AIPC Graduate Louise Fitzgerald shares her story…

My studies with the institute began in February 2004 and I completed my units in June 2005. Yes I am one of those focused, determined and organised people that everyone hates. When I make a decision to do something I just get my head down and no matter what obstacles I come across, I strive towards the finish line.

My personal growth journey started a few years before I decided to study and I am still thoroughly amazed by what I am doing with my life. As well as being all of the above I am also one of those counsellors who have themselves been abused. Some of you will realise how far I have come up to this point, some of you may not realise this as yet. I have gone form being a person who couldn’t look another human being in the eye, so low was my self esteem, to doing things with my life that are beyond my wildest dreams. I found it very difficult to speak to other people and I find myself wondering how I ever managed to have a life at all. Let me tell you what I am doing now. I have begun to counsel people individually and my clients have come to me through word of mouth.

I have done nothing to deliberately market my skills at all and I have been facilitating recovery groups for survivors of sexual abuse and for women with a dysfunctional family of origin for over a year now through my local church. The name of this ministry is Careforce. A few months ago my pastor approached me with regards to my becoming the ministry team leader for Careforce. I was over the moon for a couple of weeks and then the responsibility and work load hit me and I wasn’t so sure.

Could I really teach people the skills that I had only just acquired myself? Did I really have what it takes to support a team of people who do this sort of work? Well I am doing it! I am currently in the middle of teaching my first facilitators training course and amazingly enough it is going very well. Next year I start my bachelor of social sciences degree majoring in Christian Counselling. My diploma gives me 8 units of credit for this degree and I have more credit from some psychology and child development studies that I did prior to my diploma. It is my long term plan to obtain my masters degree and go on to doctoral studies.

Look this might seem like I am blowing my own trumpet but really I am not. I just want to share with you all that is possible. You can achieve whatever is in your heart to achieve. The road might be a bit rocky at times, but remember that we grow through the tough times, not the smooth.

Yes I am focused and determined and all that stuff that you don’t want to hear about, but I have struggled too. I have had units sent back because I have made silly mistakes. I have sat down to a 4 hour study period and got half an hour into it and dissolved into tears because of the issues it has brought up. I have even had to struggle through marital difficulties that I would have never imagined as I have grown and changed over the months as a result of the nature of these studies. I empathise with your struggles but I do not sympathise because I know with determination you too can succeed! If you struggle with managing your time, make out a study plan and stick to it.

Decide how long this diploma will take you realistically. Split your units into manageable bundles. I used school terms as I fitted my studies around my children. Decide how long each unit will take, even each section of a unit if you have to. Set yourself deadlines for each unit and make study a priority in your life. I think it is very important that you reward your self when you meet your deadlines and achieve each small goal.

Personally I have taken every available opportunity to get practical experience. You might think that you don’t have the time to spare because you are studying, but it well worth the effort. I believe that I am far more confident as a beginning counsellor as a result of my practical

experience than I would have been otherwise. Remember it all counts towards the hours of experience you need to accrue for membership with one of the counsellors associations. You are in for a treat when you do finally complete your diploma. I will leave you in suspense. You will have to wait and see. Maybe if I have been unable to motivate you up until now this will give you the push you need. I want to encourage you to keep pressing on towards your goal and imagine the sense of satisfaction you will feel at the end.

As a Christian I believe that God has a plan for our lives and if we surrender to Him he can do far more with our existence on this planet than we could in our own strength. He has taken my broken life, completely turned it around, shown me His plan and His purpose and is using my experience to help others to find the healing that I have found. It is my prayer for all of you who are reading this article that you will succeed in your studies and find fulfilment in life whatever you choose to do in the future.