Terry Byrne, Introduction to Counselling Skills

I am currently unemployed; however, I consider myself a full-time student. I am currently a volunteer with the Sligo Samaritans. I have just completed my two-year certificate course in the ‘Introduction to Counselling Skills’ at ATU Sligo.

I was a qualified motor mechanic with 15 years of experience working on a range of cars and light commercial vehicles. I re-trained later to work on commercial jet engines with Lufthansa Technik in Dublin, where I worked for 27 years. The company closed in 2014, and I took the opportunity to re-locate to Co Roscommon.

I joined the Sligo Samaritans in 2018, and it is my work with them that led to a change in career direction. The course’ Introduction to Counselling Skills’ sounded like the right choice for me. The venue at ATU Sligo was perfect. Forty years have passed since I took part in any formal education. The course was going to test me beyond my limits. However, the more information about the course I received, the more determined I was to succeed.

I started my journey in September 2019; it was a mixture of online learning and experiential days in college. It was the perfect blend, and I never felt intimidated by my surroundings. In the beginning, I found the reading tasks technical and the course content focused. My IT skills were limited, and it became clear I needed further ongoing training. The class’s progress was measured by continuous assessments and an open book examination at the end of semester one. This was the most challenging time. I wondered if the knowledge gained so far would satisfy my lecturers and myself. After this initial period, it became much easier to navigate the content and deal with assignment deadlines.

The covid -19 pandemic emergency dominated semesters two, three and four. All of our learning went online except for two occasions in semesters three and four for skills practice. At all times, we felt supported and understood by the staff, and they were mindful of the tasks we faced as a class.

To prepare for my final year, I created a learning space at home exclusively for my college work, and I would encourage others, if possible, to do something similar. For example, I purchased a desk, a laptop stand, headphones, a wireless keyboard, a printer and a mouse. These steps proved an invaluable resource in my learning.

My online experience at ATU Sligo has helped me prepare for similar experiences at other institutions. It has improved my computer skills; I have become less self-conscious about talking on camera, I am more confident as a student and can figure out tasks for myself, and I have become less reliant on others.

The course I chose at ATU Sligo has been beneficial to me and my career choice. The course content has also helped me in my role as a Samaritan volunteer listener, benefitting the many callers I engage with. It has led me to explore further the world of counselling and psychotherapy.

The world of counselling and psychotherapy will become a personal and professional journey, with twists and turns along the way. You will begin to view the world and its people differently. You will become more open-minded on political and topical issues. A more empathic person will emerge from this two-year program of self-discovery.

It is a journey that you never want to end and want to know more and more. The lust for further learning on this topic is powerful; it is the road I am committed to travelling. I have enrolled in the degree course at IICP in Dublin to continue my goal to gain a professional qualification starting September 2021. I believe I will be a qualified practising counsellor long into retirement, extending my working life to help others.

The help, support and encouragement from the teaching staff will help the student overcome any difficulties arising throughout the course. Despite the isolation of home study, you will never feel truly alone with help and support just a click away.

Find out more about the Level 6 Introduction to Counselling Skills at ATU Sligo