This fall, we’re delighted to welcome Fernanda Bruce as the Student Wellbeing Counsellor at Allard Hall.
In her counselling practice, Fernanda takes an open, inclusive and student-centered approach. With a background in psychology research, she brings evidence-based practices into her therapeutic work.
Fernanda received her BA in Psychology and MA in Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria and is a registered clinical counsellor through the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. Most recently, she worked at Vancouver General Hospital, where she provided individual and group therapy.
Read on to find out how Fernanda practices self-care, why she fell in love with counselling and when it may be time to ask for help.
What inspired you to become a clinical counsellor?
I was really lucky in the sense that I’ve always had an idea of what I wanted to do as a profession. I knew I wanted to be in the helping field — I considered becoming a lawyer at one point, actually!
I also knew I loved understanding people. I’ve always been an avid reader, and every time I’d read a book, I’d spend time theorizing and imagining each character’s motivation and backstory. When I started my undergrad, I quickly fell in love with my psychology courses and began to see that counselling was, in a way, like reading a book. I was captivated by the idea that every time I’d sit with someone, I was hearing their story and doing the creative work of putting the pieces together and co-writing the future of their story.
Once I had that realization, my career path was pretty straightforward.
What advice would you give to a new student who is feeling overwhelmed about their first year of law school?
You’re not alone. It might feel like everyone else has got it figured out and you’re the only one that’s struggling but, believe me, I wouldn’t have a job if this was the case.
My advice is to be compassionate with yourself and validate your emotions. If you judge your feelings, you’re only pushing the emotion down and making it worse. So, tell yourself that it’s normal to feel this way and that law school is a huge transition. If you meet your feelings with curiosity and compassion, you’re more likely to be able to get through them, as opposed to getting stuck.
And of course, reach out to me! I have plenty of strategies that can help you through this challenging and exciting transition.
When should a student make an appointment to come talk to you?
There aren’t any specific requirements for students to seek counselling. You can make an appointment to talk to me for any reason, even if you’re unsure that you need counselling. For instance, if you’re struggling to sleep, I can provide the space for us to explore what could be going on underneath the surface and brainstorm solutions. All of us have blind spots, and as hard as we might try, there are some problems we can’t solve on our own.
Nothing is quite as rewarding as when I’m able to experience deep empathy for another person. For this reason, sitting with clients and hearing their stories energizes me.
I often see the biggest changes when someone seeks support when they’re beginning to struggle, rather than when they’ve been struggling in silence for a while. Thoughts, feelings and habits are easier to change when they’re new patterns, as opposed to when they’ve been patterns that have been solidified and reinforced for a while.
What do you do to practice self-care?
I like my self-care to be easy, accessible and practical. I find that people often get stuck in thinking of self-care as a big and complicated task, which can become daunting. This is not what self-care should feel like.
I get the most out of my self-care activities when I’m throwing myself into the moment completely. I value my relationships a lot, so I make time to see my friends and family, and I often put my phone away while I’m with them. I also value moving my body, so I make sure I’m doing a physical activity every day. On busy days, this might be going for a short walk or doing a quick YouTube yoga session. I really recommend Yoga with Adriene!
What inspires you about your job?
Human beings are meaning-making beings, which means that we all long for meaning and purpose in our lives. I’ve discovered throughout the years that my meaning is human connection. Nothing is quite as rewarding as when I’m able to experience deep empathy for another person. For this reason, sitting with clients and hearing their stories energizes me.
I also enjoy the creativity it takes to conceptualize each person that comes into my office. Even when you think you truly understand a certain issue or theory, every single person is unique and experiences life in their own individual way. This is why no session is ever the same, and my brain is always working hard to understand each person so that I can connect with them in a meaningful and lasting way.
Allard Law students can make an appointment with Fernanda by reaching out to her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.