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How a Samaritan Became a Counsellor: A Case Study

By: Lynne Conner - Updated: 9 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Counsellor Samaritans Volunteering

Jan Dozier became a full-time mum eleven years ago to raise her daughter but has now qualified as a counsellor and has a new job working with a variety of clients. She would never have discovered her new career if it hadn’t been for her experience of volunteering with the Samaritans.

Once her daughter started school Jan found herself with time on her hands and the need for a new challenge. She began to look into volunteering options as a way of meeting new people, learning new skills and giving something back to the community. It was actually a friend who suggested the Samaritans to her. “She said I was a good listener and had lots of common sense.” Jan wasn’t sure that she had much to offer but she decided to find out more. “Part of me was interested as soon as my friend mentioned it, it appealed to me I just wasn’t sure if I was up to it.”

Jan had an initial interview and then underwent the rigorous Samaritan training process. Jan explains “at times it was daunting but there was also plenty of support along the way, my supervisor was encouraging and always there to discuss issues that arose.” Jan was pleased to discover that the main qualities needed for Samaritan work were patience, tolerance and the ability to listen with genuine warmth and caring. “You don’t have to be any kind of expert or to have all the answers. You’re not there to ‘fix’ people, just there so they can share their worries with you.”

As her training and experience progressed Jan volunteered for two shifts a week during the day while her daughter was at work. Although some phone calls were difficult she discovered she could be resilient.

However the phone conversations at Samaritans create a genuine bond between Jan and the caller. “It’s very human, that’s what it’s all about, connecting at a time which may be difficult, painful or even frightening for someone.” Jan realised that she found this very fulfilling and wished that she could build up a relationship with someone in difficulties, talking to them regularly. “With Samaritans, our chats hopefully make a difference but we rarely get to follow up with the person personally.”

Jan realised that counselling provides an ongoing one to one relationship and provides an opportunity to work more closely with someone to explore their problems and difficulties. After two years of volunteering she decided to look into counselling courses and with the encouragement of her supervisor decided to apply. “There is no doubt that my Samaritans background stood me in good stead for my applications and also gave me experience of the listening skills a counsellor needs.” It also gave her a good grounding in what the role of a counsellor entails.

After a challenging three year part-time professional course Jan qualified as a counsellor last year. She also continued to volunteer with the Samaritans for the first year until placement work placed too many demands on her time. She now has a part-time job working as a counsellor for an agency and hopes to eventually see clients privately too.“I love what I do, it is very fulfilling and challenging and I would not be doing it if it wasn’t for volunteering with Samaritans”. Jan adds “Samaritans work can be tough and is certainly emotionally demanding but if you are feeling stable in your own life, are a good listener and have a few hours each week to spare it is very rewarding to be there for people who are lonely or in crisis. We all need help at times.”

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