BACP-registered counsellor and psychotherapist Kay Allen is a mental health adviser at University of West London and also runs her own private practice. Kay graduated from the BSc (Hons) Counselling course, now the BSc (Hons) Systemic Counselling, in 2008.
My counselling degree has granted me access to more opportunities than I knew possible. The openness of the course material has provided me with an understanding of varied models and theories meaning I am able to confidently apply my knowledge to a range of therapy and mental-health-related roles.
There was a concept that my lecturers Kieran Vivian-Byrne and Jeff Faris called 'To the Beach'. The idea was that we were invited to trust in the fluid nature of the course as the content unfolded, holding the knowledge that we were heading in the right direction under the guidance of our tutors.
If a student travelled too far out of their comfort zone or felt they needed reassurance that we were on the right track, they were free to ask for some context – a sign ‘To the Beach’.
I loved this – I actually had a little driftwood sign made for each of them when the course ended. It’s incredibly relevant to my work as I hold a lot of not knowing and trust my clients (and myself) that we’re headed to the beach.
The best thing about my job is that I feel like I’m learning all the time. I feel really lucky to work with so many incredibly brave people and hopefully be useful to them.
Most days start with a brief team catch up. The small team gathers to inform each other of anything important that needs to be shared – such as any student risk issues or new resources. This is a great way to ground everyone and connect as a team.
The issues students bring range from social or performance related anxiety to severe mental health issues. Some students have a diagnosed condition and are already aware of the support available to them, others believe they may be suffering with anxiety or depression (for example) and require guidance through the process of obtaining a diagnosis and support. It’s not a counselling service, so the boundaries need to be fairly vigorously manned, especially with students in distress. We also do a fair amount of relationship building with local support services.
Three nights a week I operate a small private practice in east London. It can be difficult getting into a clinical headspace, especially if I’ve had a challenging day, however, my private work is probably where I locate perspective and more of a sense of myself. I’m delighted to have launched my private practice. It was a huge step for me and, even though I’ve chosen to keep it small for now, I’m super proud."