Volunteers' Week: Alan Pleydell

Alan has travelled across Europe working as a relationship manager for the Quakers but it is his work as a volunteer counsellor in Wiltshire that provides just as much of a challenge.

After he retired he wanted to stay active so he trained as a counsellor and began working for SWADS but when funding for that role ended, he moved to HELP Counselling Services in Trowbridge, first as a trustee but then as a regular volunteer counsellor.

He devotes four hours every Wednesday to listen to peoples’ problems and help them find a way through. The age range of people coming to see him can range between 21 and 71 and no two issues are ever the same.

“We have 50-minute sessions, with 20 minutes in between to write up notes and have a cup of tea,” said the 69-year-old. “It is immensely tiring but also immensely satisfying.”

Among the issues he is regularly confronted with are depression, anxiety, grief and drug and alcohol problems. “There’s often a back story to do with their childhood and some form of ongoing distress that has continued into adulthood,” he said.

“A lot of people are very emotional and I find that listening is really important because often if you are quiet if helps calm people down. People often have quite complicated stories to tell and being calm helps them.”

 He said building up trust with a client is vital to being able to help them – but it also increases the pressure he places on himself to deal with whatever is troubling them.

“I get a tremendous buzz from being trusted by the people I see but I think to myself that if they trust me this much then I had better do the best I can for them,” he said.

Find out more about HELP Counselling Services here.

Volunteers Week, which runs until June 7th, celebrates the work and dedication of the millions of people who give up their time to help others. Hundreds of events will be taking place across the country to mark Volunteers' Week. The annual campaign, which was established in 1984, recognises the contribution volunteers make to our communities every day.

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