‘A few years ago, counselling was a word which fell strangely on British ears… Now, however, the word seems to be on everyone’s lips and nowhere more often than in our universities and institutions of higher education. Scarcely a month seems to pass without students somewhere clamouring for a student counsellor or protesting at the inadequacy of the more traditional forms of pastoral care.’1
If you had to guess, when do you think these words might have been penned? This year? Last? Certainly, they seem to reflect current reality and the pressure for ‘more counselling’ that universities, colleges and 6th form colleges constantly face. In fact, they come from the book, Student Counselling in Practice, written in 1973 by the then staff of Keele University’s ‘Appointments and Counselling Service’.2 I found it strangely comforting to realise that possibly the good old days weren’t quite as easy as we imagine. Perhaps there has always been an uncomfortable fit between counsellors and the institutions that employ them? Maybe there have never been enough counsellors to satisfy demand from students? Whatever the situation, these words seem remarkably prescient and describe a situation all too many of us recognise today.
Nevertheless, the fact that these words were written over 45 years ago testifies to the longevity of student counselling as a profession and should – I believe – help us to stop, and take stock of just how much we, and those who built the foundations of this profession, have achieved in what is now five decades of existence. In the helter-skelter madness of our busy lives, and especially as our institutions face great uncertainties in the months and years ahead as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s all too easy to forget the challenges overcome, the achievements attained – and the sheer value of the work we have all done in supporting students of all backgrounds to attain their longed-for academic outcomes. In this issue, we have several contributors who invite us to pause and reflect on our roots – on the work of those who ‘came before’ – and to take pride in the continuing work that supports the mental and emotional wellbeing of students.
Student Counselling in Practice opens with these words: ‘Our debt to those who have either trained or influenced us in other ways is enormous… Without them we would not be the people we are…’ We are standing on the shoulders of some determined, compassionate and downright forceful individuals who paved the way for modern student counselling. I feel a sense of gratitude for what they achieved, and for their legacy, which continues today.
So, take time to reflect; appreciate what we have all achieved. And here’s to the next 50 years!
David Mair firstname.lastname@example.org