Heather Bunting

Meet ACAP Graduate Heather Bunting

Heather graduated in 2012 with a Graduate Diploma of Counselling via a combination of online and on-campus study in Melbourne. She is currently studying her Masters of Social Science (Counselling)* at ACAP and working part time as a Counsellor at Joseph’s Corner.

Why did you choose ACAP?

The flexibility. I was working and was not able to do the whole course on campus as it would have been too disruptive to my work. However, being able to do one unit on campus where you get to meet other people and enjoy rich and interesting conversations, and another unit by distance which enabled the degree to be accomplished more quickly, was a good combination for me.

How has studying with ACAP benefited you?

One of the biggest personal learning experiences for me at ACAP was the time between when I was given the honour of being invited to be valedictorian at my graduation, and the giving of the speech! I had never spoken in front of about 200 people before so I had to jump over a few hurdles in my mind!! I learnt from this experience that I can do what I set my mind to as long as I am prepared to get out of the way of my own insecurities and go for it!! I also know from this that other people can too, which sits with me when I'm counselling and helps my clients!

The most obvious benefit, of course, is that the study I have done has qualified me to work in the field of counselling. Another benefit is that, having previously studied psychology which has a lesser emphasis on counselling itself, I feel lucky to have studied at ACAP because teaching counselling skills and ensuring we practise them is what ACAP does well. I have also met people on my ACAP journey that I still meet up with and learn from and I hope those connections will continue.

Describe your ACAP experience.

During my time at ACAP (I am currently doing a Masters), ACAP in Melbourne have moved three times - it seems to me that this is a testament to how they are growing because the training they offer is relevant and interesting and the flexibility of being able to study entirely by distance or entirely on campus or a combination of both suits many students. Of course over 16 units you have many teachers and some suit your personality more than others. I liked all my teachers and realised that they were supportive of me passing! The course materials were easy to follow and contained what we needed to know for assessment and the readings contained other things of interest. I found doing units by flexible delivery easy to do because they operated very similarly to the on-campus units except there was less discussion even though we were invited to participate in the discussion boards.

Did your ACAP qualification help you to achieve your goals?

I had wanted to be a counsellor when I first started the BA in 1986. After completing the BA and then the Graduate Diploma in 1990, I had two children with whom I wanted to spend as much time as possible as they were growing up. This, and the fact that we did not have a supportive family network to help with the children, meant that I chose to postpone having a career as a counsellor until the girls had finished senior school.

When I was ready to return to counselling I felt I needed to do some further study and ACAP really worked for me in terms of its flexibility - it allowed me to work in the family business and study partly on campus and partly online. Once I had finished the Graduate Diploma in Counselling at ACAP I was in a good position, with the benefit of having done good placements, to secure employment in counselling. This I have done and I really love the work and the new career path I have embarked on.

How have you used your ACAP qualification?

I have been lucky to get a part time job in counselling which I love. Working part-time allows time for me to work in a private practice which I hope to build up - I see this as a long-term project! And the Graduate Diploma has led me to study the Masters, which I am really enjoying and see as a valuable asset to me in the future.

What are your future plans?

My long term goal is to be a supervisor of other counsellors and it will be five years until I can do that, but I enjoy counselling also so will be content until then. I would also like to build up a private practice - again I consider this to be a longer term goal. I have a secret hope that one day my business will be such that I will be able to offer ACAP students placements as I know how hard they are to get!

What would you say to someone considering studying at ACAP?

The lovely thing about studying at ACAP is that counselling is taught in a very hands-on and practical way. The theory is there but the theory is about the practice, not about research or something theoretical which is not relevant to counselling people. The triad work in the classes and the DVD assessments give practical experience and having to complete a minimum number of hours in the placements really stands you in good stead later on. For example, when applying to join CAPAV (Counsellors' and Psychotherapists' Association of Victoria), which I see as a well-respected organisation because of its professionalism, the training and placement hours which ACAP offer really help you get professional recognition quickly!

* ACAP now offers this program as the Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy.