Case study

Counsellor — Vivienne Bonnett

Vivienne studied a BSc Hons in Integrative Counselling, building experience through a placement and job within the NHS before setting up her private practice. Read on to discover her top tips for aspiring counsellors

How did you get your job?

As part of my counselling training, I had to complete 150 hours on placement. I chose to do this in a local youth agency, where I gained invaluable experience working one-to-one with young people living with anxiety and/or depression, working through issues related to self-harm or relationships and so on.

Following my placement, I worked within the NHS as a staff support counsellor. Here, I worked with staff members who had witnessed traumatic events or needed support due to incidents at work.

I set up my own private practice to allow me more flexibility, as I wanted to move into teaching and training in addition to my clinical work. Going private can be isolating, so it's important to attend events and workshops to network with other counsellors. I'm also required to receive monthly clinical supervision so that I'm supported in my practice.

What's a typical day like as a counsellor?

My day varies depending on the client appointments I have booked for the day. Each session I hold is 50 minutes long, and appointments tend to be spread out across the day - sometimes into the evening. Most of my clients are long term and come at the same time each week. I allow time for writing notes and attending clinical supervision too.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I really enjoy being part of a client's journey. Seeing someone - who isn't coping and is anxious or depressed - change and evolve over weeks and months is a privilege. It's something that makes my job unique.

Training to be a counsellor has allowed me to choose my hours and create a portfolio career while still maintaining a good work/life balance. I experience great job satisfaction, knowing that I am making a difference to others on a daily basis.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge is sitting with a client's despair. This is something we are trained to do as counsellors, but it will always be a challenge.

A counsellor should also always make time for self-care, which can be tricky with a busy schedule.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree has taught me not only how to 'do' counselling, but to also keep abreast of research and develop an inquisitive mind. The profession is always changing and evolving, and through having studied for my degree I've built up a good academic and professional network.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

In addition to my clinical practice, I also train counsellors and write workshops and courses. I now hold a postgraduate certificate in higher education (PGCE). Maybe one day I'll go back to university and complete a Masters.

Do you have advice for anyone hoping to become a counsellor?

  • Complete an introductory workshop or short course to get a feel for what counselling is and learn some basic skills.
  • Volunteer at a local counselling agency to get some front-of-house experience. Although you won't be able to actually counsel until you're in your third year of training, you'll get a really good feel for how an agency runs and will have the chance to meet and talk to counsellors who are doing the job.
  • If you're in a job role which requires counselling skills, you may be able to ask your employer to fund your training. I've trained teachers, police officers and social workers as well as counsellors, so it's worth looking into.

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