|Career Profile - Counsellor|
|Written by Careers Advice|
|Friday, 10 October 2008|
What is the work like?
As a counsellor, you would provide people with time, attention and a safe, confidential environment to help them explore their feelings. You would not give advice, but would encourage your clients to look at their options and find their own solutions for positive change. This could be for many reasons, including relationship difficulties, bereavement, or wanting to improve the way they deal with everyday life.
You would tend to use one particular theoretical approach to counselling, such as person-centred, humanistic or psychodynamic. You might work with clients with a wide range of issues, or specialise in an area such as eating disorders or addiction.
In most areas of counselling, you would:
* build a relationship of trust and respect with clients
* agree a 'counselling contract' to establish what will be covered in sessions
* encourage clients to talk about the feelings that have made them seek counselling
* listen carefully, ask questions and clarify your understanding of the client’s situation
* empathise with the client’s issues, but challenge them when necessary
* help clients to see things more clearly or from different perspectives
* refer clients to other sources of help if appropriate
* attend regular supervision and counselling sessions
* keep confidential records.
In most cases you would counsel clients face-to-face on a one-to-one basis, but you could also work with couples, families or groups, or counsel people over the phone or internet.
What qualifications and experience will employers look for?
You could come to counselling from many different backgrounds. Counselling is often a second or third career, and life experience is highly valued.
Although there are no laws about the training and regulation of counsellors at present, most employers will prefer you to have or be working towards accreditation with a professional body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
The BACP recommends that in order to practise as a counsellor, you should complete the following stages of training:
* an introductory short ‘taster’ course – a part-time 10- or 12-week course that outlines the basic ideas and skills behind counselling
* a certificate in counselling skills – a one-year part-time course covering an introduction to counselling theories and ethics, practical counselling skills and self-awareness (this course is also useful if you do not plan to become a fully-trained counsellor but you use some counselling skills in a job where you advise or help people)
* a diploma or advanced diploma in counselling – an in-depth study of counselling theory and ethics, plus a supervised practice placement (at least 400 hours' study over two- or three-years part-time or one-year full-time).
Many local colleges offer introductory courses and certificate courses from various awarding bodies, including Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB), City & Guilds, Edexcel (BTEC) and ABC. You can search for diplomas recognised by the BACP on their website.
You will almost always need to have taken the counselling skills certificate course before you can get onto a diploma. For some diplomas you may also need a degree or equivalent, so you should always check entry requirements carefully. You will also need to arrange a counselling placement (your course provider may be able to help you with this).
Some charities recruit and train their own volunteer counsellors, although you may still find it useful to take a counselling skills course before you apply. You may have to commit to volunteering with the charity for a set period of time in return for your training. You can find details of local volunteer counselling opportunities from Do-it.org.
To become a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, you need to complete a psychology degree approved by the British Psychological Society (BPS), followed by a BPS-approved postgraduate training programme in counselling psychology.
What further training and development can I do?
It will help your career to work towards individual accreditation with a professional body such as the BACP or UKCP.
You would have to satisfy strict rules on training, practice and ethics to gain professional recognition. For example, for the BACP's Individual Counsellor Accreditation scheme you would need to have completed at least:
* 450 hours of formal training (on a BACP-accredited diploma or other substantial counselling course), and
* 450 hours of supervised practice with clients (150 hours of this must have been achieved after your diploma).
Contact individual organisations for full details of their eligibility rules.
It is also important for you to have ongoing supervision with a registered counselling supervisor. This protects your clients and your own wellbeing as a counsellor.
As a practising counsellor, you should continue to develop your skills throughout your career. You can do this through taking courses and workshops in different theoretical approaches, or in particular issues or client groups. With experience, you could also choose to train as a counselling supervisor or trainer.
What salary and other benefits can I expect?
* Starting salaries are generally between £19,000 and £26,000 a year.
* With supervisory responsibilities, earnings can reach £30,000 to £40,000 a year.
* Counsellors in private practice typically charge £30 to £50 an hour.
Many counsellors are volunteers, so unpaid work is also common. Figures are intended as a guideline only.
What are the hours and working conditions?
In many full-time jobs you would work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with around 20 hours of client contact a week. In other cases you would need to work some evenings and weekends to accommodate working clients. Part-time work is very common, with around 75% of counsellors working part-time.
You could work in various settings such as schools, colleges, GP surgeries, hospitals or advice centres. In private practice, you could work from your own home or an office base.
What skills and knowledge will I need?
* the ability to build trust and put people at ease
* strong communication skills, including active listening
* the ability to challenge clients in a positive way
* patience, tolerance, and sensitivity
* empathy and a non-judgmental attitude
* the ability to work with people from all backgrounds
* an awareness of issues surrounding confidentiality
* self-awareness and the ability to examine your own thoughts and values
* a good sense of personal integrity and ethics.
What opportunities are there?
You can find voluntary, part-time and full-time opportunities in a wide range of settings in education, health services, youth agencies, and voluntary sector organisations such as the Samaritans, RELATE, Cruse Bereavement Care and many others.
Opportunities are also growing for counselling services in the workplace. You could also see clients in private practice. Competition for full-time paid work is strong, and many counsellors do a mixture of part-time, voluntary and private work.
With experience, you may be able to move into management, administration, supervision or training. Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, and to BACP members on their website.
Where can I go for more information?
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
35-37 Albert Street
Tel: 0870 443 5252
Skills for Health
Tel: 0117 922 1155
Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150850
United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
2nd Floor Edward House
2 Wakley Street
Tel: 020 7014 9955
Confederation of Scottish Counselling Agencies (COSCA)
18 Viewfield Street
Tel: 01786 475140
If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning adviser , call 0800 100 900 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/careersadvice