This Man Cares – Ali Coughtrie

Ali coughtrie - Men in CareAyrshire College is holding a Men in Care event on 26 May 2016 to encourage men to consider a career in the health and social care sector. This sector is expanding and demand for qualified staff is set to rise.
In this blog series we find out more about men making a career in health, social care and early years.

First, we speak to Ali Coughtrie who started his career as a tree surgeon and is now retraining for a career in counselling.

I am a tree surgeon to trade and I have worked in environmental education, through which I have been involved in mountain rescue. Throughout my life I have been relatively unaware of the care sector as, other than the doctor and dentist, I have not used these services. However, when my mum had a stroke it made me think about health and the support services that help us to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

It was a defining moment and I made a life-changing decision to retrain in health and social care. Initially, I investigated the Scottish Ambulance Service with a view to becoming a passenger transport assistant. I soon realised that all my qualifications and experience were related to my previous jobs in the outdoors and I needed to get some relevant qualifications.

I enrolled in a NC Health and Social Care course which was a great foundation for my learning. I was honoured to receive an award for excellence at the end of my course. During the NC course I loved the psychology classes so much that this year I am studying the HNC Counselling course. I was encouraged to get involved in volunteering to gain relevant experience. I work on the South Ayrshire Befriending Project and I am also doing driver training with the Ayrshire Hospice.

Counselling is a therapy that allows a person to talk about their problems and feelings in a confidential and dependable environment. A counsellor is trained to listen with empathy, by putting themselves in your shoes. They can help you deal with any negative thoughts and feelings you have. Although at the end of this course I can’t practise as a counsellor as I need supervised experience, it is a stepping stone to other courses that will enable me to become a counsellor. Some people in my class are going on to university to study Psychology and train as a psychologist. Another option which we can consider is a Diploma in Counselling through the Glasgow Therapy Centre. Here you get 180 hours of 1-1 counselling experience and 20 hours of group counselling. Another pathway I can explore is Mindfulness and Yoga training as I practise and enjoy both of these.

Counselling is a fascinating area of study where you learn about which approaches are best for a particular client. I’ve got a lot out of this course, especially more self-awareness as we are encouraged to keep journals of our everyday experiences. I’ve changed how I respond to situations, as I stop and think now before I speak and I am even more open minded.

I’ve also been given opportunities to attend NHS short courses on a range of interesting topics including dementia, legal highs and child protection. I have enjoyed interacting with a wide variety of people on these courses and it has enhanced the learning we do at college.

I was a bit worried before I came to the college that I would be the only man. However, there are about six men out of twenty on the course, and I have a number of friends and colleagues through my volunteering that are male, so I think things are changing and there is more of a mixed workforce now. I think it’s important to have both male and female staff in the care sector because clients may respond better to the care giver if they feel more comfortable with a man or woman.

I would encourage others who are thinking of changing their career to give the care profession a go. If you are a good listener, have empathy, enjoy working with people and can be non-judgemental – it could be for you. You need to be prepared to be self-critical and take on board constructive criticism from your colleagues. It’s a rewarding career where you can help people who find themselves in a vulnerable position.


The HNC Counselling course runs three days a week from 9am – 4pm in Ayr. Course applications are open for August 2016. Early application is advised as this course is very popular. To find out more please email or phone 01294 559000 ext 3249.



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