Reflections of the experience of working as a core counsellor at the University of Warwick Counselling Service:
Katie: August 2018
As I make plans to prepare for and begin my maternity leave in the coming months, it feels to be an ideal opportunity to pause and reflect upon the time that I have spent in position here as a core counsellor for the service and all that I will temporarily be leaving behind and looking forward to resuming with upon my return. I have been with the service for 3 years and have come to know it as a dynamic, fast paced and rich learning environment for all who work within and use it. Working with both staff and students from all over the world and all backgrounds creates a diverse and abundant working environment that never ceases to fulfil, engage, challenge and stimulate.
During my time here there has been ample opportunity to progress professionally as well as personally. I have trained in email counselling and also developed my skills as a supervisor to the services trainees and associates as well becoming adept at skilfully managing a busy case-load with the opportunity to develop greater robustness, insight, delicacy and containment. My personal learning and self-growth during my time with the service to date has been marked. I have discovered new depths of courage as well as confidence as I have strived to prioritise reflexivity, authenticity and self-awareness within myself and the team dynamic. Excellent external supervision, supportive line management as well as ample opportunity to meet regularly with the team and think, review, reflect, update and support each other together has also complemented this growth.
The team ethos and robust, accessible, highly thought of nature of the service provides the opportunity to feel part of something, to be making a difference and to be fully engaging with all parts of self. UCS is not an environment in which the days ever drag or feel repetitive. Change, adaptability, flexibility and an ability to think on your feet are always on the agenda, allowing the service to meet ever-growing demand appropriately, thoroughly and thoughtfully.
I have enjoyed and been greatly challenged by contributing to the team, stretching myself and feeling fulfilled daily. There is a real sense of satisfaction within this as one academic year closes and a new one is on the horizon with the familiar rhythm that it will surely bring but also inevitable change, growth and learning for all involved.
Sharon: Janaury 2018
I have now been working at the University Counselling Service for nearly 5 years. It has been refreshing to experience each year, term and even each day to be filled with new challenges and thinking. After nearly 5 years, to wake each morning and look forward to what the working day holds was something I had not felt in other jobs. The nature of the service provided by the team means that change is not only essential to meet the needs of clients, but also welcomed. The ethos of the service means that finding new ways to meet ever increasing demand or other challenges is thought about effectively as a group, making the environment feel dynamic and that each team member's input is valuable and required.
To get a feel for how new members of the team have experienced the service, please read others' reflections below. For me, as a member of the team who has been here for a longer period of time, I wanted to give a flavour of how the service has impacted my journey as a clinical practitioner and also as a person. Coming to the service as a relatively new counsellor – 2 years qualified, the developmental and supportive environment of the service has allowed me to become a confident practitioner, clinical supervisor and group therapist. The attention paid to regular and varied supervision, encouraging line management and emphasis on personal development has spurred me on to face my fears around being part of and facilitating groups.
In addition to my clinical development I have been on a journey with IVF for the last 2 and a half years. The service and my colleagues have been a key support, enabling me to express difficult feelings and explore my experiences along the way. The unique and supportive nature of the team helped me to remain functional and even to progress further in understanding myself, as a practitioner and person, at a very challenging time in my life. Now as I enter into a new phase of maternity leave I continue to explore with the team how it will feel to be away and already look forward to returning at some point in the future. In my experience of the service no matter the length of time spent working here, it is a valuable opportunity to develop new and exciting ways of working as a counsellor, with a diverse client group.
Posted January 2018
I am coming towards the end of my first term working here at the counselling service, and as the focus of both the university and the service changes slightly in preparation for the summer vacation, it is perhaps an ideal time to reflect on the experience so far.
The pace of the work and the demands on the service have been striking aspects, with the counselling being predominantly very short term, and encompassing all the variety which is to be expected from such a broad population of students and staff. Yet the structure and organisation of the service is such that the pace feels challenging and fulfilling.
The counsellors, including associate and bank counsellors, work alongside the highly efficient and supportive administrative staff; being part of such a motivated and committed group of people, all working towards the welfare and interests of the clients, is a very rewarding experience. The location of the service itself, in a spacious and well equipped building, as well as the procedures which are in place, all lend themselves to the environment being thoughtful and creative and one in which I can feel supported to work to the best of my ability. The boundaried structure of the working day, with all the team working to the same schedule and with regular team time scheduled in, is one good example of this.
It is also helpful that the pace of the client work is balanced with plenty of space to reflect on our practice, as individuals, as a service, and as a team. Regular team meetings allow us to share in the responsibility of improving and developing the service, while individual, peer and team supervision allows for being supported and challenged in our practice with clients and with each other.
The variety of the work too is another enriching aspect of it; as well as brief face to face work, it is possible to work longer term with some clients, and to refer into the therapy groups the service offers. I am undertaking training so that I can become involved soon with the email counselling service, and there is scope to support clients in other ways too, such as workshops and e-learning. I enjoy feeling that I am able to use and develop different skills and expertise, and the variety this brings to the working week.
I also value being part of the wider Wellbeing Support Services, and having the opportunity to liaise with our colleagues in aligned services such as Mental Health & Wellbeing and Disability Services. I find this helpful for the development of my own professional practice, but also of course in knowing that the counselling service is one part of the varied and integrated support the university offers students to help keep them safe and flourishing.
To be part of the team in the counselling service is work alongside very skilful people, constantly striving to provide the best therapeutic service to the whole of the university population, and doing so responsively and responsibly. I feel very privileged to be a part of this team and to work in such a rewarding environment.
Posted June 2017
I have worked in the counselling service for a year now so have had the opportunity to experience the rhythm of a whole academic year; the intense periods of really high demand for the service and the slightly less pressured vacation times when we take this opportunity to also work on other responsibilities such as preparing workshops, updating our online resources or editing our policies and procedures; there is always lots to get involved with and our different strengths and skills are fully utilised.
My days are busy seeing a wide variety of clients presenting with an equally wide variety of issues. As well as offering face to face sessions daily and on one evening a week I also spend a day a week email counselling. I am about to deliver my first workshops to students, on maintaining motivation, and am looking forward to this; attendance on these workshops can vary from quite an intimate group to up to 25 participants so flexibility and adaptability are key qualities. There are further opportunities available for me, in the future, to supervise a Trainee or Associate Counsellor and possibly to facilitate one of the therapeutic groups we run so it feels like there is real potential for ongoing professional development.
The brief and focused counselling work that we do seems a natural fit to the needs of the majority of the students and staff, however, I really appreciate that I have the professional autonomy to occasionally negotiate a slightly longer contract as necessary. As well as being an Integrative Counsellor I also have additional training in CBT and I have ample opportunity to use this modality in my work here.
The UCS is a wonderful environment to work in; providing the warm, comfortable and private conditions that are conducive to therapeutic work. The service benefits from having a very structured day, clear systems and procedures and a highly efficient and organised Administration Team who ensure the smooth running of the service and offer great support to us counsellors. There is also the sense that we are a part of a much bigger team within Warwick University; Wellbeing Support Services. There are other professionals that we can consult, liaise with and refer students to which helps us fulfil our duty of care and supports us working positively with risk.
But the most important and valuable aspect of the service for me is the team. I feel so lucky to be working in a group of such experienced, skilled and supportive people. The fact that team time is regularly scheduled in means we can think and reflect together about the work we do, what changes we might want to make and how to support each other in this process. I frequently feel inspired, motivated, challenged and affirmed by my colleagues, which really helps me to “hold” the fast-paced and demanding work that we do here at UCS.
posted December 2016
I have just completed the first term of my second year with the service and feel that I have got a real feel for the academic year and the varying themes, issues and rhythms that present themselves during it. Work within the service is fast-paced, diverse and dynamic, with each new day bringing a selection of staff and students with varying presenting issues. Contracting is creative with brief work at its core but equally with the opportunity for longer-term work with some clients. This appropriately meets the clients varying needs but also allows for a sense of fulfilment within the work that does not feel at all proscribed.
The team is ever-growing and vibrant; alongside the core team is a successful placement programme of associate, bank and trainee counsellors as well as clinical psychology placements students who all add greatly to the richness of the team ethos.
The working day here while busy and intense is adequately balanced with administrative and team times to stop, share and reflect. The environment is calm, contained and amply supported by an excellent administrative and highly supportive managerial team. The open door policy across the team and regular spaces in which to meet on many varied levels serves to create a cohesive and responsive working environment. This includes regular team meetings, practise and service development sessions and a variety of supervision including external, clinical and personal peer as well as team supervision. Other opportunities include continuing professional development, cascade days, attending conferences and a variety of meeting over the academic year with Statutory Services, Wellbeing Support Services and the wider University which the counselling service is very much an integral part of.
During my time here I have completed training within the field of email counselling which I now offer one day a week and find this a hugely enjoyable and equally challenging facet of my work here, as well as offering workshops and also supervising an associate member of the team. Alongside this, other service led tasks such as updating policy and procedures, managing online resources, contributing to departmental consultancy and collating referral information create a solid foundation to the clinical work carried out and provides a varied and fulfilling rhythm to the working week.
In light of all of this the service does not stand still and is highly responsive to changing needs, growths and patterns and responds organically throughout the term but also more formally in an annual review and away day. During my time here a consultation session has begun to be offered to address growing need, a new streamlined database, training and implementation around positive risk management, a progressive case-study led induction training, a student placement and ambassador scheme as well as countless administrative tweaks and additions that all aid the smooth running of the service right through from a client’s first contact to their closing thoughts.
The service asks questions of itself, those who work within it and those who utilise its many and varied services. It is a living and working space that actively encourages and facilitates thought, reflection, development and growth. During my time here I have grown as a counsellor, a team member and a person.
posted December 2016
I have just started my second term working as part of the Core counselling team at Warwick University Counselling Service (UCS). I have found it to be a very rewarding, interesting and stimulating time. The environment within the service is really comfortable, calm and peaceful, and the wider university campus has a modern and cosmopolitan feel to it. The staff members have been extremely welcoming, friendly and supportive, and I already feel very much part of the team! I like the collaborative way of working and the sense that things can (and do) regularly change and improve within the service. There are weekly team meetings when everyone’s ideas and input are encouraged and valued. In addition, it is good to feel part of the wider student support team and the University as a whole. The counselling team attend joint meetings with other student support services and also have opportunities, such as a recent ‘Networking day’, to link up with other parts of the University.
As well as the ‘core team’ of counsellors, there are also various trainees, people on placement, associate and bank counsellors coming and going on different days helping to create a vibrant atmosphere within the service. The day is organised in to consistent time slots across the service, which I find provides an important sense of containment to work which can be very emotionally demanding. There is enough room within this structure to allow enough autonomy and flexibility for counsellors in managing their time. The work is fast paced and busy, but both the structure of the day and the culture of self-care encourages the taking of regular breaks, and the 4 day working contract feels just right for helping with my work/life balance!
One thing I really like about the work here is the variety that is offered. I am enjoying working with both students and staff and counselling on a wide variety of issues. There is a fairly diverse population here, particularly in terms of international students from many different countries, which I find very interesting and challenging. The work is brief, sometimes very brief, which has taken some adjustment on my part, but I have appreciated being able to use my own judgement as to the length of contract appropriate for each client, and to have the flexibility to work longer term with some clients. I have also started email counselling, and am about to start an online counselling training course to help with this, funded by the UCS, developing new and very helpful skills. In addition to the counselling work, I am enjoying running workshops, offering consultation to other departments within the university and supervising one of the associate counsellors here.
The supervision support is very strong here, with regular one to one supervision with a supervisor from outside the institution, as well as weekly peer supervision with the core team, which is invaluable. The general ‘open door’ policy means that I feel that I can approach my colleagues for more informal help and consultation as and when required, which all helps to provide a very supportive environment. December 2014
My experience of being a core member of the counselling team at the University has been an overwhelmingly positive one. From the outset I have felt welcomed, respected and valued both as a professional and an individual. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity of working alongside dedicated and experienced colleagues each of whom brings a unique perspective to the service.
The position is a demanding one. Managing a busy caseload and keeping on top of the associated admin, developing and running student and staff workshops, providing supervision, liaising with departments, attending and facilitating team meetings, and engaging in new service initiatives are all part of a day’s work. However, I have found the way in which the day is structured has helped me greatly in balancing these various responsibilities.
Working as a team is very much at the core of how the counselling service operates. Each day there are opportunities to connect and work with colleagues in different contexts, both formally and informally. At the same time we are all encouraged to be constantly thinking about service development issues and bring new ideas about how things could be done better. This not only means it is a supportive environment in which to work, but also one in which I have felt part of a dynamic and creative service which aims to meet the needs of the university community as effectively as possible. It has also provided great opportunities for professional development.
I have found the wide variety of clients and presenting issues with which I have worked in the UCS both rewarding and stimulating, and although much of the work is brief in nature, being able to manage my own diary means that I have felt able to respond appropriately to the needs of each client individually. There is a distinct cycle to the academic year, and I have enjoyed the variation this brings with it, as well as the flexibility the contract offers to accommodate time off both in the week and the vacations.