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  • Writer's pictureWill Davies

The benefits of ‘second chance study’ or how I learnt to change my spots

Change and counselling go hand in hand. Clients attend counselling to change and the changes they undergo change their lives and often the lives of their families, friends and colleagues too. The life of a counsellor can sometimes be changed irrevocably by working with a specific client. It’s part and parcel of counselling and powerful stuff.

Resistance to change

But often the client can be resistant to change and one of the reasons for this may simply be that, unconsciously, they do not believe they have the capacity to change. It’s been drilled into them that change is for children and once you’re an adult, then you’re stuck with yourself. Leopards can’t change their spots, old dogs can’t learn new tricks and people once of adult age need to just stay the same and not even contemplate changing or improving. It’s confusing and knotty stuff but in counselling we address it, work with it to understand it and often, once the client recognizes and starts to entertain that they have the capacity to change, the work can take flight.

Achieving our potential

Carl Roger’s, the founder of the Person-Centred approach, considered that all humans have the capacity to achieve their full potential, he called it self-actualization. Notice he uses the word humans not children. In order to achieve this potential, Roger’s believed that we all just need the right conditions, the right amount of light, water and soil to allow us to flourish.

I remember thinking that I hadn’t achieved my full potential when I was considering re-training as a counsellor and psychotherapist. I also remember wrestling with the idea of being too much of an old dog to start learning something new again. I’d worked in the creative industries for nearly two decades, changing spots just wasn’t on the cards, was too much effort, too unknown and new.

The transformative effect of adult learning

But I found a course in Leicester at the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning that became my soil, sun and water. Over the course of the four years, it allowed me to realise my potential and start to do what I think I was always meant to do. And the learning didn’t stop there, since graduating, I’ve participated in gender, sexuality and relationship diversity courses, group therapy workshops and multiple CPD sessions. All experienced as an adult, all contributing positively to my life and in some cases that of my family, friends and colleagues. The ripple effect of adult learning can be considerable.

So now, thanks to adult learning, I counsel adults of various ages to help them understand themselves and make the changes that might enable them to lead the future they want. I also teach counselling to adults so, like me, they can achieve their career potential in helping others.

Opportunities to learn and change

And this year I want to give back to Vaughan, now renamed Leicester Vaughan College, but still dedicated to the needs of part-time learners and to those wanting a ‘second chance’ to study. I’m getting involved with their Spring series of low-cost personal and professional development workshops by delivering a series of psycho-educational sessions aimed at anyone who wants to better understand and change themselves, their relationships or their relationship with anxiety and stress.

The programme is being curated by Tina Holt, who taught me at Vaughan, and my Baines-Ball & Associates colleague Dr Mish Seabrook, study peer Rosie Craven and old lecturer Patrick Cawley-Rock (it’s a small counselling world in Leicester!) are contributing CPD sessions for counsellors and those working in the caring and helping professions on burnout, trauma, working with LGBT clients and working with children and young people respectively.

What change do you want to make?

So if you’re a leopard that’s been told they can’t change their spots or an old dog that can’t learn new tricks, take a look at the programme and maybe take the chance to invest in yourself and make that first step towards change.

Leicester Vaughan College -


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