Counsellors work with people during periods of personal development, as well as in times of crisis or distress. They provide time and attention, together with a safe environment, which enables the client to explore their problems from different perspectives. It is the counsellor's role to help clients bring about change, whilst respecting their clients' values and capacity to find their own solutions.
Some counsellors choose to work with a wide variety of clients, with a range of problems and issues, whilst others prefer to specialise in a type of issue such as relationship difficulties, substance abuse, or the concerns facing a particular age group.
There are a number of methods of counselling including cognitive, behavioural, humanistic and person-centred. Most counselling courses start from a theoretical position, which underlies the counselling skills and methods taught.
Counselling is often embarked upon as a second career; the most obvious occupations that act as a first stage to a career in counselling include teaching, social work, human resources, nursing and medicine.
Counsellors normally work between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, seeing a number of clients each day. Some counsellors also work in the evening and at weekends. Part-time hours are widely available.
Counsellors work indoors in quiet surroundings, in schools, colleges, GP surgeries, hospitals and advice centres. Some work may be carried out over the telephone or internet. Self-employed counsellors may work in an office or from their own home.
As a counsellor, you should:
There are opportunities for part-time or voluntary work with a range of organisations, such as Alcohol Concern, the Samaritans, RELATE, Cruse, and Mind. Many voluntary organisations have their own training programmes.
Full-time work maybe available with local education authorities, colleges and universities, organisations for people with disabilities, youth work organisations, the Health Service and agencies connected with alcohol, drugs and AIDS. Others work in large companies, which is a growing area, and in private practice.
The number of opportunities is increasing, but there is still fierce competition for full-time posts. It is common for employers to require you to be accredited by a professional body.
There is no formal promotion structure, although as an experienced counsellor you may be able to move into management, administration or training. You may be able to set up in private practice and work from home or your own office.
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