MSc Counselling & PsychotherapySam Pattison, UK

Tell us a bit about yourself...
I’m Sam and I’m from a town just outside of Glasgow. I completed a HNC level qualification in Counselling the year after I left school, I then went on to complete a BA(hons) in Society, Politics & Policy which I completed in 2019. After the completion of my undergraduate degree, I decided to take a year out and to get myself ready to push forward into the counselling career that I had been focused on since I was 16. I love kayaking, socializing and spending time with friends/family – I also really enjoy movies and the outdoors in general.

Why did you choose Strathclyde for your postgraduate degree?
I chose Strathclyde for my postgraduate degree after researching the different courses offered in the UK. I had chosen the person-centred modality and so this course was a great match – the fact it is also accredited by the BACP was also a bonus. The course information page, as well as some research into the course tutors and their background, really made the course at Strathclyde my goal. The overview of the course offered on the course directory really provided the information I needed as well, which made the decision simple.

What initially sparked your interest in Counselling & Psychotherapy?
My motivation for becoming a psychotherapist began after my own experiences of counselling and the benefits that I had observed through my own engagement. I had counselling early in Primary school and then eventually in Secondary school, so I guess it’s always been a part of my life in some way. I’ve always had an affinity for people and a drive to truly understand the inner-workings of people, so counselling was my profession from an early stage.

My interest has never been dampened, especially over years of speaking with people about their feelings and emotions. I have worked in a number of different job roles previously and have always found the interaction with individuals to be the most interesting and rewarding part of the job. I have a strong desire to do good and to help others, something which is at the very center of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying your course?
My advice for anyone studying this course would first and foremost be, journal. Journaling will help to keep track of the ups, the downs and everything in between. It also makes formative assessments and reflective exercises that much easier. You will learn a great deal about yourself throughout your time on the course, some good and some not so easy to digest – journaling allows this process to be one of learning and development. Secondly, keep track of your hours as you go! Last minute calculations of hours are not fun and at times quite stressful. Take advantage of the support offered throughout the course, the tutors are wonderful and they really will help you in every way they can. Remember, if you can benefit from the knowledge of someone else, take the opportunity to ask – it’s always useful to you or another. Your course members will be a massive support and really I can’t emphasise enough how much I’ve gained through being with such a great group of people, they really did pull me through difficult parts of the course.

Finally, enjoy it and practice self-care. The course is a wonderful way to get to know yourself and to learn about the ways we interact with the world. Engage with it and learn from it. Sometimes it will be challenging to engage in difficult personal reflection, which is why self-care is so unbelievably important. Make sure to take time for you.

What has it been like to study a course like Counselling & Psychotherapy during the past year?
With COVID it’s been difficult to spend so much time online, the regular breaks make it a bit easier but it’s still not my normal so it’s not easy on the eyes. Overall the course has been really enriching, but it’s also quite intense. There are periods where assessments and client work coincide and so it is a task to manage them both – keeping a track of what I had to do and when made that possible. Again, my fellow course mates made it possible, the friends I’ve gained over this year have helped me in so many ways. Meltdowns and celebrations shared in a really close group are what kept me going through the tougher zoom days. It's been an intense ride, but one that I wouldn’t change now that it’s over.

Tell us a bit about your experience on placement...
Throughout the course I had two counselling placements. Both placements provided me with a variety of experience working with clients which has been enriching and developmentally profound. I have learned about interacting professionally, boundaries and about the ways of working which do not suit me. This has led to a deeper understanding of myself both professionally and personally. Working with clients really does underpin my passion for person-centred therapy, I have watched clients grow and work through presenting issues and issues that come up throughout the course of therapy. My experience of placement has really driven me forward and increased my drive, but it has also enabled me to be confident professionally. This new found confidence is something I really believe to be valuable.

Tell us a little bit about the additional skills you have gained through this programme...
With working online, by phone and in person throughout the course, I have learned to attune my empathy differently and really learned about my sensitivity over each medium and learned to tailor my self-care routines to my environment. I have learned about contracting and about boundary setting in a professional but considerate way with clients and also how to identify signs of potential exhaustion and subsequently attend to these. Another skill learned throughout the course is general organization and time requirements for myself, something I previously held loosely.

What do you think of the support available on your programme?
I cannot stress how attentive the tutors have been to me throughout my time on the course. Particularly Lisa (the course leader) and Lorna (my group supervisor). They helped whenever asked and sometimes when their intuition let them know something was going on. The support and understanding of different needs due to zoom tutorials has also been really welcomed, I’ve never felt a hassle in asking for help or just time to rest. The communication from the tutor team as a whole has always been open and helpful.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I’ve currently managed to secure 2 contracts with an organization and will work from these for a while. My ambition is to keep one of these contracts and to start my own private counselling psychotherapy practice. I would like to train in Emotion-Focused Therapy and eventually complete a Doctorate degree and potentially teach.

Any final points, or words of wisdom?
Be kind to yourself, give yourself time and patience. Remember that your life is a life worth pursuing and that your life is for you.