What is a Counsellor?
As a counsellor, you will be responsible for helping your clients through a wide range of emotional and psychological difficulties. You will help them reflect on their experiences and bring about effective change to enhance their well-being.
In this job role, you’ll actively listen to clients, offering them time, empathy and respect to talk about particular issues and problems, with the aim of reducing confusion and increasing their ability to cope with challenges or to make positive changes to their lives.
Sessions with clients can cover a range of issues, such as:
- Divorce or relationship difficulties
- Unemployment or job uncertainty
- General anxiety
All counsellors need to take an impartial and non-judgemental position, providing clients with a safe space to feel confident and comfortable talking about their problems. The purpose isn’t to give advice, it’s to guide clients in a certain direction to help them overcome their challenges and see things in a different light.
- Establish a relationship of trust and respect with clients
- Agree a counselling contract to determine what will be covered in sessions (including confidentiality issues)
- Encourage clients to talk about issues they feel they cannot normally share with others
- Actively listen to client concerns and empathise with their position
- Accept without bias the issues raised by clients
- Help clients towards a deeper understanding of their concerns
- Challenge any inconsistencies in what clients say or do
- Support clients to make decisions and choices regarding possible ways forward
- Refer clients to other sources of help, as appropriate
- Attend supervision and training courses
- Undertake personal therapy (mandatory for accreditation)
- Liaise, as necessary, with other agencies and individuals, such as GPs, hospitals and community mental health teams, to help make changes based on the issues raised by clients
- Work to agreed targets in relation to client contact
- Undertake group as well as individual therapy on occasions
- Keep records and use reporting tools.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a counsellor is £30,239.
- Starting salaries for counsellors vary, but you can expect to earn between £20,000 to £26,000.
- Once you become more experienced, your salary can increase from around £30,000 to £40,000.
- If you are working for the NHS there are set pay rates. Jobs will be advertised at band 5, 6 or 7 – which band you fall into will be based on your experience.
- For private work, you will set your own prices. The typical rate will be between £40 and £80 for an hour-long session.
While you can expect to work normal working hours between 9am to 5pm, you may be required to work additional hours, evenings and weekends to fit around your client’s schedules.
What to expect
- You’ll provide face-to-face counselling, as well as telephone and online counselling. Settings can include hospitals and GP surgeries, schools, colleges and universities, charities and addiction organisations, and in the workplace.
- Counselling is often undertaken on a one-to-one basis, but it can also involve work with couples, families or groups.
- Counselling can take place over 6 to 12 sessions or for a longer period, lasting months or over a year, depending on the needs of the client. Sessions typically last around 50 minutes.
- With experience, there is scope for self-employment in private practice and freelance work. Many counsellors have a portfolio career combining part-time, voluntary and private work.
- You’ll need a good support framework as the work can be emotionally demanding. Professional supervision is essential to help counsellors work through any difficulties they experience.
There is no compulsory training required to become a counsellor however, there is an expectation that you will have undertaken professional training and be a registered counsellor with a professional body – this shows that you meet certain standards and follow a code of ethics.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) recommends a three-stage training route, comprising the following:
- Introduction to counselling – provides basic counselling skills and an overview of training before committing to a full counselling course. Courses typically last 8 to 12 weeks and are available at further education (FE) colleges or adult education centres. These courses are a good way of helping you to decide if counselling is right for you.
- Certificate in counselling skills – a deeper theoretical understanding of counselling, develops your counselling skills and prepares you for the core training at the next stage. Courses typically last one year part-time at FE colleges.
- Core practitioner training – equips you with the skills, knowledge and competence to work as a counsellor. The minimum level of training at this stage should be a Level 4 Diploma, but can also be a foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate degree. Training must adhere to internationally recognised standards of quality and cover reflective, competent and ethical practice. Courses should be at least one-year full-time or two years part-time, with a minimum of 100 hours in supervised placements.
must have skills:
- Self-awareness, sensitivity and empathy
- Excellent observation and listening skills
- A broad-minded, non-judgemental attitude and a respect for others
- An understanding of your own attitudes, limitations and responses
- The ability to work well and think clearly under pressure
- Verbal and written communication and presentations skills
- An ability to establish rapport with people from all backgrounds and to gain their trust
- Time management skills
- The ability to work well as part of a multidisciplinary team
- Common sense
- An understanding of the importance of confidentiality and also an awareness of its limitations
- Personal integrity
- A belief in people’s inherent ability to change and develop
- A sense of humour and an energetic and positive approach
- An understanding of equality and diversity issues.
Counselling is usually a career that people choose later on in life after gaining experience in related fields such as nursing, social work, mental health or teaching. You will also have had previous experience working with clients. You can gain voluntary experience with basic counselling training which will be valuable later on in your career when seeking paid work.
- Schools, further education colleges, universities and higher education colleges
- Statutory and voluntary sector care agencies working with people with disabilities or on specific issues such as substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual health, sexual assault and domestic violence, mental health, adoption, bereavement, rehabilitation of offenders, family relationships and homelessness
- Health sector settings including hospitals, oncology, genetics, general practices, community healthcare, mental and occupational health teams
- Youth services and agencies
- Children’s centres
- Citizens Advice services
- Human resource departments of larger employers
- General counselling services
- Specialised telephone helplines
- Churches and other faith-based organisations.
On completion of your training (which is accredited by one of the main professional bodies) and having met all requirements, you will have access to their membership benefits. As you gain experience, knowledge and skills you can progress through the different membership benefit levels.
While the majority of counselling opportunities are voluntary, paid counselling opportunities are becoming less rare.
You may choose to go private and specialise in a certain area such as:
- Children and young people
- Family therapy
- Mental health
- Sexual health
- Sexual violence
- Substance abuse.
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.