Psychology and counselling - student stories
Helen Hastings-Spital, Psychotherapist
Why did you decide to study with the OU?
I was in my 40s when I began my OU degree study. I felt part-time study offered a way to earn a living alongside my desire to complete degree-level study (my first degree was abandoned when my first child arrived!).
What was it like to study with the OU?
I remember feeling extremely nervous about the challenge of returning to 'academia' - would I be able to string a comprehensible sentence together for my first TMA (Tutor-Marked Assessment)? The reality was that I felt really supported in this experience; by the clarity of my course materials, the excellent assignment feed-back provided by Tutors and the motivating companionship of fellow students - all sharing the laughter and tears experienced in working towards our personal goals. After 4 years of study, I emerged in 2003, the proud possessor of a BSc (Hons) Psychology 2:1.
What had your career been previously?
When I began studying with the OU, I had been working for the Forestry Commission for many years as an Outdoor Educator teaching experiential science to school-aged children and adults. As the need for 'professionalism' increased, my lack of a B Ed or other teaching qualification became noticeable when trying to advance my career.
How did studying with the OU help you develop and change your career?
As a Psychology graduate, I was able to use my 'psychological knowledge' to successfully develop experiential programmes aimed at meeting the specific learning needs of visiting groups (e.g. children and adults with low self-esteem, autism, mental health issues). In addition, my OU experience had given me confidence that I could manage both 'work' and further 'study', so in 2004, I began post-graduate training as a professional psychotherapist and part-time study of an MA in Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy.
What are you doing now?
I now have my own private psychotherapy practice as well as working part-time as a psychotherapist for the NHS Psychological Therapies Service supporting patients with severe and enduring mental health issues. It's taken me 10 years to get to where I am in my working life - but I wouldn’t have missed any of it! Thank you to the OU for beginning this exciting process.