An interview with Géraldine Dufour

Pages13-15
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-03-2020-103
Date16 March 2020
Published date16 March 2020
AuthorWoody Caan
Viewpoint
An interview with Géraldine Dufour
Woody Caan
Head of the Cambridge UniversityCounselling Service, past Chair of the Heads of University
Counselling Services special interest group and British Association for Counselling and
Psychotherapy Universities and College division and a collaborator in the Student
Counselling OutcomesResearch and Evaluation project.
Geraldine, what drew you to you current counselling post?
I have worked all my life in socialcare roles and feel passionate about empowering people to
change. I love working with students ifyou can help people to get through their studies, it
can make a huge differencefor the whole of their life. I really believe in thepower of education
to change society. I had been a Counselling ServiceManager at Birmingham City University
for five years when my current role was advertised it was a step up and had the right mix of
the clinical and strategic.I knew my input here could make a positive difference tothe mental
health and wellbeingof the students of the university.
What are the most common mental health needs that present to your service?
It is not much different than other university counselling services across the UK in terms of
presenting issues, with depression, anxiety, relationship and academic issues being the
most common. However, we do see quite a number of students who struggle with
perfectionism, which makessense when I think of the profile of the institution and the people
who are attracted to studyinghere.
As a result we have introduced some workshops and counselling groups specifically
targeting those issues: Perfectionism vs Healthy Striving, Managing Low Mood Group,
Developing Self-Compassion. We get some really positivefeedback about these groups and
workshops: bothin terms of the skills that people learn but also inthe feeling that you get from
being in a group when you realise thatyou are not the only feeling that way. It can feel quite
powerful for people.
Some service users may have more unusual or complex needs – Can you recall a
memorable example?
Of course I do, but I wouldn’t be a very good head of counselling service if I told you about
those students! That’s one of the challengesof this role, how can you explain what you do if
you can’t speak about your clients?I have to say that I do feel very touched by the students I
meet: their issues don’t have to be too extreme for me to remember them. About half of the
students we see are suicidal. I have permission to share this feedback from a student who
used the service I find this verymoving, and for me it illustrates why we do this job andhave
a counselling service:
I’d like the counsellors to know what a profound effect they can have on students’ lives many
years after their sessions end.
Woody Caan is based at
RSPH, Duxford, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JPMH-03-2020-103 VOL. 19 NO. 1 2020, pp. 13-15, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-5729 jJOURNAL OF PUBLIC MENTAL HEALTH jPAGE 13

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