Meet Maria Hutchinson, NRC Counselling Team Trainer & Coordinator

About five years ago, I decided I wanted a change in career. At the time, I was working as a Human Resources Co-ordinator, but lots of people had suggested that I’d be well suited to a counselling role. As it turned out, this was something I’d wanted to do for quite a while, so decided to look into the opportunities that were available.

I started my counselling studies in Tresham College, and completed my final 2 years at Bedford College.  I found myself loving it straight away – it never felt like hard work even though it was quite demanding of my time. It felt like I’d finally found what I was born to do!

I started my counselling placement with Northamptonshire Rape Crisis (NRC) in 2015 and enjoyed it immediately – particularly the client work. Prior to my current role, I’d worked at Voice, who are located in the same building as NRC, so it was home from home in a way! The role at NRC also felt like a culmination of all the things I’d done professionally in my life; it incorporated skills I’d learned elsewhere (ranging from HR to secondary school work) and satisfied my desire to help people, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

Training: a key focus at NRC

NRC offer a ten-week training package for new counsellors which focuses on sexual violence and the trauma associated with being a survivor. It’s designed to provide counsellors with the tools needed to manage and deal with the client base in the best way possible, and it’s now one of my tasks to deliver that training.

My role extends to recruiting new counsellors and helping them further their skills once recruited via continuous professional development (CPD) events. This is a requirement of the BACP, but it’s always been vitally important to NRC to support its counsellors in any way possible by taking into account not only their career progression, but also their own personal wellbeing.

I allocate clients to counsellors to ensure the best fit based on their experience and availability (we’re open during the day and evenings, so this is particularly important). We currently have around twenty-six counsellors and I have nine potential new counsellors on the training course at the moment.

Our recruits come to us as trained counsellors (ideally on a level 4), but we look for people who are non-judgemental, naturally empathic, passionate about the work we undertake and willing to learn. As a result, the entire team at NRC have those qualities in common; we all want to empower our clients and help them through their journey.

An inspirational place to work

There’s so much that inspires me about working for NRC, but helping people undertake their journey is such an honour. The change in them from the point at which they first make contact to the time they leave is wonderful to see. It’s what keeps all of us coming into the centre every day; being a part of that journey is a real privilege.

There’s not really any such thing as a typical day in my role, but my job is currently heavily focussed on delivering the training to potential new recruits. I’m also constantly developing our training package to make it better and more relevant to the challenges we’re encountering in society; it’s important to be open to change and fluid with the service we offer.

I provide counselling to clients in NRC and, in GP surgeries for anyone who is unable to access our building.  I also answer calls and sometimes get involved in-between sessions if additional support is needed. This extends to the counsellors if required, and I’m always on hand just in case they need someone to talk to.

Our drop-in service, group work and partner agencies

We’ve recently started a new drop-in service, and I’m playing an active role in that, too. It’s open every Friday from 9:30am to 11:30am at our female-only safe space in Northampton’s Warwick House. No appointments are necessary, and I’d recommend it to anyone who just wants to pop in for a chat with the team.

During the drop-in service, we also run and facilitate group emotional support, and the same thing but on an individual basis for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a group setting. We’ve got lots of ideas for the group work, including jewellery-making, but we’re always open to ideas, and regularly ask all in attendance, for any suggestions.

Our unique location offers a totally separate space for our male survivors too, and we provide our support services to men and boys from the age of 13. 

We work with a lot of partner agencies at NRC including Serenity (who are sometimes referred to as SARC). Voice and Sunflower Centre are in the same building as us, so we work very closely with them, too, and often take referrals from both services. We’ve also recently recruited a Children and Young People’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ChISVA), who can offer emotional support to the younger generation.

We’re always here for you

I understand that some people might be nervous about contacting a service like NRC. This is why we offer a number of ways to do so. You can self-refer on this website, email us, text or even drop in if you’d rather meet us face-to-face. There’s never any pressure and we completely appreciate people simply don’t always know what they want to do; sometimes it’s just about getting that first foot-in-the-door to see if a counselling service is for you. 

If you can pick up the phone, I’d really encourage it, because we’re here for you and will only listen and do anything we can do provide you with the answers and reassurance you need.

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