Students keep counselling service running despite pandemic

Categories: School of Health and Society

As the NHS continues to manage the impact of the coronavirus, University of Salford students are at the heart of the health care response. 

Lisa NiChormaic and Sean Adams

Student counsellors and their lecturers at the University of Salford are developing new ways of working to ensure the service they provide to the local community can stay open and provide much needed support during the lockdown.

The service, which students provide under the supervision of lecturers as part of their training, is usually based in the specially designed counselling suite at the university.

Dr Mark Widdowson, Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy explained: “As the coronavirus crisis developed, our academic staff moved extremely quickly to develop learning materials for our students on how to deliver counselling remotely, using telephone or video conferencing. 

“Once students had worked through these materials, supervisors verified that they met the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) competencies for telephone and e-counselling, ensuring they could work safely and ethically. 

“Students then began to make arrangements to deliver counselling sessions remotely, ensuring continuity of care for their clients. As the lockdown starts to impact on people, we know demand for these services is sadly likely to increase. We’re committed to continuing our work to support people in these challenging times, and I’d like to thank our students, who deserve so much credit for the amazing work they are doing.” 
Students who are now delivering the service online have already had great feedback from clients, who they say have been incredibly receptive to this new way of working.

Lisa NiChormaic, a second year MSc Counselling and Psychotherapy student at the university said: “I am delighted to be continuing my work with the clinic. I believe it is a vital contact for people, particularly at this difficult time. I’ve found that clients have responded particularly well to the phone calls. Their feedback is that it has been an easy transition, and I believe this is due to the established therapeutic relationship that I have with my clients.”

Sean Adams, third year BSc Counselling and Psychotherapy student, added: “I feel lucky I have an opportunity to give some support to people in these scary times. It is very rewarding to be able to do something to help.
“Delivering sessions online means that I have to prepare more for potential technical issues and also take extra steps to ensure that both myself and my client are able to maintain confidentiality in the environments we’re now working in.
“I’ve also found that clients can open up more quickly in these sessions and managing this is important so that they don’t feel too vulnerable, too early in the therapeutic relationship. I’ve noticed too that ending sessions takes a little more time and care, as it can feel very sudden due to the abruptness of hanging up or terminating a connection.
“Overall, clients have been surprised that having sessions over the phone could be so effective. They are just really grateful for the opportunity to speak to someone.”

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