How to become a Counsellor
the steps you need to take
How do I become a Counsellor?
The route to becoming a counsellor or having a career in counselling/therapy can be a little confusing. There can be a lot of jargon and lack of clear, streamlined advice: Do you need a PhD, master’s degree or diploma? Should you generalise or specialise?
There are five main established paths into a counselling based career. Ordering them from the least time it takes to qualify to the most, they are: counselling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), clinical or counselling psychology, and psychiatry.
Dunamis Therapy Hub is a college that trains people to become counsellors.
Step 1 – Research
The first step towards becoming a professional counsellor is to undertake an introductory course or talk to a careers adviser. Our “come and see” days will help you to find out what is involved in becoming a counsellor. Our next “come and see” day is: Contact us to find out when.
Book onto the day using our contact form and let us know that you’d like to attend. We will then provide you with the zoom details. Please be aware that places on our Diploma course are already booking up so please contact as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
You may wish to undertake additional online research to find out about the various theories that underpin different college certificates and diplomas. There are numerous counselling theories, and all courses should list their theoretical approach in advance. We teach Humanistic Creative Counselling, a mixture of Person Centred Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Creative Therapies and explore Existential ideas. You can read more about the different types of therapies here.
Once trained, you become a counsellor of your chosen approach. This has an impact on your style of counselling and the way you work with clients.
You should also consider what type of counsellor you might like to be.
There are many careers where counselling qualifications are valuable or essential. You may want to work in private practice, social work, become an education therapist, or a bereavement counsellor. Perhaps becoming a family counsellor is your dream or a rehabilitation therapist is more for you? There is more information about some of these counselling career options towards the bottom of this page.
Counselling qualifications can lead to many worthwhile careers with strong benefits to the community that you live in. Finding out how to become a counsellor could end up being a key milestone in yours and others’ lives.
Step 2 – Undertake a 60 hours certificate
The next step is to attend a 60 hour certificate level training course or talk to a college to assess your prior learning. We recommend undertaking a 60 hour course. This will ensure that you understand the rigors of the training. Most colleges run this course over a year, however here at Dunamis we run this as a shorter, more intensive course. As a result it is possible for students to undertake the certificate course in June, pass, and then enrol on the Diploma course. The diploma course is a 5 terms course that starts in September. To find out more about our 60 hour certificate in counselling skills course visit here.
A career in counselling is one that offers many opportunities for helping members of your community and “giving back”. However, when you start down the road of education it’s a good idea to have already considered your end speciality. Do you want to be a couples counsellor? or work with children? perhaps you have personal experience of substance abuse and want to support others away from addiction troubles? Maybe you’ve experienced depression, trauma, or an other mental health issues and have a desire to help?
Research into the possibilities or talk to our tutors at a “come and see” day to explore the possibilities further.
Having completed your 60 hour certificate level in counselling you are now ready to move on towards a diploma which may lead to professional practice.
Step 3 – Diploma Course
The diploma course must involve in-depth training and should reach standards recognised by the BACP. This should include ethical practice, in depth knowledge of psychological theories and their application, research and skills base training.
A diploma in counselling will typically involve a minimum of 450 direct taught hours plus some written work, supervised trainee placement of 150 hours, personal therapy hours and an end of course examination.
The diploma course you choose will be based on a variety of core models and you may wish to speak to the college about their philosophy underpinning their views on helping people. During the diploma you will be required to under take placement practice of 100 hours, personal counselling and independent study.
The diploma course you undertake does not have to be BACP accredited in order for you to become a professional therapist however, if it is not you will need to take the BACP Certificate of Proficiency to join the register. At Dunamis we will support you to do this.
Who is eligible for the Dunamis Diploma?
- Those who have completed a 60 hour counselling skills certificate
- Anyone who wishes to become a Fully Qualified Counsellor.
- Those that are already within the field of Counselling & wish to update their skills.
- Those that are already a therapist and wish to add Counselling to the existing skills
- You DO NOT need a degree to study to be a counsellor/psychotherapist though having one may be advantageous.
- A good level of English and numeracy is essential. You must be able to understand and clearly communicate in English.
- You will need to pass a pre-course interview before being accepted onto the course.
Why does the diploma major in morality and ethics?
We believe that everyone’s morality informs their ethical decision making. It is not our aim that everyone should think alike but we believe that thinking deeply about our values and morality helps guide people in their ethical stance. Dunamis trained therapists recognise that their ethics inform every aspect of their work. We believe it is critical that counsellors must have a clear rationale for their interventions and the values that guide their practice.
Counselling Career Options
Marriage Guidance and Family Counsellor
Family counselling can help with a range of complex issues. Marriage problems, sibling rivalries, divorce, separations, money problems, blending families etc.
As a counsellor you should provide confidential and non-judgemental support, and encourage everyone who comes to the family sessions to have their say and to share their feelings, if they wish.
In the first session you will determine the issue/s that the family members want to work on and explain how the sessions will work.
Some of the common issues that counsellors can face when working with families can include:
- Maintaining respectful and healthy dynamics between family members when talking about emotionally charged issues
- Overlooking physical or medical issues
- Wanting to rescue clients from their unhappiness
- Getting too emotionally involved
- Having safeguarding concerns and acting on them appropriately
School and Career Counsellor
Working with young people can be particularly rewarding for some.
School Counsellor must be familiar in working with a diverse range of issues, including but not limited to bereavement and loss, transition, eating disorders and self-harm, depression, anger-management and erratic behaviour, abuse of any kind, anxiety and fears.
You should also be aware of national policies, codes of practice and ethics and maintain relevant career professional development. You might be expected to deliver workshops to pupils, staff and even parents on relevant issues such as anxiety, stress, resilience and mindfulness.
Typically to get a job as a school counsellor you would be expected to have at least two years experience of working with young people. You would also hold a recognised counselling qualification to at least diploma level and with a minimum of two years’ duration as a member of BACP British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy or NCS (National Counselling Society)
Mental health psychotherapist
Psychotherapy is slightly different to counselling. It involves a post-graduate qualification, though your first degree does not have to be in a related field.
The training is more academically rooted and can take up to five years, or more, to complete and will lead to at least a master’s degree.
As with counselling, there are different practices that reflect the different theories. The main difference between a counsellor and psychotherapist is in the academic training.
Psychotherapists and counsellors can both work with people with a range of mental health issues, to help address them. Issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders are often the focus of the work.
Maybe a career as a Marriage Guidance Counsellor is right for you?
1 in 3 people are addicted to something according to the charity Action on Addiction,
Addiction can be defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something. Usually to the point where it could be considered harmful.
Addiction is most commonly associated with drugs, alcohol, nicotine, gambling, but it’s possible to be addicted to just about anything.
In some cases, the harm of an addiction may only be recognised when the individual in question experiences a crisis – hits “rock bottom”. This may be as a result of a major life event or when the addictive substance or behaviour is suddenly unavailable. Often this is what motivates someone to seek help.
Often addiction counsellors have had first hand experience of addiction. You may be familiar with 12 step programmes or other therapeutic approaches.
An addiction counsellor will typically be expected to hold a diploma in counselling and be registered with the BACP or NCS. Addiction counsellors in most case will:
- Deliver 1:1 Counselling/Psychotherapy under an addiction/recovery framework
- Hold a 1:1 caseload of clients
- Carry out comprehensive assessments upon meeting a new client
- Complete all related admin within a couple of days of face to face client work
- Attend regular clinical supervision
There are many other career options where counselling qualifications would be beneficial. You can talk to our tutors about other opportunities and discover what might suit you.
What is the BACP?
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is the professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK.
Counselling changes not just the lives of individuals, but of families and communities.
Our desire for social justice determines everything we do and guides our relationship with our members and the public, as well as commissioners and government. It’s why we champion the counselling professions as a viable, and increasingly evidence-based choice for people. We know counselling works.
Click here for further information about the BACP’s work, charitable objectives and current strategy.
We are an East Sussex based counselling college offering high quality training in creative counselling therapy. The college is run by tutors with collective private practice experience of over 60 years and tutoring experience of more than 30 years. You can read more about us here.