Looking for a career that is rewarding personally and professionally? And can bring meaning and purpose to your life? Then counselling could be the career move for you.
If you’re researching some options for training to become a counsellor, then you may be curious to know what the process of becoming a counsellor involves. Read on for tips on becoming a counsellor in the UK.
What is the definition of a counsellor?
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) defines counsellors as: ‘Trained professionals who will work with you over a period of time to help you develop a better understanding of yourself and of others. They will listen to you without judgement and work with your emotions without becoming emotional themselves. They won’t tell you what to do but will help you find your own solutions.’
How do I know it’s right for me?
One of the key points here is the time, energy and commitment it can take to become a ‘trained professional’.
You can’t just become non-judgemental and emotionally contained overnight. It can take a while to learn how not to offer solutions to someone who reaches out for help. You’ll need to develop a deeper understanding of yourself before you can accompany other people on their own journey of self-discovery.
The timescale for becoming a counsellor in the UK is at least three years of training. Those three years will involve learning about and putting into practice:
- Theories of human psychology, development and behaviour
- Counselling skills
- Personal development
What are the different stages of training to become a counsellor in the UK?
Introduction to Counselling
If you haven’t yet decided whether counselling is the career option for you, it’s a good idea to try a short, introductory course to counselling.
Here you’ll learn some fundamental principles of what counselling is and isn’t, have the opportunity to learn and practise some basic counselling skills, and gain an understanding of the next steps involved in going forward to do your full counselling training. Introductory courses are usually 20 hours spread weekly or over weekends.
A Foundation Certificate lasts 120 hours, which are usually spread part-time across an academic year. The syllabus for a Foundation Certificate can include:
- An overview of key theories, including humanistic, psychodynamic and CBT modalities, and how they work in practice.
- Personal and professional development activities.
- An introduction to counselling skills.
- The chance to practise counselling skills regularly with peers on the course.
- A focus on developing interpersonal skills and building relationships.
- Awareness of professional practice guidelines, including ethics and boundaries.
A Foundation Certificate in Counselling is also helpful for people who work in managerial professions or where they are involved in helping others. Those who want to improve their communication and interpersonal relationships but who don’t necessarily want to become professional counsellors.
The taught elements of a Diploma in Counselling generally cover 450 hours across two years. The number of hours and years maybe longer if you choose to take a BA or MA course, for example. What’s crucial at this stage of training is that the course must equip you with the theoretical knowledge, therapeutic standards, and personal and professional awareness to qualify as a counselling practitioner. Diploma courses will offer:
- A clear philosophy and rationale of counselling around which the course is based. This can vary whether the training focuses on, for example, a humanistic, psychodynamic or integrative approach.
- An understanding in breadth and depth of core theories and how they apply to practice.
- A thorough understanding of what it means to be an ethical practitioner, usually with reference to the ethical framework of a professional body – for example, BACP.
- An overview and understanding of the cultural and legal contexts within which counsellors work, and what the implications are for practice.
- An understanding of the spectrum of mental health issues and how they are diagnosed and treated/medicated.
- A requirement for core reading, including traditional texts and contemporary research around evidence-based practice.
- Regular opportunities to practise and improve counselling skills, and to develop the competences to be a self-reflective practitioner.
- Regular opportunities to develop personal and professional awareness through experiential/process groups and discussion.
- Monitoring of clinical practice through supervision and tutor feedback.
- Assessment of your learning through a series of marked assignments.
What else is required?
In addition to the taught training elements of becoming a counsellor, you will also need to carry out a clinical placement. A placement involves working voluntarily with clients in an agency, charity or NHS setting. A placement requires you to have clinical supervision to oversee your client caseload. Course requirements can vary. You are likely to complete between 100 and 200 hours of supervised clinical practice for you to qualify.
It’s also highly recommended that you have your own personal therapy during the period of your training, though this may not be a requirement of your course. During the training, there are likely to be personal issues that emerge, and it’s important to work through them to develop your ability to separate yourself from your clients’ material. It is also illuminating to experience what it’s like to be a client yourself.
By the end of your training, you should be able to apply theory to your practice, be able to articulate and practise the model of counselling you have chosen, be clear on boundaries and professional requirements, and have developed personally to work with the issues clients will bring you.
If you have any questions about what’s involved in training to become a counsellor in the UK, do get in touch with us on [email protected]