Counselling: Three stories shaping the pandemic




The pandemic has presented many different challenges across communities, particularly mental health. University Centre South Essex shares three different stories of a graduate, a current staff member and counselling students who have helped to provide assistance and support to those in need of counselling during lockdown.

Many graduates at University Centre South Essex have made strides in their professional and educational development on the Counselling degree after the pandemic and one such graduate is 41-year-old, Nicola Overton. 

Nicola completed her degree during the lockdown whilst juggling her position as a volunteer for out-of-hours crisis support service, The Sanctuary. She has worked alongside the organisation as a ‘befriender’ throughout the pandemic to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Nicola commented on her experience saying: “There have been service users who are in tears, with suicidal ideation not knowing how they will get through another day. By the end of a call or face-to-face meeting they are calmer and know they are not alone, that there is support and someone looking out for them. I work within a fantastic team who help to make a difference when people often feel isolated and alone.”

Within the same team, Sanctuary Manager and counselling lecturer, Liz Swanson, has assisted the local community during the pandemic. Liz has worked for The Sanctuary since they opened their service in March last year, with previous experience managing the counselling team at Mind and a current job role teaching counselling modules to students at University Centre South Essex.

She said “The work I do now is very frontline and we see a range of presentations with the individuals we work with. The pandemic has caused anxiety in the ways you would expect; job loss, house moves, financial issues, isolation etc, but also for people with pre-existing conditions it caused setbacks.”

“Some former drug and alcohol users have gone back to their habits, domestic violence has increased, mental health issues have increased and agoraphobic people who were starting to leave the house were sent right back in. One of the ways people can support themselves is to reach out and ask. People would be surprised at just how much others are ready and willing to talk.”

Students studying on the Counselling degree at University Centre South Essex have also been completing telephone and remote counselling training as part of their 100 hours required work experience. 

The Counselling degree students are working to become affirmative counsellors undertaking their remote work experience in a wide range of settings such as schools, dealing with domestic violence, crisis centres, alcohol centres and mental health support. 

The difficulties and demands of the training have been a reflection of the reality of these aspiring counsellors as they are helping those in the community whilst trying to handle their own issues throughout the pandemic. 

There are many charities and organisations across South East Essex and if you or someone you know is currently experiencing a mental health crisis, then call the 111 service and click option two to speak to a dedicated mental health team.
 
If you would to like to learn more about the Counselling degree and opportunities at University Centre South Essex, visit: Counselling BA (Hons) | South Essex College