Kate Beckwith realised she wanted to return to studying when she was teaching undergraduate students.
“I really felt the urge to be a student again myself,” she said. “I wanted to learn the theory behind where people’s patterns of behaviour might come from, and why people have a different lens they see the world through, how this can be detrimental and how it might be possible to help improve their perception and for things to become more hopeful.”
With a background in arts education – working with hard-to-reach groups, pupil referral units and youth offending teams – Kate had always worked in supportive ways with children and young people. She wanted to re-train to work in a therapeutic capacity and so enrolled on the MA Psychodynamic Counselling in The Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies.
“I loved working in the arts sector, and recognised how the arts could be utilised in a positive way, but I wanted to work consistently with individuals and families and be able to help on a much deeper level,” she said.
She was glad she made the decision to re-train.
“The experience at Essex has without a doubt changed my life – and absolutely for the better,” she said. “I have grown and developed so much. There is so much of my experience that I have been able to helpfully apply to my life outside of psychodynamic counselling. I have undergone a huge transformation and will take my learning forward with me into everything I do.”
Becoming a student again didn’t come without its challenges. Balancing studies with her challenging work role as well as family life was “tricky at points, especially at the start”, and then, once she had adapted to this, life was further interrupted by COVID-19.
“It was an incredibly strange time and seems so long ago, but the impact of that time is still being seen in the children and families I work with at my private practice,” she said. “The societal trauma should not be underestimated.”
For Kate, the most rewarding experience of her studies was the weekly clinical placements – an integral part of the Masters degree.
“I worked at two different placements: one in a primary school, and the other in a secondary school setting. All the theory forms a strong foundation, but it is only when you go out and start working with people, that you really experience the processes you have been learning about and begin to understand them in practice,” she said.
“I still remember my clients from my placement as if I was working with them just last week. The most rewarding experience is to be able to feel and witness how the work you have been doing with a child or adolescent has helped, and to think of them having a more hopeful future because of that work.”
Since completing the Masters, Kate has set up her own private practice. She is the founder of Elle’s Garden, an outdoor, nature-based therapeutic practice for infants, children and young people, which also incorporates parent and family work.
Based just outside Colchester, it is a therapeutic practice with a difference – and the only one of its kind in the country. Located in a private setting in natural woodland, the approach utilises the outdoors, nature, animals, art, and play.
“My belief and confidence in psychodynamic psychotherapy forms the basis of the work. I have incorporated all my learning from the course and combined it with my experience of how nature, the arts and animals can have a transformative impact. All of these aspects help the child relate to the therapist – the outdoors becomes a transitional space. At Elle’s Garden, I bring together deeply psychodynamic and psychoanalytical ideas in this revised, unique, approach,” Kate said.
As well as running her own practice, Kate is also involved in The Transforming Autism Project, working as part of a support programme for families with babies, toddlers and young children who are diagnosed with or are showing signs of autism. She is also in the process of setting up a Community Interest Company for perinatal and infant mental health, incorporating the benefits of nature.
It's been a busy few years for Kate since qualifying, and she said it “seems strange” graduating so long after the end of the course, but is looking forward to celebrating with her family and peers who have all been so supportive.
“It is an incredibly challenging course, both personally and academically and at various stages we were all faced with difficult and sometimes painful challenges. There were several times where the group rallied around one another,” she said. “It was not always easy, but we made it – congratulations to my then peers and now colleagues for all your work during the course and since. We made it!”
To anyone thinking of applying to become a psychodynamic counsellor, Kate said she would “whole-heartedly” recommend the course.
“The department is full of experienced tutors who really are experts in their field – they are inspirational. I just loved the course, the tutors…I loved the whole experience and would like to thank them once again. As I look back on it, it really was fantastic.”
Read more of our Spring Graduates 2023 stories.