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Counsellor

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Job Description

Counsellors spend time listening and talking to people with issues and problems which could be caused by a relationship breakdown, the death of a loved one or difficulties dealing with everyday life. They will build a trusting, respectful and confidential relationship with their client and encourage them to talk about their feelings which will enable them to see things more clearly or from a different perspective. Counselling is not about giving advice or opinions nor is it a friendly chat with a friend.  The therapist will help their client to understand themselves better in order to find their own solutions and cope with their situation.

Therapists may work with individuals, couples, families or other groups of people and sessions could be provided face-to-face or over the telephone.  Counsellors are required in a variety of settings such as schools/colleges/universities, hospitals, addiction agencies, support groups, GP surgeries and in the workplace.

For further information go to  BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy)

Entry Requirements

You can get into this job through:

College

You could do a relevant course such as Health and Social Care or Sociology to get a wider knowledge before specialising.

You will usually need 4 or 5 GCSEs (including Maths and English) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) , or equivalent, for a level 3 course and a clear DBS Check.

The following local colleges offer courses in Health and Social Care:

Or your local 6th form may offer a relevant course.

You can start by doing an introduction to counselling course, which can last up to 12 weeks. After that, you can extend your training by completing courses like:

  • Level 3 Certificate in Counselling
  • Level 4 Diploma in Counselling Skills
  • Level 5 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling

Colleges will set their own entry requirements but most will expect you to have completed the introductory and Level 3 counselling courses to go further. Entry requirements for these courses vary.

University

You could do a diploma, degree or postgraduate course in counselling or psychotherapy.

Some undergraduate courses offer counselling in combination with other subjects, for example psychology, sociology or criminology.

You should look for a course that includes practical skills training and supervised placements. You can search for courses through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course

Click here to search for a suitable course.

Other routes

Some counselling organisations, like Relate and Cruse offer training, which can give you valuable experience to help you get into paid work.

Career Tips

Paid or unpaid experience is essential for course and job applications. Many counselling bodies offer volunteering opportunities and you can find these on Do-it.

You'll be expected to undergo therapy yourself and regularly reflect on your practice with a supervisor, as this is needed for accreditation.

Counselling is often a second or third career, and life experience is highly valued.

You'll need background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)if you work with people under 18, or with vulnerable adults.

Becoming a member of a body on the Professional Standards Authority's counselling register can improve your chances of getting a job.

You can find out more about careers in counselling from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Career Path and Progression

Competition for full-time paid work is strong and many counsellors do a mixture of part-time, voluntary and private work.

You may be able to move into management, administration, supervision or training.

Related careers you may be interested in:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Family support worker
  • Life coach
  • Cognitive behavioural therapist
  • Primary care graduate mental health worker

Required Skills

  • Excellent communication and listening skills
  • The ability to inspire trust and make people feel relaxed,
  • Patience, tolerance and sensitivity
  • A non-judgemental attitude
  • Awareness of confidentiality issues
  • Able to deal with people from all backgrounds

Salary Range

£19,000 to £47,000

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