Laura West

What do you do now?

I am a Counselling Service Manager for a student counselling service in a secondary school in Leeds. I also run my own successful adult private practice, just outside Leeds city centre, where I work with people with a variety of issues.Laura West copy.jpg

I left South Craven in 2007 after completing my A Levels, before studying English and German at the University of Leeds. I studied in Leipzig, Germany as part of my degree and graduated in Summer 2011.

I worked as a manager at Marks and Spencer for a number of years after graduating, before re-entering Higher Education to study for a Postgraduate Qualification in Counselling and Psychotherapy at Leeds Beckett University in 2017. I chose to change my career path after realising the part of my job in retail I enjoyed most was the people part! I decided I wanted to work in the helping professions.

After graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy in 2020, I completed an additional qualification in counselling children and adolescents. I worked in primary schools and a Further Education college as a counsellor, before beginning my role in a secondary school and running my private practice.

An average day for me in school involves reviewing any referrals made into the counselling service, arranging and assessing new referrals and assigning them to one of my team of counsellors ready to start one-to-one work. I also attend school safeguarding meetings and provide clinical supervision to the counsellors in my team. I offer support to staff in school regarding their work with students, and support parents of students in the school, alongside running a busy drop-in service for students to chat about anything that’s worrying them. It’s always a busy day, but thoroughly enjoyable!

My days in private practice are a little different – I work from my own office with adults presenting with a variety of issues. I usually see around six private clients a day, three days a week. As I’m running my own business, I’m also responsible for the smooth running of everything, from my daily work schedule to invoicing and finance management! I enjoy being my own boss, and having a successful business is incredibly rewarding.

I remember my days at South Craven with fondness, and my decision to pursue work within a secondary school was in part due to the memories I had of my years studying for my GCSEs and A Levels, and the support I was offered during my time there by my teachers. As a counsellor in a secondary school and as manager of the service, I also get to offer support to students who are experiencing the same feelings and challenges I did during those years. It's a privilege to work with the students I do, and the work is incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

Doing my best is good enough - I put a lot of pressure on myself at that age. I'd probably also tell 18-year-old me to enjoy my university years without worrying about what comes after - live in the moment more and enjoy the experience!

What are you most proud of?

My determination to change careers into a completely different field, which involved returning to university study whilst holding down my full-time job in retail. It's a decision I'm forever grateful I made. It's taught me that it's never too late to pursue a passion or a dream, and if you want something enough then you can make it happen.