Counsellor: job description

Counsellor: job description

Counsellors work in confidential settings with individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties, to help them overcome their problems and to make appropriate changes to their life.
Part-time and unpaid counselling opportunities outnumber full-time jobs.

What does a counsellor do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Counsellors listen to, empathise with, encourage and help to empower individuals. The nature of problems encountered varies according to the setting, but counsellors do not deal with seriously disturbed clients and they do not give advice. Referral and liaison with other agencies is a feature of the work.

Vacancies arise within dedicated counselling services, general practices, hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, universities, or larger companies. Promotion is normally into managerial roles, but opportunities are limited as most counselling departments are very small.

Vacancies are advertised in a variety of publications including The Guardian, Community Care, Nursing Times, and Opportunities.

Some counsellors are successfully self-employed, although this is only possible if you have a good network of contacts for referrals.

Qualifications and training required

A mature attitude and relevant experience is considered to be as important as degree subject you studied. A psychology or social science degree or membership of the British Psychological Society can be advantageous. A postgraduate qualification such as a diploma or MSc accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy can also be helpful – most people fund such qualifications themselves.

Further professional training is usually required to gain accreditation from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Additionally, there is a diverse range of part-time counselling skills courses available, which can be a useful starting point. As previous experience is required, counselling is not normally a first career choice, and many people enter the profession later in life. Experience can be gained through direct approaches to employers, voluntary work, job shadowing and networking.

Key skills for counsellors

  • Listening skills
  • Sensitivity and empathy
  • Patience and a calm manner
  • Ability to cope with emotional situations
  • Ability to relate to a wide range of people