It’s with huge pleasure I can say that I am the newly appointed school counsellor of the NEAT Academy Trust where I’ll soon be delivering counselling interventions across all five of our schools in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne. In addition to this I am also part of the Central Family Support Team. It’s so refreshing to be part of such a forward thinking organisation that places such importance on welfare and recognises how vital preventative, early intervention is.
The first few weeks of term in my new role have been a total whirlwind where overnight I seem to have found myself piloting the Tyne and Wear Citizens' campaign for school-based counselling in the North East. Fighting off the imposter-driven thoughts - why me? - I’ve adopted the wise words of a good friend that challenged why not me? Having the opportunity to work alongside such an inspiring team of people that are motivated to improve access to mental health services for children and young people in not only the North East but across the country is an absolute dream and both my adult and child are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
If this time last year someone suggested I’d be using and actually enjoying a virtual sand tray app and playing Zoom hide and seek with my clients I’d never have believed them. It’s good to know I now have these skills in my back pocket should I need them but with all the precautions in place I’m ready to return to the ‘new-normal’ of face to face work.
Prior to this role I worked as a support teacher in an SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) resource centre, provided by the local authority which is accessible through an EHCP (educational health care plan). We took a nurture-based and trauma-informed approach to our teaching and adopted the ethos that the children were not ready to learn until they felt safe and happy. The inspirational teaching and bottomless supply of patience displayed from the class teacher truly taught me what unconditional positive regard looks like. I witnessed first-hand the hugely beneficial impact that a nurturing and child-centred approach could have, which undoubtedly shaped who I am as a counsellor today. I learned how few provisions there were across the city for children that needed a small group environment to thrive and that one size does not fit all in the mainstream education system.
There was a high need for therapeutic intervention but mental health services were stretched to capacity, the school had little to no funding and private practice was so inaccessible for many. This was a big driver in embarking upon my journey as a psychotherapeutic counsellor.
I trained for a diploma at the Northern Guild of Counselling Psychotherapists with a child and adolescent specialism. I take a humanistic and integrative approach which I tailor to best meet the needs of that client, as no two stories are the same. I put great emphasis on relationships as a whole, personally, socially and culturally and believe attachment to be at the core of the work with all my clients.
Throughout my training my heart has been back in the community with the children that first ignited a spark in me to pursue this career and I’ve always known that community work in areas of socio economic deprivation was where I wanted to be. The communities I’ve worked in shape and inspire my practice because culture and context matter, and for that, I owe those communities and the children I worked with a great debt of gratitude.
Investing in highly qualified, paid school based counsellors should no longer be a debate. I support the national campaign that BACP and Citizens UK are leading on. Because we’re no longer in the position to gamble with the future of mental health, the government must follow suit with the rest of the UK and make a commitment to this change. My role cannot be a pilot, this is not a test and the young people I work with are not test subjects. I’ve come into this role to shine a light on what are crucial services for the communities who helped shape my understanding of mental health and I will keep on striving until we reach that goal.
School counselling in England campaign
We believe that a paid counsellor should be available in every secondary school, academy and FE college in England.
How you can support our school counselling campaign
Sue Pattison and Maggie Robson, joint Chairs of BACP Children, Young People and Families division, ask you to support our campaign for a paid counsellor in every secondary school, academy and FE college in England
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.