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TAFE Bega’s accidental-counselling course to give people tools to help those suffering from trauma

25 May 2021
Sad woman being comforted by friend

A new TAFE course offers offers basic counselling skills to residents who often find themselves thrust into a ‘de-facto counselling’ role by friends, family, colleagues or clients. Photo: File.

Following the devastating Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic that impacted so many people on the NSW South Coast, a new TAFE course aims to empower members of the community to reach out to those in distress.

The Statement of Attainment in Accidental Counselling – a one-day course delivered by virtual classroom – offers basic counselling skills to residents who are not trained mental health professionals, but often find themselves thrust into a ‘de-facto counselling’ role by friends, family, colleagues or clients.

The course comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has had a profound impact on mental wellbeing, with Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue all reporting spikes in numbers of people seeking help compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

A survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the impact of COVID-19 in April 2021 found about one in six Australians aged 18 years and above had used a mental health or support service since March 2020.


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About one in five women had used a mental health or support service in that time period, compared to around one in seven men. Two in three people who used such a service received counselling.

Also, a study published by the Medical Journal of Australia on the mental health of Australians in April 2020 – after COVID-19 restrictions began – found about one‐quarter of respondents reported mild to moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety.

TAFE NSW counselling teacher Rochelle Armstrong, who will deliver the new course, said ‘accidental counsellors’ play an even more critical role in times of public uncertainty.

TAFE NSW counselling teacher Rochelle Armstrong

TAFE NSW counselling teacher Rochelle Armstrong will deliver the new course in Bega. Photo: Supplied.

“In the current climate, with all the uncertainties and stresses, more and more people are being asked to have difficult conversations with others in distress or crisis,” she said.

“This course gives you a framework on how to facilitate those difficult conversations in a supportive way.

“It arms students with the basic skills to tune in and listen to someone in distress in a really engaging way.”

Ms Armstrong said the practical and hands-on skills would stay with students for life, and be adaptable to both personal and professional situations.

Other topics to be covered by the course include limit setting and boundaries, dealing with crisis, debriefing and self-care.


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Charlene Vaughan enrolled in the course last year to help in her workers’ compensation role at Rehabilitation Services by Altius Group.

“I was being exposed to a lot of trauma-related claims and finding it difficult to navigate the emotional terrain,” she said.

“I was always interested in counselling and it was a great way to dip my toe in the water.”

Ms Vaughan got so much out of the course, she has now enrolled in a Diploma of Counselling through TAFE NSW.

The Statement of Attainment in Accidental Counselling course will be held at TAFE NSW in Bega on 26 May and 9 June, 2021.

For more information call TAFE NSW on 131 601 or click here.

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