For the last few months I have been absent from my blog. I didn’t intend to be and I have still been musing on various thoughts and ideas but I never quite got to writing any of it down. Part of that is due to an opportunity that arose in February for me. Through my son’s school I had the opportunity to do some online study. There were three courses available all linked to mental health, all available via distance learning and all free providing they were completed.
I chose to sign up for a Certificate in Counselling Skills course. This was made available through the Skills Network. This was a level 2 NCFE qualification for those interested in such things and from what I can tell that’s roughly equivalent to a GCSE (English and Welsh qualifications) or National 5 (Scottish qualifications) level course. Although this was a distance learning course it still had deadlines for unit assessments the last of which was a few days ago. I submitted my last assessments a couple of days early and have already received my results. Subject to final moderation I have passed the course.
Today I am writing this as a reflection on how the process of studying again has been for me, where I am, and, what next.
I enjoyed this course. I’ve learnt some new things and clarified other things. I’ve had the opportunity to put my listening skills to the test in an observed session with a volunteer client. I’ve been encouraged to reflect on my own beliefs and values and to consider how they could impact others in a counselling environment. I have the teaching materials in the form of booklets and that includes links to further reading material so I have a concrete resource I can go back to in the future. I have enjoyed stretching my mental muscles a bit more again. It has been satisfying to know I can still put suitable responses together for assessment purposes.
I’ve also learnt that distance learning suits me, being able to pace myself around my other commitments is vital to me. At the present time attending college classes at a set time and place is not something I would feel able to reliably commit to, I need flexibility. I completed the course and submitted all my assessments in good time but there were occasions that I struggled to do so and that’s with a fairly short duration course.
In many ways I would like to go further with counselling skills but I have also had to be realistic about what I am able to do and afford at the present time. To become professionally qualified I would, from what I can find out, need to study part time for at least another two years. While I could possibly do some of that studying by distance some of it, particularly the practice of core counselling skills, would need to be face to face. Such study does not come cheap and owing to my previous qualifications and studies I wouldn’t be eligible for certain types of grants for funding further study. Realistically I can’t currently commit the time or money to develop my skills further. Even if I had the funds, I can’t commit the time at present.
The door to further studies in the future is not closed to me. It is just that at present I can’t take that pathway.
Overall this has been a valuable experience for me in several ways. I have developed my skills and learnt new things. I have dipped a toe back into the world of study and found I can still do it. I have discovered that I am good at listening to people, I had thought I probably was but I have had this put to the test with very satisfying results. And I have found out that my behaviour in a one to one situation can help to put others at ease which is always a good thing to know.
I think one of the best things to have come out of doing this course has been an overall increase in my personal confidence and a better sense of where I am in my life.
So what next?
I still have my voluntary work with the Riding for the Disabled Association and I have recently learnt that there are opportunities there for further skills development. I intend to investigate the possibilities further.
I have my family which provide me with new, and sometimes challenging, situations to learn from on a frequent basis.
I have my Druidry and there are many opportunities there for development in several ways.
My own mental health may still provide me with challenges from time to time, most recently with anxiety attacks, but I have proved to myself that in spite of losing my job on capability grounds less than a year ago I can still learn new things, develop my skills and be useful!