Counselling is often a second or third career, and life experience is highly valued.
There is currently no statutory regulation in this area but you can improve your prospects by working towards membership of a professional body like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), or the National Counselling Society (NCS).
A lot of counselling in the UK is done on a part-time or volunteer basis; this is because many counsellors enjoy their work as they are able to help other people improve the quality of their lives. Counsellors work with clients from all walks of life, cultures and backgrounds and help a large variety of people overcome mental and emotional obstacles.
Training and development
You can develop your career by gaining accreditation through one of the counselling professional bodies. You can also apply for membership of one or more of the bodies which would give you access to continuing professional development activities, networking opportunities and research resources.
Skills and qualities to become a counsellor
Therapy can take time and persistence, so patience and tenacity are important. Active listening is a fundamental skill, together with encouraging clients to talk by asking open questions while keeping the client’s responses on track. A counsellor must also have the knowledge and skill to listen to what is not being said.
A skilled counsellor can identify negative thinking patterns and enable the clients to replace them with positive ones.
A counsellor needs to possess a number of organizational skills including prioritising and timekeeping. Also a counsellor must learn to control their own emotional involvement during difficult sessions.
Starting salaries for full-time work are generally between £20,000 and £30,000 a year. With supervisory responsibilities, earnings can reach £35,000 to £50,000 a year.
Counsellors in private practice typically charge £30 to £70 an hour.