I've found lockdown to be a time of conflict. On one hand, I have largely managed to continue my studies and spend more time at home with my husband. On the other, I am conscious that for many, it has been a challenging time, something that comes across in the counselling sessions I deliver (remotely) as part of my course.
Lockdown has had a significant impact on my research study. My original study looked at the experiences of counselling interventions for primary-age pupils, however lockdown made this unrealistic. It prompted me to re-think to instead explore the lived experiences of primary school-based counsellors delivering their service during a crisis, be it the current one of COVID 19, a natural disaster, a criminal or terrorist attack. Sadly, I feel there is only going to be more of these events, so I hope my research will contribute to a broader understanding and have more impact.
My experiences of working with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities led me to do a doctorate in counselling psychology. I saw what children could do if they had the right help and support, particularly support for their emotional health and wellbeing; if they could think and feel differently and believe in themselves, they could thrive and achieve so much.
It wasn't easy being open about my own need for support when I returned to full-time education, especially as a mature student with a health condition I didn’t have twenty years ago as an undergraduate. There was something about having a disability - and one with invisible symptoms - that made it difficult, and I suppose I also had a fear of stigma.
Now, in my training as a counselling psychologist, I realise how important it is to try to be open about difference and diversity, and raise awareness to others that disability/health conditions are about what people CAN do rather than what they can’t because of additional needs. For anyone reading this in a similar position to myself, I’d say it’s about finding a ‘sweet spot’ between what you can do and what you are passionate about. I have definitely found mine with counselling psychology.
The University's Disability Advice Team is brilliant in how it coordinates and supports students in a sensitive way. My MS affects my vision mainly so I’ve had to have adaptations with printed materials or presentations and my sitting position in classrooms.
Because I live so far from USW, it’s also been about mitigating any negative effects from travelling long-distances, so I've stayed overnight in Newport to attend university and complete my placements. I gave up my job to commit to the course full-time as I knew it would be demanding and I wanted to make it successful and reduce any negative impact on my health condition.
Throughout lockdown, I have worked closely with and been extremely well supported by my three research supervisors (one of whom is continuing to support me even though she has just retired). They’ve been amazingly helpful and supportive whilst I’ve worked on changing the focus of my research study.
Life will always find a way of challenging us, and every situation will impact each of us in different ways. It’s okay not to be okay during such times and I hope that I can inspire fellow students to adapt and to continue their studies but also to reach out when those challenges become too much.