Life Testimony:

A counselling student

Counselling is a continuous learning process, and every session provides an opportunity for growth but it can still be scary.

The Experience

Yeah, counselling, I’m studying to become a counsellor. Uh, it’s been, um, a long journey so far. It’s another two years to go if I want to become consultant at the end of it. And, um, it’s been a two-year struggle. And it’s something, you know, I knew it was going to be a rough, rocky road, but not as things have turned out lately, basically, with the whole financial situation and everything – that’s just topped it all off to make it even harder for me. So hence I’ve obviously had to have been working as well at the same time, working part time, and sort of doing enough hours to give me a bit more finance, shall I say, for myself. Cause I just don’t want to sort of end up having to just depend on parents alone, so working a bit myself and trying to get a bit of money, you know, alongside at the same time.

I’ve done um a bit of work with the [unnamed] Hospital, um, yeah, you’ve got a lot of sort of, women shall I say there, coming… abortions and stuff like that.  You’ve got a lot of women who come in for example who are pregnant, that you know that want to have abortions, and I would basically sit beside an actual counsellor and take notes.

About Counselling

And it is very draining. There are times you could walk out of there, feeling like you were looking into the abyss, because the clients who came in, they had some horrendous stories. Sexual assault, rape… we’re talking about schoolgirls. Rape initiations, into gangs, um, weird stuff. There was a young person who was trafficked in, and we hadn’t realised. But our policy is that we try and see the client on their own. So, if they showed up with their sister or their brother, we’d be like no no no, they can wait outside. The nurse or counsellor needs to see them on their own. There’d be times when people would try and get round that by saying ‘Oh she can’t speak English’ and then you find out that they can. But there was a particular case, I wasn’t working that day, but someone had missed it and it was someone who’d actually been trafficked in and the person turned up saying he was her brother, who wanted her to get rid of the baby, and it turned out he was actually her pimp. She managed to escape and go to the police and then it was the police who actually contacted us, requesting records and we said we couldn’t give records, because of patient confidentiality, so they had to speak to the head and take it from there. When things like that happen, we don’t get to hear what the outcome is, but there have been quite a few cases.

Counselling is a continuous learning process, and every session provides an opportunity for growth, but it can still be scary. You’ve still got all these ethical issues, such as confidentiality, dual relationships, and the duty to report, we’ve got to stick to strict professional ethical guidelines. I’m still trying to learn to establish and maintain professional boundaries. It can be really difficult to separate your personal experiences and emotions from what you are being told and how you feel. Striking a balance between empathy and being helpful can be really hard.