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OU study unlocks ambition for support counsellor

Zara Dyer

Starting an Open University degree course has unlocked new ambitions for Glasgow based Zara Dyer who was told she has ‘no prospects’ at school but now studies part-time while working as a support advisor for people who have experienced alcohol and substance abuse.

Speaking on the new Open University podcast Life…On Our Terms, 27-year-old Zara reveals how she has managed to break down her own barriers and build the confidence to follow her dream to start her own counselling clinic.

“I struggled a lot academically throughout high school and with being able to articulate what was going on in my mind so when I left school, I never thought I would return to education,” she says. “But it was always something that I wanted to do. Learning is more than just a degree; it offers so much more, and I fully intend to continue learning for the rest of my life. That’s come from the OU giving me a voice.”

Zara started studying for a BSc (Hons) Psychology with Counselling in 2019. She is interviewed by podcast host Gemma Cairney about mental health and resilience, a topic that is central to her job as a Support Advisor at Glasgow Council on Alcohol, a charity that supports people recovering from alcohol and substance misuse. Eventually, she wants to open her own wellbeing and support clinic to help as many people as possible. 

“My main goal is to leave everyone I engage with feeling a little bit better. I try to learn something new every day and share it with as many people as possible. I hope I can help people to live their life to full potential by encouraging pushing boundaries. I think they exist to be broken,” she says. 

“My employer has been very supportive. Some skills that we learn at The Open University are transferable to everyday lives and I've taken what I've learnt to deliver online training at my workplace which is something I'm incredibly proud of.”

The guidance offered by the OU at every stage of study is something which Zara greatly values. “The OU showed me that anything’s really possible and the advice from The Open University is worth its weight in gold. They’re experts in the field so you're not on your own,” she says.

“When I was a bit confused about my future prospects, I contacted the OU student support team and I cannot emphasise how much they helped me through my decisions. They took me through different career routes, they helped me understand what I would need to obtain in order to practise counselling in the way I wanted to in the future.” 

She talks about how the supported distance learning model offered by the OU and the study community where she can speak to fellow students on a daily basis through forums and other platforms has really helped build her confidence. 

“My confidence levels weren't very high when I started my journey and I often struggled to engage with people. The Open University broke that barrier down by giving me different avenues to express myself,” she says. 

“A game changer for me would be our online tutorials and the reason for that is it took away the fear of not being able to articulate my thoughts because the way I looked at it is, well they're all in the same kind of stage as me aren't they, so I was like why not go for it.”

You can listen to Zara’s full story here:


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