What is a Counselling Psychologist?
As a counselling psychologist, you will work with a number of clients to mentor them, offer advice and provide professional help to improve their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
You will have learned physiological theory and research in therapeutic work, to be able to assist your clients through difficult periods of their life. The age of your clients will range from young children to adults, families and couples.
- Domestic violence
- Relationship difficulties
- Sexual abuse
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
It’s important that you work with your client in a holistic and insightful manner in order to help them open up which will incite change and encourage recovery or repair. Practising as a counselling psychologist requires a high level of training and also self-awareness, which is achieved through personal therapy.
- Education and research
- Health and care services
- Prisons and probation services
- Private practice.
As a counselling psychologist, you’ll need to:
- Undertake assessments, including assessment of mental health needs, risk assessment and psychometric testing.
- Establish a collaborative working relationship with the client based on trust and respect.
- Formulate a psychological explanation of the client’s issues, exploring their experiences and how they think, how they behave and relate to others, and how they carry out their everyday lives.
- Plan and implement specialist psychological treatments to help clients to understand their feelings/behaviour.
- Empower clients to address their issues, take control of them and make positive changes to their behaviour.
- Monitor and evaluate the outcome of treatments.
- Collaborate with – and provide advice to – colleagues, the broader multidisciplinary team and referrers in the planning of treatment and provision of services to meet the client’s needs.
- Communicate complex, technical and/or clinically sensitive information clearly, both orally and in writing, to clients, their families and carers
- Contribute to research, service evaluation and audit, either individually or as part of a team.
- Receive regular clinical and professional supervision from a more senior psychologist.
- Carry out continuing personal and professional development to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.
With experience, you may also need to:
- Train and mentor trainee psychologists
- Provide clinical and professional supervision for trainees and more junior psychologists
- Manage a team including other psychologists, assistant psychologists and other health staff
- Manage, audit and develop counselling psychology services.
Training counselling psychologists will usually train within the NHS and will earn a starting salary between £32,000 to £39,000.
Once qualified, your salary can increase to between £40,000 to £45,000. Senior psychologists can expect to earn between £47,000 and £53,000
Those who are experts in the field and are in a principal or consultant role can earn up to £90,000+. Most counselling psychologists work in private practice, commerce or industry but will earn a similar salary to those working in the public sector. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a counselling psychologist is £42,267.
You should expect typical working hours of Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm if working in the NHS. However, most counselling psychologists are self-employed therefore you can dictate your own hours – but this will also have to work around your clients which may require you to work evenings or weekends. Opportunities for part-time work, career breaks and job-sharing are common.
What to expect
- You’ll usually work as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes other health service workers such as psychiatrists, occupational therapists, community psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists, wellbeing practitioners and social workers.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK. More varied opportunities may be available in larger cities. Some health authorities prioritise psychological therapy, making more jobs available.
- The work can be challenging as it involves contact with many different types of people who are often distressed but can also be rewarding.
- If you work for more than one employer or are self-employed, you may need to travel locally to meet clients.
There are a number of qualifications you will need to be able to practise as a counselling psychologist in the UK. Firstly, you will need to be registered with the Health and Care Professional Council, which involves training at postgraduate level. You will need to have completed a psychology degree or conversion course accredited by The British Psychological Society and then you can get your Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership which allows you to commence your official training.
You’ll then need to complete either a BPS-accredited Doctorate in Counselling Psychology or the BPS Qualification in Counselling Psychology, which is the independent route to training as a counselling psychologist. You will need to have achieved a high degree usually a 2:1 or higher and have relevant work experience under your belt. You will also need to show you have research skills and basic counselling/therapeutic training to get a place on an accredited Doctorat course.
Once you have completed your Doctorate in Counselling Psychology you will be able to qualify as a member of the BPS. You’ll also be eligible for entry onto the HCPC register, which entitles you to use the title of a counselling psychologist.
must have skills:
- Interpersonal and psychotherapeutic skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Counselling skills
- An open-minded and sensitive approach when dealing with clients
- The ability to explore emotional issues with clients
- A healthy curiosity and research-minded approach to work
- Analytical skills
- The ability to work as part of a team
- The capacity to look at how and why things are working, or not, with clients
- Independence and self-motivation
- Self-awareness, self-knowledge, security and self-belief
- The capability of working under pressure
- Time management skills to be able to manage a caseload
- IT skills
- Understanding of cultural and religious diversity.
You will usually need one year of industry experience in mental health or counselling role in order to find employment. These can be roles such as an assistant psychologist, psychological wellbeing practitioner, health or social care support worker or counsellor. These need to be face-to-face roles to show that you can deal with these different situations and people from all walks of life. You should also consider networking and building up your list of contacts within the industry.
Many counselling psychologists provide clinical services in health and social care settings. Employers include:
- NHS general hospitals (in areas such as acute admissions, psychiatric care and rehabilitation) and psychiatric hospitals
- Private hospitals
- Health centres
- GP surgeries
- Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services
- Specialist child and family services, such as Child and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS) and community mental health teams.
You can choose to be self-employed or in a group practice. You may also find employment as an organisational consultant in the public or private sector – these roles will often involve training, development or conflict resolution.
Continuous development will be crucial to your career. It will also be necessary to retain your HCPC registration and membership of the BPS. You will often have a supervisor or mentor who will assist you with your professional development and guide you along the right path. They will be there for advice when you need it. Further study and professional development activities is encouraged, these will include:
- Post-qualification courses, which help to develop your knowledge of different theoretical approaches
- Professional supervision
- Lecturing, teaching or giving presentations
- Attending workshops or conferences
- Topical research, writing articles or papers
- Mentoring, supervising or assessing trainees
- Development of expertise with a particular client group.
Clearly defined career paths are available with certain employers including the: Civil Service. Her Majesty's Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS)Local authorities NHS.
If you are committed to gaining the right combination of skills and experience, you can progress fairly quickly taking on more responsibility as your work through the grades. You may also want to consider specialising in a certain area or certain demographic.
If you fancy learning about the inner workings of the mind and human behaviour, the UWS’s BSc Psychology degree is for you. You’ll study the human mind and associated behaviour and develop key skills in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data – which will allow you to apply your knowledge in research and investigation processes to solve problems in real-world settings. UWS’s BSc Psychology programme is accredited by the British Psychological Society, which provides the basis for Graduate Registration.
Study the human mind and behaviour in this professionally accredited Masters’s programme – your first step toward becoming a chartered psychologist. This programme is designed for graduates with an Honours degree in a discipline other than psychology – or a non-accredited psychology Honours degree who wish to specialise in psychology.