The alarm is set for 6.10, and I’m up by 6.45. I walk my greyhound and my commute is short – sometimes I walk, other days I’ll take the car.
Arriving around 8am I log on and check my emails. Students may have been in touch overnight to confirm their appointments, queries from members of staff, and receiving new referrals from students. I love the variety of my work, and it is very rewarding to be able to make a difference. We have a new online referral form in development, which will allow for some early reflection and to guide a student through thinking about what they need.
The majority of people have a reasonable understanding of the role of “counselling”, however there are some misconceptions. It is often assumed that we will make students talk about something they don’t want to, and that’s just not the case, we’re more a non-coercive companion through life’s struggles to create a full, rich and meaningful life. Another assumption is that life’s default state is happy and stress free, and something must therefore be wrong if you aren’t happy all the time. We work very much in a collaborative manner with the student and do not claim to have all the answers.
My job mainly consists of individual confidential appointments with students. This morning I have an initial 80 minute appointment with a student experiencing anxiety (having been referred by the Student Support and Wellbeing team) – this time allows us to work collaboratively with the student to develop a plan of what she wants to achieve and how to get there. I signpost her to some self-help resources and our programme of psycho-educational courses. I’ll catch up with her again in a few weeks to see how she is going to see if she needs further support.
Twice a week the members of the Counselling and Mental Health team sit down together for half an hour, a process known as Fika (a Swedish term meaning “to have coffee” – a concept that was brought back from an Erasmus trip). It allows us to have a break, talk, and strengthen our working relationships.
Then it’s time to deliver a one-off procrastination workshop to enable students to find out how they put things off (assignments, exam preparation, presentations etc.) and what they can do constructively to support themselves more effectively. We run a wide range of wellbeing workshops that students can book themselves on via www.worcester.ac.uk/workshops.
I head home for lunch; I need to let the dog out and as it’s sunny I sit out in my ‘work in progress’ garden (I only moved to Worcester earlier this year).
Early afternoon brings one of our new initiatives – a ‘15 Minute Quick Guide to Wellbeing’ presentation to the first year psychology cohort. Then it’s over to firstpoint for the daily 2pm triage sessions, where we can provide information to staff on the service, and respond to students who are currently experiencing distress.
Now time for further appointments; my next client is a care leaver who is struggling with feelings of isolation. Every appointment has 10 minutes built in at the end for writing up my case notes.
At 4.30pm I remove my pass – a daily ritual whereby I transition to home life and leave all aspects of work behind. My evenings are spent engaging in my life as a part-time MSc Counselling student – reading text books and journal articles.
My messages to University Staff:
Should you have concerns about a student, you are welcome to call and leave a voicemail or email us, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
A team member will normally be on triage duty from 2pm to 3pm from Monday to Friday if you need advice on supporting or signposting a student. Our number is 01905 54 2832 or email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Try to encourage a student to access help early on. We are not a crisis service and working with a student to change a situation or their response to a situation takes time.
Remember the power of listening – in many cases if a student just feels heard non-judgmentally it can help a student to find a way through the issues themselves.