Counsellors help people discuss their problems and feelings in a confidential environment.
1. Entry requirements
There are no set requirements but most employers would expect you to have membership of a body on the Professional Standards Authority's counselling register.
You may need to do further study or placement work to gain membership. For professional accreditation you'll have to meet strict rules on training, practice, ethics and length of experience.
You may be able to get into this job through volunteering.
You'll need background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if you work with people under 18, or with vulnerable adults.
2. Skills required
- the ability to build trust and make people feel safe
- the ability to speak, listen and observe without judging
- IT and report-writing skills
- the ability to see the impact of your own thoughts and values on your work
- time-management skills
3. What you'll do
You may work in the NHS, education, youth services or charities. There are also opportunities for counselling in the workplace, or for self-employment.
Your day-to-day tasks may include:
- building a relationship of trust and respect
- agreeing what will be covered in sessions
- helping clients to talk about their concerns
- listening carefully, asking questions and checking your understanding
- empathising but challenging when necessary
- helping clients to see things more clearly or differently
- undergoing therapy yourself (needed for accreditation) and meeting your supervisor
- keeping confidential records
In most cases you'll counsel clients on their own, face-to-face, but you may also work with couples, families or groups, or counsel over the phone or internet.
Starter: £19,000 to £28,000
Highly Experienced: £47,000
Counsellors in private practice typically charge £30 to £60 an hour. Many counsellors are volunteers, so unpaid work is also common.
These figures are a guide.
5. Working hours, patterns and environment
In many full-time jobs you'll work standard office hours, Monday to Friday, seeing clients for around 20 hours a week. Work can be in various locations, like schools, colleges, GP surgeries or hospitals.
You may also work over the telephone and internet with company employees, or in the evenings in an advice centre.
Private practice, which can be arranged at home or in a therapy room, may suit experienced therapists.
6. 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.
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Last updated: 25 October 2017