Tuesday 16th December 2014
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Winter 2014
Amy Guest, Macmillan Regional Communications Officer for London and South East England, speaks with two Macmillan Counsellors at a new service in Colchester
At Macmillan we know that when a person is diagnosed with cancer, they don’t just worry about what will happen to their body, they worry about what will happen to their life.
We understand that it can help to talk to someone outside the circle of family and friends, who has been trained to listen and can help people explore their feelings. Having the time to talk things through often enables people to see a way forward.
By funding Macmillan counsellors who can talk one-to-one with a person, we aim to help them sort out their feelings and find ways of coping with them.
The Macmillan Counselling Service
In Colchester, a new counselling service has just been established. The Macmillan Counselling Service, facilitated and supported by St Helena Hospice, is for Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust patients or their families and carers.
Roger Crellin (pictured right) is a Macmillan Counsellor at the service. He says: ‘I started my role in December 2013 and my colleague Alan started soon afterwards. As this was a brand new service, the first few months were spent establishing ourselves. As well as logistics and governance, we had to use this time to make sure people knew we were here so clients would be referred to access the service.’
‘Our counselling service is open to people affected by cancer, whether they are patients, carers or a loved one of somebody with a diagnosis. The service has been a number of years in the making because we have known for a long time that something like this, for people at any stage from diagnosis, was needed in the area.
'In the first six months we had 110 referrals. This is very high for a brand new service and just goes to show how much the service was needed. We had 260 counselling sessions in the first six months. Some people access the service just a couple of times and some clients see us for upwards of six weeks.
'Before taking on this role I had been running a similar service at Basildon Hospital for about seven years. My original career though was with a bank. I worked in banking for 23 years and towards the end of this time I became involved in user groups for Hodgkin’s disease. I became interested in counselling and started to train alongside my career in banking. When I fully qualified as a counsellor I made the switch and became a counsellor full time.
'I'm very glad that I made that switch. My role as a counsellor is very varied and rewarding. I’m also pleased to see how this new service has taken off.
'As well as offering counselling to people affected by cancer, we have a role in the supervision of NHS colleagues who work with cancer patients. It is equally important for them to have somebody to speak to about the difficult situations they encounter in their jobs. This has been a very successful part of the service and has been very well received by our nursing colleagues.’
Roger's colleague, Alan Trudgian (pictured left), is also a Macmillan Counsellor. He says: ‘I came to Colchester in 1979 when I was posted here in the army. I was in the army for nine years, and when I left, I started working as a mechanic for a bus company. I did that for over 20 years, but the heavy physical labour took its toll and I started to think about a career change.
'I had done a lot of voluntary work throughout my professional career including being a magistrate and volunteering at a homeless shelter. That's where I first saw for myself the great work that counsellors do. I could see the power of giving somebody the time and space to talk things through and be listened to. I enjoyed working with people and listening to them so decided that counselling would be a good move for me.
'I started to train alongside my work as a mechanic. When I qualified, I took the plunge and changed to counselling full time in 2008. I worked for a range of organisations both in private practice and in the third sector. During this time I did some work at the local military prison. This was a very interesting role and gave me great experience of working with a range of people on issues such as anger.
'Alongside my counselling work I started to volunteer at the Macmillan Information and Support Service at Essex County Hospital. My listening skills came in very handy here as my role involved meeting visitors, listening to their queries and signposting them to information or services that would be relevant.
'As soon as the Macmillan counsellor role came up, I knew I wanted to apply for it. I was delighted to get the job and started earlier this year.
'The role is very intense and involves dealing with a range of emotions. I find that I never know what issues I will be faced with on a daily basis. It sounds funny to say, but although you can’t prepare for anything, you have to be prepared for everything.’
St Helena Hospice Colchester