Since 2016, there has been a 65% increase in the demand for private counselling services. This is largely because the waiting lists for NHS counselling are too long for people needing treatment. Among many things, people going out of their way to receive counselling proves its value. So, if you’re looking for a therapy-related career, it’s an ideal time to become a counsellor.
As a counsellor, you’ll work with individuals, couples and families. You’ll help them talk about their thoughts and feelings to find ways they can make positive changes in their lives. For them to entrust you with their private and personal matters, they need to feel safe and comfortable in your presence.
You’re guided discussions will allow them to work through all manner of personal challenges and problems. Whether these are related to their mental health, education, career, or development. Generally, counsellors will specialise in just one area, such as addiction & dependency or childhood/developmental trauma. But each can be just as emotionally taxing for you to work with.
That’s why it’s important to make sure this career is right for you before you start your journey to become a counsellor. Find out more about the role and what it entails, plus what it takes to get qualified below.
Is Counselling Right for Me?
As a counsellor, you’ll help people with all kinds of issues, including marital problems, embracing their sexual identity or accepting a physical health condition. Traumatic experiences, addiction and eating disorders are also discussion points that can be covered in counselling sessions.
A big part of this role will also be addressing your client’s mental health concerns. Where you’ll enable them to look at their values, core beliefs and help them explore patterns in their behaviour. This assists them in identifying issues and making changes in their behaviour to achieve some degree of mental wellness. At times, your clients may require additional support to develop the appropriate coping mechanisms. So you’ll need to make referrals to relevant service providers.
Regardless of their reason for seeing you, you’ll listen, encourage and question, so they can process their thoughts and feelings.
The nature of your client’s problems and challenges can be upsetting, confronting and hard to process. But you need to remain professional, non-judgemental or emotional, and supportive at all times.
The role of a counsellor generally attracts people who have a high level of empathy and a strong desire to help other people. It also requires certain traits and skills that enable you to provide the level of counselling that your clients require:
- Offering appropriate advice in ways your clients are comfortable with, for instance, positive reinforcement or being direct and blunt.
- Being sensitive to the needs, feelings and challenges of others.
- Keeping your composure when discussing emotional issues.
- Consistently focusing your full attention on the other people in the room.
- Making clients feel they are immediately of high importance to you, despite having just or recently met.
- Remaining non-judgmental and non-reactive.
- Finding genuine joy in helping other people.
- Having the ability to empathise with and care for other people.
- Possessing a good level of personal awareness and life experience from which you can draw on.
- Putting the welfare of others at the top of your list of priorities.
- Building rapport and trust with ease.
Different Entry Routes You Can Take
Counselling is a protected title, but not in the same way as doctors. Anyone can say they are a ‘counsellor’, but they must be registered to say they are a ‘registered councillor’. As this proves that you’ve satisfied strict educational, practical and ethical standards. Due to this, registered councillors are held in higher regard and can charge more for their services.
So, while counselling doesn’t require a degree, registration with a professional body necessitates a qualification at foundation degree/diploma level.
Some of the ways you can become a counsellor are:
Degrees in counselling or psychotherapy must be approved in order to seek registration as a counsellor. There are courses available at numerous levels, such as foundation, bachelors, masters, postgraduate and advanced diplomas. When looking for degrees, those that include practical skills training and supervised placements will be highly beneficial for employment. You can browse the approved university courses here.
Colleges have many counselling courses that allow you to work towards professional body membership. You can start with the more introductory courses at level 2. Then work your way through the higher levels until you complete a level 5 diploma.
The stages you have to complete are:
- 1 – Level 3 – courses such as Mental Health and Counselling
- 2 – Level 4 – Diploma in Counselling Skills or similar
- 3 – Level 5 – Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling or similar
Each course will have its own entry requirements. Though, generally, you must complete the introductory and Level 3 counselling courses to progress to the higher levels.
There are many benefits to going down the volunteer route first. Not only does it give you a feel for the career, it can help you find the best style to suit your personal beliefs and traits. Often, most charities will provide you with free training in exchange for your volunteer services for a specified period of time. You won’t be able to go into private practice or work as a counsellor in a professional setting from this. But you will gain valuable experience.
Experience is usually a prerequisite for most counselling courses, degrees and job applications. To prove you have developed basic skills for this area which can later be enhanced. In that instance, most aspiring counsellors will pursue voluntary work at some point on their journey. Many counselling bodies often list their volunteering opportunities on Do-it.
Training via Counselling Organisations
To receive accreditation, you’ll also need to undergo counselling yourself and regularly reflect on your practice with a supervisor. Once registered, you will need to complete ongoing Continued Professional Development (CPD) courses. For which you will have to plan, record and reflect on the activities to demonstrate your learning. You’ll also be supervised within practice to enhance your skills. Presenting your client work to the supervisor and openly reflecting on the therapy process.
If you’re considering a career as a counsellor, you can get a feel for what your future could be like through an online course.
Online colleges provide a broad range of counselling courses that allow you to explore the role. You can also gain initial knowledge that you can take into further studies should you wish to pursue it.
What’s more, all these courses can be studied online, at home, around your existing schedule. So, no need to reorganise your work shifts or childcare duties, just log on and learn when it suits.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is the leading UK distance learning provider. With many online counselling courses to help develop your skills and work your way toward professional body membership.
Find out more about the counselling skills you can gain by clicking the link to our courses below.