AIPC Graduate Angela Malone shares her story…

“One of my childhood dreams was to become a counsellor. I was young when I started a family and did not work until my children were of school age. I found myself always helping people. I felt that I was obtaining copious amounts of experience, but something was missing. I realised that the something that was missing was formal education and therefore started looking for the education that would best suit my needs. My jobs were demanding and my passion and hunger to learn more, was increasing.

After comparing the different organisations, I found myself drawn to a booklet which was sent to me through one of my enquiries. This booklet was a course prospectus from AIPC. It’s title: “The ideal way for you to become a counsellor”. The booklet was impressive. It had structure and I could follow what the Institute had to offer. It was basically what I was looking for. The booklet covered and answered a lot of my questions. For example: Can I study and still work? Can it help me improve my performance in my current job? Can this fit into my lifestyle? Is there flexibility? Am I going to be able to access tutorial assistance because I want to study by correspondence? Is this course cost effective? Is this going to help me establish my own private practice? All of these questions and many more were answered with a yes.

In realising that there was possibility in achieving my dream, I felt that I hit the jackpot. Wow, how exciting! I signed up in 2003 and successfully completed my Diploma in Counselling with three advanced study majors (Grief and Loss, Abuse, and Child Development and Effective Parenting) by the end of 2006. I was working, studying and maintaining a family. I was able to time manage things and grow at the same time.

The Diploma of Counselling gave me further insight as to who I was as a person and why certain people act the way how they do. It also gave me a better understanding with such things as: practical skills when working with people, the ethical and professional roles of counsellors, common challenges for clients and counsellors, how to communicate more effectively with people, how to establish client counsellor relationships and many other things regarding the counselling process. This is the world that I want to live in. The course subjects did not just apply to the learning experience; they could be applied to real life situations. I loved the learning experience. I felt that I was thriving and growing.

After completing the Diploma and the Advanced study Majors, I found that I was able to set up my own private practice, with confidence and a steady flow of clientele. This was great, but I did not want to take on too many clients as I did not want to set myself up to fail. I decided to tread carefully and get a feel of the business and enjoy my achievements whilst still committed to the high demands of case management and welfare work. I believed that my commitments and connections with the community would give me the continued experiential understanding of what people’s current needs are.

Because I could see my life changing in a positive direction, I became a telephone counsellor with Lifeline in 2005, completed the Certificate IV in telephone counselling and facilitated groups, teaching new trainees how to become telephone counsellors. I am still involved with Lifeline as a telephone counsellor and enjoy the connection and voluntary commitment. Due to this involvement, I decided that I wanted more education and I wanted to learn more about Counselling so that I could make that final move into the counselling world. I felt that the next step was to approach AIPC to see whether they could offer me the opportunity to complete the Bachelor Degree in Counselling. My hunger increased and I hoped that I would be able to fulfil this dream. AIPC’s course material is excellent; it is structured and is user friendly with information being specific. AIPC tends to meet the needs of people.

AIPC contacted me and advised me that they had the Bachelor Degree course on offer and asked whether I would like to apply. Oh my God! Yes, I hit the jackpot again. These people know how to deliver and I know that I will benefit greatly. How exciting. I was successful with my application and started my journey. The first semester subjects were sent out and my learning was to continue.

At the end of January 2007, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was put in a position where my mortality was tested. I was not ready to die and I so much wanted to complete what I started out to achieve. I wanted to obtain my Bachelor Degree in Counselling, share my knowledge and experiences and to move fully into the counselling world. I was not going to give up.

By being faced with the fact that my whole world had just been turned upside down, I decided that I needed to think this through. Am I being tested? What can I do? What message am I getting out of this? The message was look at how you are living. I realised that something had to change. I was overworking in an extremely demanding environment, doing voluntary work and starting to study full time. Something had to give.

I decided to take time off work whilst undergoing tests, operations, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. This meant that I would put my life into the medical team’s hands for twelve months and still undergo my studies. My studies would be my distraction. I continued to involve myself with the voluntary work at Lifeline, teaching new telephone counsellors and staying on the phones myself. This was my sense of staying connected to the community.

This was a huge adjustment for me as I was no longer working. Yes, I had to look at what I was doing and acknowledge the overload. I had eliminated a lot of stress and tiredness by not working, but the stress of cancer did not go away. I started my medical and study journey, and enjoyed being able to lose myself in the subject’s literature that AIPC had forwarded onto me. This gave me great opportunity to further explore who I was.

Due to the fact that my cancer journey was underway and there were study requirements (attending mandatory residential), I found myself faced with a little problem. I could not attend the first residential. I was undergoing my second round of chemotherapy treatment and I was not allowed to travel on any aeroplane. I could not be in contact with the public due to the possibility of picking up a viral infection, hence the possibility of other medical problems. Because of my dilemma, I contacted AIPC and spoke with my subject tutor. She acknowledged my dilemma and agreed that I could submit my work via video.

What a caring and empathetic person. This reinforced my belief that AIPC delivers and meets individual needs. My first year of study was great, exciting, frightening, harrowing and yet still disciplined. I was confronted with deep emotional, soul searching, and body image issues (hair loss and weight gain) due to medications and treatments. My family, friends, medical staff and AIPC were great supports for me throughout this journey. I was advised by some of the medics that ‘I would get chemo brain and not be able to study or retain things’, but I proved them wrong. I achieved good grades and was able to continue studying as well as attend the second semester at the end of the year. I was determined that I was going to beat this. I would do whatever I need to do to achieve my goal.

I returned to work at the end of the year and found that I had to readjust again. I loved my job, but did not like the long hours, the high needs of the clients, the physical demands on my body and the systemic constraints. The environment was aggressive and I wanted to move into the counselling world full time. I wanted to allow myself to study without having to deal with unnecessary barriers. I could see that I was back in the work hard and study hard routine. I time managed very well and was fighting an old habit. I was going to beat it because obtaining a Bachelor Degree was my preference and things had to change. I readjusted my hours to suit my study needs and felt that I had created a more realistic balance. I reminded myself to look at how I was living. Look at what my true goals were and to live my dream.

Whilst undergoing the final stages of completing the Bachelor Degree, I was offered a position of employment by management of my final practicum placement. I underwent formal interviews and was the successful applicant in an extremely important position (sexual assault counsellor). I am the first Counsellor to break into the service as workers are usually social workers or psychologists. The employers were impressed by the professional skill base and the knowledge that I have and I believe that this also attributes to AIPC’s very well thought of and structured training techniques. I am asked by management to share my counselling skills and techniques with other colleagues so that they are better equipped.

I am living my dream! I have moved into the counselling world fulltime. I work as a part time sexual assault counsellor for NSW Health on the South Coast of NSW and am running my own private practice. I am involved with voluntary telephone counselling with Lifeline and continue to educate myself by attending ongoing training and supervision sessions. I believe that study will not end here for me as I am already looking at post graduate work. My difficulty is finding an institution as well structured as AIPC. And yes, guess what, nobody compares!? I am in the process of negotiating my next course with AIPC.

On a final note, AIPC have made it possible for me to achieve my dream. Thank you. I have had some personal and environmental challenges along the way; I have persevered with sheer determination and believe that I truly have come out a winner! Live your dream and become the person that you wish to become! Believe in yourself and never give up!”