NMIT graduate empowers teens to change their lives

NMIT graduate empowers teens to change their lives

Kate Sheldon is a qualified counsellor working for Garin College. She facilitates a strengths-based counselling service for students grappling with modern life.

The ex-Garin College student spent years working random jobs before the desire to study surfaced. It was 2012 and she was on the Gold Coast of Australia “partying and beaching” when it hit her. “I just had this gut instinct that I needed to study. I couldn’t shake it.”

While many of us would puzzle over what to study, Kate knew from the outset that she wanted to study counselling. “People have always just sort of come to me. I’ve also been to counselling and psychologists and therapy, probably since the age of five. I grew up within the system. It was something quite normal for me.”

Kate applied with both Weltec and NMIT trusting that she would end up where she was meant to be. She had grown up in Nelson, had friends in Nelson, and a reliable part time job at a bakery that she could return to, so when NMIT was the first to respond and accept her application, Kate was quietly chuffed.

Scroll forward five years, add a teaching diploma and a baby boy and Kate is now working part-time for Garin College as the head counsellor of the college’s newly established counselling service for students. Kate works alongside an AOD counsellor and a public health nurse and is mentoring two NMIT counselling students completing their placement.

Kate says the need for such a dedicated service is a sign of the times. Many of the issues that present themselves come hand in hand with the digital world, and social media in particular. She says there has been a marked increase in self harm worldwide as well as screen addiction - pressures that kids never used to grapple with.

She uses a strengths-based model of therapy as much as possible at Garin as it is proven to be highly effective with teenagers. “With youth it’s particularly important to bring a calm positive energy. It’s also important to match where they’re at. I just try and be at their level.”

“Some people like to just come and talk about the stuff what’s been going on for the week. Other people like to come in and actively make goals and plan. Other people come in and they’ve got really rough stuff. Then it’s kind of more just being with them.”

Kate says the journey from counselling student to school counsellor was hard work but incredibly rewarding. She enjoyed everything about the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Counselling) - now called Paetahi Tumum Kōrero Bachelor of Counselling.

“When I first looked at enrolling in my degree, several people told me that it would change my life, and that I wouldn't be the same after doing it. I remember thinking, pffft no way! How could a degree possibly change my life? It's just a course? But you know what? It has.”

Working with difficult situations during work placement was her main challenge. “When you’re a student counsellor you’re still counselling people so when you hit things you’re not sure about, it can get quite hard. It’s all learning related though.”

During these times, Kate found the NMIT tutors incredibly supportive. “Raewyn, Mary and Jacqui were absolutely amazing. My supervisor Lois was another amazing role model, and her expertise priceless. I have the four of them to thank for helping me on this journey and holding me up when I couldn't hold myself.”

To anyone wishing to study counselling at NMIT Kate says: “Go for it. Some of the best three years of my life were spent there. Be prepared to be challenged mentally and emotionally. But remember, it’s all growth, and growth is meant to be uncomfortable. You get to help people change their lives, give people the power to change their lives and you work with amazing people.”


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