As a student of class of 98, I left school with the minimum required five GCSEs at level C, but a year later, after choosing a selection of A-levels in the school sixth-form that didn’t hold my interest and having an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, I walked out leaving academic study behind. Setting up precedence, I went on to study and quit an NVQ in health and social care, a fitness instructor certificate, and various jobs before settling into early motherhood as an army wife in North Germany. More children and relocation lead to a retail career that fitted around the family’s needs for the next fourteen years.
As the children grew, I found my retail career dissatisfying and started to believe I was not using my skills. In 2015 after putting together a spiritual group, I realised I’d become a mediator or agony aunt of sorts. Listening to and supporting members, I needed to make sure harm to the individual was minimised when they explored issues, and I realised I had to strengthen my own personal boundaries. Therefore, I chose to complete the Counselling Certificate and continued on my journey with the Counselling Diploma a year later. However, life seems to change plans. Drawing towards the final assessments of the course, my personal life erupted, encompassing both a troubled relationship, a delayed bereavement process, and a severely unwell daughter presenting with a complicated mental health diagnosis. I withdrew from the course and my job at the time to focus on my own and my family’s wellbeing.
Fast-forwarding to 2019, I was still fascinated by counselling, psychology, and mental health. Additionally, I was aware that I did not want to return to retail and needed to update my CV. I chose to volunteer with Second Step mental health services becoming an assistant facilitator for wellbeing groups. Also, being a hobby blogger, I contacted the communications team inquiring if they could use my support. Subsequently, lockdown happened. The support turned into a series of lockdown support articles and I developed a fulfilling voluntary position within the company. I also added an online certificate (Working with People with Mental Health Problems) through Weston College to my portfolio during lockdown. However, lack of higher qualifications stopped me from progressing further within Second Step; applications were rejected because of a lack of qualifications.
Turning over potential courses, I decided to do a new class instead of redoing the counselling diploma that I had nearly finished in 2017. The Access to HE Diploma looked time efficient and exciting. The social sciences pathway incorporated key modules of psychology and sociology that are highly relevant in counselling, social work, or mental health work. Equally, the course contained all the academic skills that I lacked. Since completing the diploma, I have an additional transferable skillset of academic writing, researching, and schedule management. I feel the Access course was the most challenging course I’ve attended to date; yet, it has been the most poignant in terms of self-confidence. The welfare team, a college counsellor, the tutors, and my classmates became my support system enabling me to achieve what I have tried and failed in the past. Life has been no easier; however, I have succeeded despite everything. Psychology modules such as abnormal psychology and treatments/therapies are highly relevant in my field of work. Still, the sociology modules of social class and stratification shocked me by how relevant they were to work and my own story. The Access to HE expanded my life and mind, giving me the qualifications and self-belief that I needed. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a career change.
Since completion, I received offers to study psychology or social work at the University of West England. However, I have accepted an offer from University Campus Weston to continue exploring my passion for humanistic counselling, taking that next step towards being a qualified counsellor.