Our guide to counselling
Kristina K

Our guide to counselling

First published date August 23 2013 Amended date September 16 2014

Working as a counsellor is rewarding. You may have only started dabbling with the idea of being a counsellor, have already set your mind on taking a counselling course, or already work in situations that require some counselling skills – our comprehensive list of counselling courses are suitable for different levels and capabilities.

Although there are currently no laws in the UK regarding counselling qualifications, it’s recommended that in order to practice, counsellors have to complete at least an appropriate diploma or complete a counselling course with a minimum of 400 hours of therapy training. There’s no legal obligation to become a member of a professional body, but if you choose to do so, some of our counselling courses are accredited by professional bodies like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).    


Counselling is not Jeremy Kyle!

Don’t be put off from studying or carving a career in counselling just because you associate it with Jeremy Kyle! Jeremy Kyle’s loud barks of advice to helpless guests are far from what professional counsellors do. Unlike him, you’ll be calm and non-expletive (or even explosive!), non-judgemental, professionally competent and trained, good with nonverbal cues like nodding rather than pointing and most importantly, possess a wholesome philosophy.


Have you got what it takes?

There are many job opportunities in counselling and depending on your area of interest, you can choose to work with children, people with special behavioural needs, specialise in advice and guidance counselling, or focus on psychology or hypnotherapy. The workplace of a counsellor can range depending on the demographic you specialise in. Some may be employed in colleges and universities as teachers and supervisors, whilst others are in independent practices providing counselling, psychotherapy, assessment and consultation services to people. 

To be a successful counsellor, you’ll not only need a strong foundation in counselling with different techniques, you’ll also need to relate to people from various backgrounds, with a conscious effort to keep yourself mentally healthy.

Courses are in place to help counsellors deal with emotional issues that they’ll encounter during counselling sessions, understand hidden dynamics in counselling relationships, explore Gestalt and psychodynamic counselling, assist with setting up counselling practices and also learn to understand clients who hail from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.


Counselling routes

Whether you opt to be a volunteer or to counsel professionally, there are various qualifications to choose from. There are vocational qualifications that combine workplace learning and academic study, designed to meet the requirements of employers. This will involve work placements under clinical supervision. You will be expected to have a membership on a body of the Professional Standards Authority's Counselling Register.


What will you learn?

On most counselling courses, you’ll develop the confidence to deal with complex emotional problems. You’ll learn to be an active listener and be trained to avoid prejudices or stereotyping when analysing situations. Your role will include empowering clients. Some of the areas you’ll cover are counselling theories, therapeutic play skills, relationship building, ethical practices, person-centred and existential methodologies and creative interventions.


Tips to help you as a counsellor

If you’re worried that counselling rape victims, abused spouses or traumatised people might prove overwhelming and spill into your personal life, then some of these top tips that we’ve put together will give you an idea of how counsellors detach themselves.

-          Recognising limitations

Inexperienced counsellors can fall into the trap of feeling solely responsible for their client’s progress. Counsellors are not fairy godmothers/fathers and it’s important to bear in mind that their job is to assist clients through options, hurdles, set goals and formulate action plans.

-          Drawing the line

It’s essential to have a critical perspective towards the counsellor-client relationship in order to avoid emotional burnout, misjudgement and unproductive distribution of power. Whilst empathy is a good quality to have, over-compensating it will hinder counselling sessions.

-          Putting a stop to seduction attempts

Because counsellors listen and gain the victims’ trust, many clients end up falling in love with their counsellors. As such, counsellors will have to deal with confused, misdirected feelings.

-          Establishing a strong support of network

Many counsellors who are exposed to violence and cruelty when working with survivors, experience trauma symptoms like disturbing dreams, floating anxiety and difficulties in personal relationships. This is detrimental and similar to posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. It’s important to always talk to colleagues.

-          Words of wisdom

A professional counsellor advises: ‘Don't be afraid to bring what's yours into the room, but use your own self awareness to separate what belongs to you and what belongs to the client. When you get to work,  imagine a box just outside the therapy room, then put everything that's yours into it, and when the session is finished, pick it all up again.’



Similar Subjects