Tell us a little bit about yourself...
My name is Emma and I completed the MSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy in 2021. I returned to university as a mature student, having spent the previous 19 years working as a dentist. It has been the bravest and most rewarding decision I have ever made. I highly value my experience of working as a dentist in general practice and during that time recognised how important it was to establish a good professional relationship with my patients.
I live just outside Glasgow with my husband and two children, aged 12 and 14. Spare time is limited however I enjoy walking, running and spending time with family and friends.
Why did you choose Strathclyde for your postgraduate degree?
I was naturally drawn to the modality of person-centred counselling and very fortunate to have a university on my doorstep which has an excellent reputation for its Masters in Person Centred Counselling. Another positive for the course was the fact that it was full time for one year so it allowed me to get a more direct route into counselling.
What initially sparked your interest in Counselling and Psychotherapy?
I have always had an interest in how the mind works and during my dental degree I was really interested in the clinical psychology modules. My experience of being a dentist made me realise how important it is for patients to be heard and accepted as they are. I decided to do the COSCA certificate in counselling skills knowing it would at least improve my listening skills with patients but also allow me to explore a possible career change into counselling. I loved it from the start and the person-centred modality really stood out for me. I decided to apply for the Masters and was delighted to be accepted.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying your course?
The course warns you that it is intense and demanding and that is absolutely true! You need to be fully committed and open to the different experiences the course brings. If you are lucky enough to be accepted onto this highly sought-after course, and ready for all that it brings I would say grasp the opportunity with both hands. As a mature student, making a career change felt like a big risk however I have had no regrets. My fears about being out of touch with academia and study were quickly diminished and I quickly became aware of the many advantages I had from my career experience which provided me with a number of transferrable skills when working with clients.
The best advice I could give is to be yourself and try not to compare yourself to how other students are on the course. It is the only way you will learn more about who you are and how you are with others. Connect with your fellow students – you will learn so much from one another and form many new friendships. Don’t hang about when it comes to setting up and starting in placements. Starting early will take a lot of pressure off in the final block which is very demanding. My final advice is to ask for help when you need it. The tutors on this course are very approachable, supportive and helpful.
What has it been like to study a course like Counselling and Psychotherapy during the past year?
Studying through the covid pandemic has been very challenging however it was amazing how all the tutors and students adapted and learning on zoom became normal and worked very well. Being online made it a bit more difficult to connect with other students and tutors and so you have to make the effort and reach out to others whereas this would have happened more naturally in person.
Tell us a little bit about your experience on placement...
I had two placements to gain my counselling experience, one was a bereavement charity and the other charity received most of its referrals from GP practices. I gained a varied experience working with many different presentations and age groups. Both were initially seeing clients by telephone or video counselling however I was fortunate that one placement moved to in-person counselling which allowed me to satisfy the needs of the course. The placements were both supportive and accommodating of my needs as a student and allowed me to apply the skills learned from the course into real life situations. The experience gained from placements has been challenging but rewarding and is an integral part of the course.
Tell us a little bit about the additional skills you have gained through this programme...
The pandemic meant that counselling experience could not be in person for part of the year. As a result of this I gained experience and now feel confident to work with clients by video link, telephone and in-person.
The research part of the Masters was probably the most challenging part for me. The process of conducting my own research project gave meaning and understanding to the research lectures early in the course. I can now read research papers with more clarity and a deeper understanding.
What do you think of the support available on your programme?
The full tutor team are excellent. They are very attentive to the students’ individual needs and always there when required. It is important to check in with them if you are having any difficulties – be that academic or personal. In my experience, they will go out of their way to offer help and support where they can.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I would like to further my experience and am continuing with my two placements for now. In the future I would like to gain a further qualification to work with children and young people and would consider starting my own private practice.
Any final points, or words of wisdom?
Give yourself the space to learn and adapt to the course. There will be bumps along the way and the best advice I could give is to be open and honest with yourself and don’t shy away from difficult situations. It is a fantastic and unique experience.