Flexible working – Louise Harris MBACP counsellor

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Louise left her job in the media to become a counsellor

  1. What do you do?
    I’m a self-employed counsellor who works with a range of issues across three practices for Harley Street Counselling & Training. I’m based in Harley Street, Marylebone W1G, Royal Tunbridge Wells and Rochester, both in Kent. I set up self-employment under the name of Freedom Living Counselling and got work for Harley Street Counselling & Training in September. I embarked on my counselling academic journey in 2012.
  2. Why did you want a more flexible career?
    A 9-5 job is an option, but it would mean stepping back from morning school runs to travel to the locations that I work. I’m an ambitious person, but also personable and care about the balance of both my career and personal life. Self-care is of utmost importance in this career, as it aids my mental health with those that I work with.
    A flexible career is friendlier all-round and my job is predominantly not a 9-5 role due to client demands, and keeping within the ethical amount of client hours per week.
  3. What were you doing before you had children?
    I was a web producer at a large broadcasting corporation in West London. I then moved office to Elstree and worked across various media platforms. I interviewed and filmed people across all levels and dealt with situations, sensitivities and anxieties in people. I wrote articles, edited a blog and was a key writer. I was at this corporation for more than 12 years in education, sport and drama. I look back at my life and see every experience, no matter how high or low as a gift. It’s made me who I am today and I feel that I am enlightened by so many experiences.
  4. What was the trigger point that made you switch?
    Redundancy! For a few years, I knew I was going to take redundancy when my department was moving to another part of the country. So, I could prepare my next steps. I lived in Twickenham when the time actually happened in August 2011, so I already had a taster course booked in Richmond, London in the December.I had a huge life transition that was building for some time and this stamped the letter of opportunity to embark on the career that I had wanted to do since my early twenties. My professional life felt like a slow, steady stream for a number of years. All of a sudden a build-up and gush of power overcame me. My life experience has been a wonderful embroidered tapestry of eclectic events, experiences and diversities. This urged my enthusiasm for a career as a counsellor.
  5. What’s a typical day like for you?
    Every day is different. I work across three practices in varied locations and I’m a support tutor for students studying a counselling diploma one day a week. Predominantly during the week, I take my child to school, then carry out admin, or prep for client work. Then I travel to the relevant location and see clients. I can work into the evenings.
    On Wednesdays I catch up on emails, admin, write articles/social media/website and make phone calls. I can also see clients around the tutor support work at the college in Kent. Here, I aid the students with their counselling skills which I find so important to bring further skilled counsellors into the field.I also find time to catch up with paperwork/admin, make phone calls, write articles, update social media and go to the gym (if I can). Whenever I am at home my son is my priority. When he sleeps, I can often work!
  6. Do you work every day, or is it different each week?
    I became self-employed in September 2016. Before that I was working across three unpaid counselling roles in varied charities and organisations. So, a part of my role is to build further and expand which takes a lot of dedication. I also make sure I am physically and mentally fit which means I am not going to burn out, or run out of head space! Life throws all sorts of obstacles at us and it’s vital that my mind and body are capable of being able to deal with whatever is possible. I attend meetings, supervision (for my ethical requirements) and have a lot of business and admin to write, source and edit.
  7. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to give up a 9-5 job?
    I have to say that I don’t find giving advice fulfilling, as we all have the capabilities of having the power of our own mind. We have choices. Me giving advice could take that power away. I would ask yourself questions such as; what do I really want? Am I fulfilled right now? What is important to me in this very moment?
  8. How do your earnings compare with when you were working full or part time in a 9-5 job?
    It’s early days and my branches are still growing! My work has never been so rewarding. There are so many counselling roles that are voluntary or unpaid within charities and organisations. It’s hard work and I paid out a lot of money to retrain in this career. I’m not sure that anyone would realise the depths a counsellor goes to before becoming qualified, but I love it.
  9. What do you think is the biggest challenge for working parents?
    The guilt! As a single parent I need to lean on other means of childcare, whether family or childminders while retraining and working.  I know that my intentions are for the best all round. It’s a massive thought process, but it’s also about the realisation that I am working for a better and brighter future.
  10. If you weren’t doing this job, what else would you be looking in to?
    This is a career that I’ve invested in financially and personally. I’ve taken time to retrain for and knew it was my vocation for far too long. If I wasn’t doing this job, I’d be teaching it, or becoming another role within the vocational area. Mental health awareness is something I’m passionate about and like to raise in social media. Thankfully, the stigma is dropping around ‘mental illnesses’ through the use of social media and campaigns.You can contact Louise on Twitter at @freedomlivingcounselling

Do you work flexibly? Or planning to make a career change? Tell us your story. You may also be interested in our other success stories…

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