Meet Nyasha, our Student Social Worker

I originally wanted to be a doctor. However, when I didn’t get the grades I needed for that profession, I didn’t give up. Instead, I pursued my desire to help people in some way. Social work seemed to be the perfect alternative to medical work, and that led me to start a course at the University of Northampton.

My first placement during that course was in Northamptonshire County Council in their safeguarding team, which was absolutely amazing. After that finished, I was placed at Northamptonshire Rape Crisis (NRC), and I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been here since October 2018.

A day in my shoes

I process some of the referrals we have from the NRC website. That involves taking the client’s details and gaining an overview of their lives and what has happened to them. There is some general administrative duties I undertake too, including calls to clients to ensure they can attend the counselling sessions with their matched counsellor. Some clients need travel arrangements making, or require the sessions to take place at a location closer to them (for instance, at their GP’s surgery).

There’s a lot of signposting involved in my job, too. Following their initial assessments, we might suggest that some clients would benefit from working with a different agency before they receive counselling from us. In such instances, I’m in a position where I can signpost them to the most appropriate service.

For my own development, I’ll attend meetings and police training with our CEO Dawn Thomas. Meeting different organisations like that provides a great insight into the wider network within which NRC operates.

We have lots of students and new volunteers coming into the centre to take a look at what we do, and I have hosted a few of those visits; most recently I had the opportunity to welcome some fellow social work students. That gave me the chance to share some details on the services we provide and explain how my role as a social worker sits within the organisation.

An inspiring role

I really didn’t know what to expect from the role at NRC, but it has proved to be inspiring. This is because you’re not pigeonholed as a counsellor; you’re a point of contact for someone who is likely to open up and talk to you about things they’ve never talked about before. That’s a huge responsibility, but it goes back to being human.

Something that neatly illustrates this is our new drop-in service which has been going really well. It’s not a counselling session – it’s simply a chance for women to visit our centre, grab a cup of tea and have a chat. It’s so rewarding to see how much brighter the attendees are once they leave, and all they’ve done is spend some time in a room with women who may have had similar experiences to them.

It’s been a challenging but rewarding journey. I’ve found myself questioning a lot of my preconceived ideas about counselling along the way and feel I now have a far more open mind. The ability to metaphorically take off an old set of glasses and put on a new pair that help you see the world in an entirely different way is what makes this journey so exciting.

Helping clients experience their feelings

Working at NRC has been a real eye-opener due to the one-to-one nature of the support. As a social worker, you’re more likely to undertake one or two visits a week and leave having ticked a few boxes. In this role, it’s all about discovery; you find yourself asking “why is someone feeling that way?” far more often, and that has in turn taught me so much about the level of sensitivity you need when dealing with someone’s feelings.

If anyone is unsure about speaking to NRC but is giving it consideration, the first thing I’d say is “well done”! The initial contact is a big step for anyone; picking up the phone isn’t easy. However, once that big step is undertaken, it becomes so much easier. That’s what this role has taught me; it’s vitally important to let the client experience their feelings and take things one step at a time. We don’t tell people how to feel, because there’s no right or wrong way. What we do is help them work through those feelings; there’s nothing wrong with having a cry or opening that emotional can of worms – we’re here to listen and provide the support needed to cope, recover and move on with life.

My time at NRC has confirmed that I’m absolutely on the right career path. I graduate this summer, and I’m already thinking I should probably focus on finding a role in the mental health field. Until then, I can’t wait to continue spending time with the brilliant team here and carry on soaking up as much experience as possible!

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