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Newtownabbey-based Karen Kearns has graduated from Northern Regional College achieving the highest overall mark in her year group. Karen, who recently completed a University of Ulster validated Foundation Degree in Integrative Counselling Practice at the College, was nominated for the Dean’s Award for her consistently high performance throughout her studies.

Commenting on her decision to embark on the course at the College, Karen said:

“I became interested in studying counselling and began researching courses. Northern Regional College’s offering gave a clear progression of study which was appealing to me. I began with a Level 2 course, then progressed to Level 3 before embarking upon the Foundation Degree.”

Karen, who has a young son, said that the part-time aspect of the course also suited her well as she was able to balance her studies with family commitments.

As part of their course, students are required to complete 100 hours of counselling through placement which Karen said she found particularly rewarding:

“I was lucky to secure placements in both a community counselling agency and in a GP surgery. This practical experience alongside my classroom learning really enhanced my confidence.

“The combination of placement and theory-based study makes the course extremely rich and diverse. The standard of teaching and support offers a fantastic learning experience. There is a focus on ethics and the therapeutic relationship as well as the personal development of the student counsellor which makes the course challenging and well-rounded.”

Despite gaining top marks, Karen is not stopping here. She has her sights set on ambitious goals including further studies at Northern Regional College:

“I intend to stay on in placement to gain more experience and also work towards becoming accredited and having my own practice. I am also interested in further study with the College. They offer a course in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and another in Clinical Supervision, both of which pique my interest.

“2020 has been one of the most challenging years, but the skills and knowledge that this course has offered me will allow me to help others negotiate the challenges that life can bring. The counselling skills that we learned are not just of use in counselling settings; empathic communication can help us in all aspects of our lives.”

Congratulating Karen on her success, lecturer Minford McBride said:

“Karen has worked extremely hard throughout her time at the College and we are delighted that she has plans to return in the future. She is extremely deserving of her exceptionally high marks and I wish her all the best in her future career.”