Counselling is a growing industry and the attendance of counselling and therapy is at last becoming more and more accepted. There has been, and to some extent, there still is a stigma attached with seeking psychological help as though those who engage with such therapies are perceived to be in need or are weak.
In truth, it takes great strength to seek help and it takes courage to make an appointment and see a counsellor. I guess the ignorant will continue in their narrow ways, believing those suffering with anxiety, depression or who are having difficulty in managing their lives should just pull themselves together. I hope the majority have moved on from such archaic beliefs and thought patterns.
With counselling growing, this also means the number of counsellors increase as does the number of people helped by counselling as does the number of people wanting to be counsellors. It is generally accepted that to be a practising counsellor, a minimum of a Diploma in Counselling or it’s equivalent is required. However, as the profession is currently unregulated, there is nothing to legally stop anybody from practising being as a counsellor. Practising without adequate training and education is without doubt unethical and it would be near impossible to become a member of any reputable organisation or be engaged with a supervisor. Regulation is on its way, which provided it is implemented correctly, should be a huge benefit to the profession.
There are 5 key areas to becoming a counsellor –
1- Training, education and qualifications
2- Self Awareness
5- Continued Professional Development
Often the first step is the undertaking of a course such as an introductory programme of up to 12 weeks, or a certificate course or the enrolment of a degree course. If you’re undertaking a course that offers a qualification, it is important that this is accredited by an examining body, by a university or by a large body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). A degree course supersedes a Diploma and a Masters supersedes a Degree. The route to studying a diploma is often after gaining a certificate or sometimes evidence of appropriate experience and training may allow you onto a course.
Different courses are available for different orientations such as Psychodynamic, humanistic, CBT and Integrative.
The majority of Diploma and Degree courses will require the student to undertake a supervised placement. This usually means its required that they seek an organisation where they can practise their preferred model of counselling (usually for 100 to 150 counselling hours) where they attend supervision for 1 hour for very 8 hours of practise to a minimum of 1.5 hours per month. Some courses will be able to recommend organisations that provide placements and others may even provide the placement. In the majority of cases, it is down to the individual to arrange this.
Self Awareness is a key area in becoming a counsellor. It is very important to be self aware as without this, the practitioner may or may not be conscious when the client’s issues touch on their own. Therefore, they may not be conscious that they are treating the client as if it were themselves rather than be able to view the client’s issues as being felt and experienced in a way that’s unique to them.
Often, people training to become a counsellor go through a challenging and invigorating journey as they learn about themselves which can lead to making significant changes.
Supervision is key especially when training as it provides additional support and practical guidance on real cases. Appropriate, regular and ongoing supervision can serve the following purposes –
- To monitor and evaluate to ensure the work provides value to clients and am engaged in CPD
- Support & sharing to promote growth.
- Client protection (from oversights, transference, counter-transference etc..)
- Relief of disturbance, distress and stress.
- A trusting relationship where the counsellor can be open and honest.
- Gaining greater insight into cases
- Ensuring the work is ethical and is within the client’s agenda
Ethics is another paramount area as clients are fundamentally trusting you with their lives. Working to a stringent code of ethics such as the BACP Framework for Ethical Practise is recommended to ensure clients are protected, boundaries are specified, the scope of counselling is clear, confidentiality is defined and that as much is done to ensure that effective therapy can take place. If for example, a client did not feel that the information they are relaying were confidential, it is very unlikely that they would disclose a great deal, which would have a significant impact on the sessions.
Continued Professional Development (CDP) is an important area to ensure that therapists are up to date on current goings-on, continually improve and are refreshed in the therapeutic arena. CPD is not just about attending courses, it can also include reading, use of peer and one to one supervision, research and basically anything that allows learning and progression.
Counselling is a fantastically rewarding job for those who really want to be part of this helping profession and the information stated above should be treated as a guideline to pursuing this vocation.