Mark Fudge, Chair of BACP UC, highlights in his regular journal update that many of our colleagues in HE/FE counselling services seem to be leaving the sector. I have been one of them, though my reason was because I wrote a book about work-life balance1 and decided I wanted to make my own adjustments. With a happy, talented and well-functioning counselling service, with no waiting list, it felt a good time to move on and hand over the baton. The University of Aberdeen Counselling Service integrated snugly into the overall student support infrastructure. Student support, mental health and, importantly, the counselling service, were well regarded and respected by senior management and keenly recognised for the crucial role we played.
But, sadly, this is not the same everywhere. Budgets are getting slashed, while demand is increasing, and senior management at many institutions just do not understand what counselling services do and provide, nor do they appreciate the vital contribution to support students struggling with their mental health. The value of our work is often hidden to senior management and only really appreciated by service users. This is all having a further knock-on effect, with an increase in stress, exhaustion and burnout among our colleagues.2
Also in this issue: I’m delighted to welcome Dr Sonia Kalsi, whose PhD research explored the challenges involved in counselling suicidal students. In A difficult tightrope to walk, she raises some crucial points and concludes with recommendations which all practitioners will appreciate.
Allie Scott and Jane Darougar present a fascinating article on reflective practice groups (RPGs) as an invaluable means of support. They demonstrate how these can be highly effective when teams are involved in complex case discussions. These groups aid both personal and professional development as we examine and authenticate our practice.
Michael Pearson, from the University of Bristol, has conducted research into his institution’s adoption of the one-at-a-time (or single-session therapy) model of counselling provision. His findings present a very positive perspective on this modality and powerful evidence to back up the approach. I adopted one-at-a-time counselling into the service at the University of Aberdeen, and much of Michael’s feedback resonates with our experience and the feedback from students. I have since worked with other universities to support and guide their transition to this approach.
Amy McCormack, Editor of BACP Spirituality’s journal, Thresholds, recently interviewed Kathryn Lock-Giddy about working with faith and spirituality within a university counselling service. I thank both Amy and Kathryn for permission to republish this interview - Soul work on campus. Student support encompasses many teams, and I think it’s important to recognise the value of faith and spirituality as one of them.
Finally, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed interviewing Rotimi Akinsete for this issue’s Profile. He is a very committed and talented person, who’s enjoyed a fascinating journey.
In closing, I’d like to applaud the work of all our colleagues and call upon senior management in institutions to recognise the work we do. It’s difficult to properly qualify and quantify the role, function and benefits of counselling, but we do need to find a way. People are not hearing us.
1. Hughes R. Get a life! Creating a successful work-life balance. London: Kogan Page; 2020.
2. Biancolli A. Crisis on campus: mental health counselors are feeling the crush. [Blog.] Mad in America 2021; 30 October. https://www.madinamerica.com/2021/10/mia-report-college-counseling/?fbclid=IwAR0VPXGRN15PrZGluH9kMmXQ_BkYxc816nH-tvDsSO4RGTWvUtgduZYNWwo [accessed 4 November 2021].
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