My name is Dr Jennifer Ofori UKCPreg (MBACP). I am a qualified and fully accredited counselling psychotherapist who has gained experience over the last decade working in private, voluntary, educational and public sectors, which includes work: for numerous IAPT/NHS services/boroughs across England, offering counselling to clients on a short term basis, a charity offering services to ethnic minority populations and as a clinical supervisor for students/trainees in placement.
I have a BA (Hons) Social Sciences degree in Psychology, Criminology and Sociology, a Diploma in Counselling Children & Adolescents, a Postgraduate level award in Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling, a Masters of Professional Studies award in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Doctorate of Professional Studies award in Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling.
I currently work as the Lead Clinician of the University of Roehampton Counselling team and appreciate having the ability to support such a wonderful and inspiring team of clinicians.
What made you decide to become a counsellor/ psychotherapist?
I consider myself highly intuitive and emotionally attuned, and those around me noted this from a very young age. I always had a way of making sense of my surroundings and wanted to support my family, friends, and those around me to feel better. I value people and think that with the right amount of support, we all have the power to be the best versions of ourselves, and this has become a personal motto and value of mine that I currently ascribe to. I decided to train and become a counsellor/ therapist to hone in on my desire to support those needing an empathetic presence. This has become an incredible and rewarding passion of mine, supporting and feeling an internal reward when I notice that I am making a positive difference in the worlds of those I encounter in my work.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job has been knowing I can provide a non-judgmental and safe environment to those who have never had safety and a nurturing or empathetic secure relationship modelled to them. I love witnessing the transformation that can be observed in a person when they’ve let down their defences and begun experimenting with their identities or challenging outdated beliefs. I also love the creativity and freedom that counselling can offer clients. It’s usually a co-created dynamic between the client and counsellor, which leads clients to create new versions of themselves that they may have wanted to express but may have been too afraid and not have had the tools to think about embodying authentically. I want to stress how much influence the therapeutic relationship dynamic can have, leading to transformation in those embarking on the counselling relationship. This is my favourite part of the job. It’s an absolute blessing to have the privilege to witness and be part of.
What advice do you have for someone new to counselling?
The most important point for those new to the concept of counselling is that there is no issue too small to discuss with a counsellor. If you are struggling, please feel free to speak to a counsellor about whatever may be bothering you, as addressing this earlier will benefit your mental wellbeing in the long run. Remember, counsellors are trained to provide a non-judgmental space and will not ridicule you for disclosing what you might deem to be a minor issue, as this goes against their professional ethics. Therefore, if you are struggling, do not hesitate to reach out.
It is also important that you only disclose that which you feel comfortable discussing. Your counsellor will never pressure you to divulge something that may be too traumatic to address, especially in short-term counselling. Your counsellor will encourage you to reflect, but your choice of what you want to share will always depend on your personal preferences.
What are your best tips for supporting wellbeing while at university?
Students should consider the following when starting university:
Eating a balanced diet filled with nutrients that will benefit your mood and concentration levels will be vital in determining your success in higher education. Please remain mindful and incorporate this into your weekly diet as much as possible.
Try to be active at least twice a week by participating in practices in and around your university and/or local community. For example, you could consider joining your university’s football or netball team. Joining groups of this nature will help give you a sense of purpose and will aid you in feeling better mentally due to the release of happy hormones often associated with exercise routines.
Connect with those around you regularly, including your tutors and peers, who are here to support you as much as possible. You could also join societies you may be passionate about, increasing the likelihood of connecting with like-minded people!
Practice mindfulness by spending time in nature and taking the time to notice your local surroundings. Spending time in nature can positively impact your mental wellbeing, instilling a feeling of calm and help you feel more grounded.
How can students access the counselling service at Roehampton?
Students seeking counselling at Roehampton should self-refer here, see the NEST: Student Support Services under the heading ‘Additional Mental Health Support’, or contact us at email@example.com. Please also note that if you doubt applying, you can discuss this with your allocated Student Wellbeing Officer.
What would you say to students considering a counselling career?
I encourage any students who want to study counselling as a career to consider volunteering in the helping professions and volunteering in positions such as befriending in local hospitals/ care homes and/or working with local outreach services. Volunteering in this capacity will help to develop further some of the vital skills needed to be a counsellor. Engaging with vulnerable groups in need of support at the initial stages of your counselling career will also help you decide whether counselling is the right career choice.
Training up to become a counsellor can also be a huge investment. For students seeking to train, I encourage them to consider the financial implications of this on their day-to-day living costs. Therefore, for those who have decided that the counselling career is the most authentic route for them to pursue, my advice would be to devise a strategic plan on how they intend to fund this and begin to think about the practicalities of balancing paid employment opportunities whilst studying.
Was there anyone who inspired you on your counselling career journey?
Many practitioners have inspired me; however, in the spirit of Black History Month, I would like to reflect on two of the most essential Black British practitioners I have encountered on this path.
The first was my previous Systemic Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Supervisor, Georgie Gee, who supervised me at a local community school and taught me the importance of giving voice to the experiences of black counselling trainees. She emphasised the value of giving voice to my own lived experiences in the training spaces I often inhabited, which at the time didn’t fully represent me or those who looked like me and encouraged me to seek to curate a niche in the counselling profession, by drawing on my unique strengths and differences.
The second is a practitioner who has made an indirect contribution to my professional work, Dr Isha Mckenzie-Mavinga (2009), whose book ‘Black Issues In The Therapeutic Process’, has acted as a bible to shaping my understanding of the nuances of race and class in the therapy.
Both practitioners have been critical inspirational sources of strength and have helped me to recognise my worth as an individual and practitioner in this field.