Counselling celebration marks 21 years of success

More than 150 graduates joined current students, tutors present and past and friends of the college for a special celebration event.

Counselling celebration

Over the past 21 years the counselling department has trained and qualified in excess of 250 counsellors, many of whom have gone on to work within organisations including Alliance, Durham Carers, Family Action and Talking Changes or set up private practices.

The landmark anniversary was celebrated with a night of music, food and drinks and a warm reunion of old friends and colleagues. Guests were met with a drinks reception and canapes before walking a red carpet lined with a wall of old photos from the past two decades.

They also received a bespoke celebratory pin badge, specially commissioned to mark 21 years of higher education counselling provision at Bishop Auckland College.

Programme lead Lindsey Moses and Principal and CEO Shaun Hope welcomed the special guests, who also included organisations the college works closely with such as Butterwick and Mind in Darlington.

They were entertained by former student Simon Barkley, who provided two sets of live music either side of a buffet and cake cutting by first programme lead Chris McIntyre, who launched the first HE provision.

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Dianne McKenzie was among the graduates who attended. She said: “I loved being part of the counselling programme. The two-year training programme definitely had a positive impact on me as a person, improving my self-confidence and awareness.

“I have only positive things to say about my time at the college so would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about taking the plunge into higher education.”

The 55-year-old, of Bishop Auckland, completed a Foundation Degree in Counselling in 2009 after first taking Level 2 and 3 courses. Dianne is now Butterwick Hospice’s Service Manager of the Counselling & Bereavement Support Services in Teesside and County Durham.

She added: “As the manager of the team, I've always kept very strong links with the college and our counselling service at Butterwick is a popular placement choice for students currently training to be counsellors.

“The students can complete their counselling hours, with the support of the full staff team, all of whom completed their counselling training with BAC, and went on to secure employment with the organisation after their own placement experience.”

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School counsellor Victoria Carr, from Newton Aycliffe, also joined the party. She said: “During my time at Bishop Auckland College I met some fantastic people. The course is definitely a journey and I think I am safe to say on everyone’s behalf that it’s life changing.

“I've made some friends for life, have a job role I love and feel between placement and guidance of tutors I have a skillset for life. The 21 years of counselling celebration was fabulous. Catching up with friends that were able to attend and hearing the development of the college’s provision and its journey is inspiring.”

Carol Door, from Bishop Auckland, will be enrolling on the Masters in Psychotherapeutic Practice at the college this September, having completed the full complement of counselling courses from Level 1 to the BA (Hons) in Integrative Counselling Practice since 2019. She said her time at the college had been “totally transformational”.

Carol, 47, added: “I never thought I would be able to do what I do, be in the world the way I am and build a better life for myself whilst helping others do the same. “I have set up a private counselling practice and am currently looking at other options as my passion is to work with substance misuse. I now have options in life to do what I love and am passionate about.”

Stephen Heels, 51, of Sunderland, who works in private practice as a Senior Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, completed a Diploma in Health and Social Care and a Foundation Degree in Counselling at the college between 2006 and 2010.

He said: “Before joining the course I was a warehouse worker. I have gone on to a number of health-related roles and at the moment I work private practice only three days per week.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bishop Auckland College; the personal development element of the counselling course is transformational. I do recommend it and occasionally pop in to run a lecture on working as a CBT therapist.

“I am glad to hear the counselling provision is going from strength to strength and I am sure it will continue to positively affect the lives of future students.”

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Starting with an NCFE Diploma in 2003, the college’s counselling offer progressed to a Foundation Degree in partnership with University of Sunderland.

In 2019 our own undergraduate programme BA (Hons) Integrative Counselling Practice validated by the Open University was launched and last year the college’s pioneering Masters in Psychotherapy Studies – the first in the UK to have a Wild Therapy module – accepted its first intake.

Our next addition will be the development of a Counselling and Psychotherapy CPD Hub offering quality affordable professional development opportunities for qualified therapists. The first event on Saturday October 5 is a One Day Workshop with Mick Cooper for £50. Book your place here:

Programme lead Lindsey Moses said: “It was fantastic to see so many of our graduates at our celebration event and find out how their careers have progressed – I’d like to thank everyone for coming and making it such a special night.

“We’re always looking to attract more people into the profession and we have day and evening introductory courses starting in September for anyone thinking studying counselling.”

For more information and to apply for counselling courses visit:

Photos by Barry Pells.