst using the phrase ‘not social work but something that helps’.

Sadly, they didn’t know how to advise me, I ended up doing a course that wasn’t best for me and I decided to get a job instead. As I’ve got older I’ve realised the qualities I have, and now that the early days of child rearing are done I’m able to commit myself to studying and developing so that I can pursue a ‘helping' role.

At the moment my goal, once I have finished my studies, is to continue to work with rough sleepers, as not only do I find this incredibly rewarding, I feel homelessness is often a symptom of something bigger and being part of care provision to those who are so very vulnerable is important to me.

I am sure that my direction may change over time, although the end goal will always be based upon helping others.

I decided to ‘dip my toe’ into counselling by doing an Introduction to Counselling ‘10-week course. I was so nervous on my way to the first class I thought I was going to throw up. What was I doing? Who did I think I was to try this? I’ve been out of education for so long how will I cope? What if I’m just not clever enough? And so on. I managed to get through the course and the subsequent level 2 and 3 courses. Those initial questions carried on throughout, especially when I came to start level 3, the work ramped up and the teaching was so much more in depth I felt like my brain was filled with so much new stuff every week it was really quite tiring, but I was always eager to learn more.

Since beginning my journey, this past year (Level 3), has probably been the most challenging, not just because the course content went into more depth but on a personal level the course started at a tough time. Supporting my partner through a stressful time, (of which some course content was triggering) moving house and the death of my Dad all gave me extra on my plate that I’d not had before. But instead of a ‘tale of woe’ the course helped me to explore my feelings rather than pushing them away, which has always been my failing.

We had a lesson on the ‘Conditions of Worth’ and it was like a lightbulb went off. I believe (and I wrote about it many times in my reflective journals) I allowed myself to do some proper thinking, realising why I always put the challenges of others first whilst shrugging off my own.

Well since then it is like a 300-degree change, I can’t shake it fully as I’ve not done the full 360-degree change yet.

I feel lighter because not only do I understand myself more, I don’t feel the need to dismiss myself just to make others feel good. I am finding depth within friendships since this change, and have been trying to make my interactions face to face or at least via a phone call rather than messaging/social media etc. This has been my reaction to the ongoing development of my self-awareness, I’m aware and concerned that some relationships may fall away as the change in me might not be received well by others.

So, now all I can do is prepare for the next 2 years. I am currently in the process of finding a counsellor, so that I can beginning my personal counselling and have begun to enquire with agencies for my placement that is due to start in Easter 2017.

Overall my feelings about all of this is are one of complete fear. Me! Responsible for someone’s counselling! Why? How? Is there some mistake? Was my tutor thinking of someone else when she wrote my reference? How on earth will I manage the workload? Am I clever enough to do this? But then all I need to do is give myself a talking to, calm myself down, take a deep breath and look at my new stationary.


Leila Foster is 34, a mother of two, volunteers at a rough sleepers drop in and works part time. In addition to being a student counsellor at Basingstoke College of Technology, studying Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. She has completed CPCAB Level 2 in Counselling Skills and CPCAB Level 3 in Counselling Studies.

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