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Cilla Kaiser has spent her life helping people

With a quick glance at her CV, it’s obvious her passion to help and care for people in the community is high priority.  Having worked in the nursing, victim support and counselling arena, she has been proactive at taking on new opportunities that have popped up along her career journey, which has added interesting diversity to her skill set and grow in her profession.

Working as a registered nurse, Cilla was driven by the ability to care for people during her work day and felt comfortable and natural in this role.  Connecting with people facing health issues, Cilla noticed the impact this had on hauora, with intertwining affects on mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. She explains, “I could see the areas my patients were each struggling with and I wanted to have the professional skills to help support them through their challenges” and counselling was the perfect fit.  Keen to pursue this avenue professionally, it became a long term goal to retrain as a qualified counsellor.

In the meantime, Cilla’s abilities to support patients through the naturally led conversations she had during her work day resulted in Victim Support reaching out to her to ask her to train and work for them.  Humbly, she reflects, “I think it was the fact that I worked with serious homicides and victims of abuse in my nursing work and was comfortable with these difficult situations that prepared me. I jumped at the chance to train as a Victim Support person and went to Police College in Porirua to undertake the training needed to help victims of crime and abuse.  It was eye opening and really hard, but I felt really passionate about being able to support people on the coal face with the hard stuff”.

"It was really challenging and confronting work, but I felt really honoured to be able to use my skills to get to the root of the impact on clients and help them to move forward in their lives".

Over time, her desire to train as a counsellor grew. “I realized I wanted to have more knowledge at my fingertips about how to help people heal on a deeper level. I applied to MIT to become a qualified counsellor and once accepted, I undertook my formal training there and continued my work in helping the police with providing support to victims of serious crimes.  It was really challenging and confronting work, but I felt really honoured to be able to use my skills to get to the root of the impact on clients and help them to move forward in their lives.  Through my studies at MIT, I discovered that Person-Centred approach is the form of counselling that naturally fits with me, so I have focussed on honing these skills”.

It wasn't long before Cilla was asked to become an EAP counsellor for trained professionals like members of the police force who were impacted by work-related trauma, or personal issues.

With a family of her own and a job that requires giving out constantly, Cilla knows that maintaining a healthy work life balance is key to doing her job well and enjoying her personal life.  Launching her own business allowed her the flexibility and freedom to choose the clients she wanted to work with instead of being forced to take on any job thrown her way.  It’s also allowed Cilla to factor in days off for much-needed down time–pretty essential in a role where you are investing in others’ personal development constantly.

She explains, “I have never wanted to work more than two days a week, as my work days are intense and non-stop with clients. I’d often have clients in the morning, afternoon right through till the last client at 5pm so that they could come after work hours. Limiting my counselling work to two days a week gives me plenty of times for other things to achieve a balance. I think that’s so important. You can’t give out constantly and not have your own tank filled”.

As a business owner, Cilla’s been fortunate to have never been without work: her practise has grown through word of mouth and online presence, and she has clients contacting her regularly for support.  “Having my own website has been great marketing for my services, and I also utilise the benefits of a profile on the Talking Works website – this site has driven a lot of new clientele my way.” 

So has launching her own business been a challenge?  “Not really," Cilla reflects, “It has been liberating to have the freedom to do my own thing.  I make sure to keep organised and always keep really detailed notes on clients!  They can sometimes return 4-6 months later when another life circumstance comes up and not having notes can put you on the back foot.  This is probably my key advice for counsellors.”

But it’s not to say she's left to her own devices.  Supervision and self-reflection are important and also required by the counselling body to maintain professionalism and to keep current. “I see a supervisor regularly and have counselling myself every three weeks.  If something crops up that I need help dealing with, I would increase the regularity of my counselling sessions to help me process what it is thats bothering me.”

Even on her days off from her counselling practise, Cilla still loves giving out to others, spending time with her grandchildren and also working part-time at the local Information Centre in Mangawhai. “It’s hugely rewarding working at the info centre, I love meeting people and sharing all about the beautiful things about Mangawhai – where to go, what to do, which road to take, which sites to visit.  As a tourist destination, we get a lot of visitors during summer so it’s a really fun role meeting visitors to the area and advising them on how to make the most of their time here.”

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