So.. you think you want to be a counsellor -? or a psychotherapist?

Full text


University of Hull Student Counselling

So ….. you think you want to be a

counsellor - ? or a psychotherapist?

…… here’s an “incomplete” guide to some of the issues

around training and a career in Counselling or


Page 1 of 7


Index: ... 1



BACP Course Accreditation (the situation with UKCP recognition of psychotherapy

training courses is different, but the UKCP recognition approach has

similarities) ... 3

Individual Counsellor/Psychotherapist (BACP) Accreditation (a similar situation exists

for psychotherapists accredited through UKCP) ... 4

Counsellor Training Courses (BACP Accredited) ... 5

HEALTH (and wealth!) WARNING: ... 6

Employment Prospects ... 6

Suggested reading for would-be counsellors, psychotherapists and counselling

psychologists:... 7



- this publication is available on the web at:

There are a number of factors which you will want to consider when making choices about a career in counselling or psychotherapy. Firstly, what is the difference between these two? There has been much debate recently attempting to define the differences between counselling and psychotherapy, and to list the skills/competencies and necessary experience for each. These debates have come into sharp focus due the government’s desire and commitment to regulate the two professions (of which more later in this document). Perhaps the most straightforward way to understand how people have constituted the difference between counselling and psychotherapy, is to characterise counselling and is being generally speaking shorter term, and where regular sessions are usually on no more than a weekly basis, and psychotherapy as being generally longer term, at greater depths, and at a frequency of at least once a week, and sometimes twice or even three times a week. However this definition needs to be treated with some caution. The two major accrediting bodies are: BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) and UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy).

There are not all that many full-time jobs in this field and there is no clear career path within counselling and psychotherapy. However there are some identifiable trends that should help to inform any decisions you make. Jobs that exist in counselling/psychotherapy will be mostly within:

 the National Health Service,

 Education (Colleges {of Further Education and VIth form Colls}, Universities/ Colleges of Higher Ed. and a growing number of state and “public” schools)

 Staff counselling in large public or private companies

 EAP schemes (more commonly for independent counsellors who offer to work for EAP’s on a contract basis)

As a result, most trained counsellors have a number of “income streams” or a portfolio of part-time employment – often including:

 Sessional work in one of the above settings (Health, Education, workplace)  Private work (on an individual fee-paying basis)

 Teaching/Training work in the counselling field or a field in which the counsellor has previously been trained or worked.

 Supervision of other counsellors (for the more experienced Practitioner)  Writing

 Possibly some voluntary work too

The main (but by no means the only) regulatory body in this country for Counselling is the BACP (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy) at BACP House, Unit 15 St John’s Business Park, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, LE17 4HB Tel: 01788 578328 (recorded info line), 01788 550899 (office) and fax: 01788 562189,


As its name implies, the BACP also seeks to regulate psychotherapy and the other major player in this field is the UKCP United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, who are based in London.

Regulation is set to come in around 2011-12 This will mean that the title of ‘Counsellor’ and the title of ‘Psychotherapist’ will both be protected, and only professionals on either of the new registers (one for counsellors, one for psychotherapists) will legally be allowed to call themselves and practise as “Counsellor” or “Psychotherapist”. The Regulatory body is very likely to be the Healthcare Professions Council. For the latest news on this keep an eye on the BACP or UKCP websites as the situation is currently under intense discussion and negotiation.


Students graduating with a degree in psychology may want to consider doing a Masters in counselling psychology which will open up career opportunities similar to those in Counselling or Psychotherapy, though perhaps with a slightly greater emphasis on working within the National Health Service and in more directive (eg CBT, Goal Oriented and/or Brief Therapy) ways.


Page 3 of 7

The recent developments in IAPT (improving access to psychological therapies), which was spearheaded by Lord Layard, have opened up opportunities particularly in what has been called “low intensity” work where practitioners deliver CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) in what has become known as a “stepped care” approach. For those clients for whom the low intensity work is not sufficient, referral to “high-intensity” workers within the same system is the likely response. As IAPT is new and being rolled out across the country, there is this recognition that a lot of training is required, and this is being delivered for instance by our own clinical psychology department here at University of Hull. Access to this training is through employment within the IAPT system (it is not therefore generally available to people who are not already employed in the NHS).

BACP produces a Directory of Training in Counselling & Psychotherapy every year. Some of its content is available online at their website. The book itself costs around £20 and can be requested from the library. Courses appearing in the Directory are graded, and there are useful sections on style of courses, validating bodies, ethics etc. Not all suitable courses are in the Directory though, so getting details direct from colleges is also worth considering by making a few phone calls. I have copied the Accredited Courses as an appendix off the BACP website.


INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLOR ACCREDITATION: please note – these mean very different things!

BACP Course Accreditation (the situation with UKCP recognition of psychotherapy training courses is different, but the UKCP recognition approach has similarities)

BACP can be asked by course providers (like a college, or the University) to Accredit Diploma level courses (they do not at present accredit courses at lower levels, but they may do so in the future). The accreditation process costs the course provider (the college/university) quite a lot of money (£1-2,000 typically), involves a great deal of work for the staff and the BACP will generally not look to accredit any course until the first (and maybe second or subsequent) “cohort” of students have completed it. In the past, many colleges of Higher Education/Universities may not have considered it all that necessary to go for BACP Course Accreditation, as their own Validating Body/Process may have been at least as rigorous in scrutinising the course, its content and teaching.

There are advantages to doing a BACP Accredited course, when it eventually comes to you deciding to apply for Individual Counsellor Accreditation. The advantages in doing an Accredited course over a similar level of course which is not BACP Accredited amount to:

1. Submitting only one Case Study (as opposed to two) Note however that your non-BAC

Accredited course would require you to do at least one Case Study, which you could submit as one of the two.

2. being spared the task of providing proof of the length and depth of training on your various courses - you would normally ask the college/course provider to help with this.

A “BACP Accredited Course” will reflect the following: (this is quoted from the directory)

1. It must include these 8 Basic elements: a) Admission, b) staff development, c) client work, d) supervision, e) skills training, f) theory, g) professional development, h) assessment.

2. A grounding in a core theoretical model (e.g. “Client-Centred” or “Psychodynamic”) 3. Create a balance between theory, skills components & personal development,

consistent with the core model.


5. Should help students develop as reflective practitioners, who should also be required to monitor & evaluate their own work and personal development (e.g. through Journal or essays) Appropriately staffed with not less than 2 core teaching staff on any course.

Individual Counsellor/Psychotherapist (BACP) Accreditation (a similar situation exists for psychotherapists accredited through UKCP)

This is often confused with Course Accreditation. Individual personal accreditation is a recognition of the skills, training and experience of an individual counsellor.

BACP Accreditation as a counsellor/psychotherapist offers a direct route to Registration as an independent practitioner with the United Kingdom Register of Counsellors. Many employers require BACP accreditation for employment as a counsellor. The criteria for individual counsellor accreditation follow and details of how to order the application pack are given after the criteria. If you are in doubt as to whether or not you meet the criteria, please contact the Accreditation office at BACP.

These criteria apply only to counsellors working with individuals or couples. They do not apply to group counselling.

There are four routes to Accreditation. The successful applicant will be one who prior to application:

1. i. Has completed a BACP Accredited Counsellor Training Course

and has had at least 450 hours of counselling practice supervised in accordance with paragraph 2, over not less than three and not more than five years.


Has undertaken a total of 450 hours of successfully completed counselling training comprising two elements:

a) 200 hours of skills development b) 250 hours of theory

and has had at least 450 hours of counselling practice supervised in accordance with paragraph 2, over not less than three and not more than five years.


1. ii. Is claiming little formal (course based) counselling training, but can provide evidence of ten years experience in counselling as understood by BACP with a minimum of 150 practice hours per year under formal supervision. The last three submitted years must have been supervised in accordance with paragraph 2. [NB: This route will no longer be available to applicants after 31 December 2002.] OR

1. iii. Can provide evidence of a combination of: (a) some formal counselling training and

(b) several years of practice (of 150 hours minimum per year, under formal supervision). This includes a requirement for at least 450 hours of counselling practice supervised in accordance with paragraph 2, over three years.

75 hours of completed counsellor training = 1 unit 1 year of supervised practice = 1 unit

Together, the total must add up to 10 units.

Applicants claiming two or more training units must show a balance of theory and skills approximately in line with that stated in 1.i.


1. iv. Can provide evidence of:

a. Having obtained S/NVQ Level III in Counselling [This will be seen as equal to 4 units.]

b. Four or five years of supervised practice (of 150 hours minimum per year under formal supervision. This includes a requirement for at least 450 hours of


Page 5 of 7

At least two years must be subsequent to obtaining the S/NVQ Level III qualification.

c. One or two units of Continuing Professional Development [CPD] (of 75 hours each unit), which must be subsequent to obtaining the S/NVQ Level III qualification.

Together the total must add up to 10 units. One year of supervised practice = 1 unit

75 hours of CPD = 1 unit.

In addition to the above, the applicant is required to meet the following criteria:

2. Has an agreed formal arrangement for counselling supervision, as understood by BACP, of a minimum of one and a half hours monthly on the applicant's work, and a commitment to continue this for the period of the accreditation.

3. Gives evidence of serious commitment to ongoing professional and personal development such as regular participation in further training courses, study, personal therapy, etc.

4. Is a current individual member of BACP and undertakes to remain so for the accreditation period.

5. Has a philosophy of counselling which integrates training, experience, further development and practice. Evidence of at least one core theoretical model should be demonstrated.

6. Demonstrates practice which adheres to the BACP Code of Ethics & Practice for Counsellors and undertakes to continue working within this Code.

7. Can show evidence of having completed a minimum of 40 hours of personal counselling or has engaged in an equivalent activity consistent with the applicant's core theoretical model.

8. Can show evidence of serious commitment to working with issues of difference and equality in counselling practice.

Applicants are asked to give evidence of the above in the form of a written application including two case studies. Assessors will be looking for congruence between all parts of the application as well as checking that the above criteria have been and are being met.

The application forms for Individual Counsellor accreditation are available from BACP (free to members off the website).

Most counsellors are very unlikely to be in a position to apply for Individual Accreditation for at least 2 years after completing a relevant training course, and possibly for a while after that even. The process of applying for accreditation itself is a bit cumbersome and costs about £200. With the recent introduction of tiered registration in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Accredited counsellors are automatically onto the UKRCP (UK Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists) as registered individual practitioners. There are other routes onto the new Register, including through the UKCP (United Kingdom Council of Psychologists) which may be more relevant or attractive – especially if you have degree in Psychology or are already a Clinical Psychologist – in which case you would probably be working towards becoming a Counselling Psychologist rather than a Counsellor or Psychotherapist..

If you work as a counsellor for an Agency which is Accredited/Registered with the UKRC, you may be able to apply for Accreditation to work within that agency. This is a lower level of Accreditation available through the UK Register of Counsellors. Not all Agencies will be


Counsellor Training Courses (BACP Accredited)

A Diploma level course (i.e. equivalent to a BACP Accredited course) is likely to be 2 years part-time minimum, possibly with some preparatory course. There are some one year full-part-time courses available which meet the BACP criteria, but these a few and far between. There are some Degree courses in Counselling, but some of these will not meet the criteria for Skills development laid out by BACP for later Individual Accreditation. The same may apply for M.A or M.Sc. courses.


Course fees are likely to be about £2000 (or more) for each of two years. Many courses require you to be in personal therapy or counselling on a weekly basis (typically £25-35 per session) during the course, and all will require you to have a “placement” with an organisation or in a setting of which they approve, most will expect you to receive supervision for this placement, for which you may also be asked to make a contribution.

Grants: generally it is difficult or impossible to get funded for Counselling training courses through the Local Education Authority. This is because most will only fund Degree level courses (funding degree-level courses is a mandatory requirement upon them).

You may find an employer or local charity of help with some of the fees. College and local libraries have copies of the Directory of Charities, detailing all charities nationally that might help

individuals with the cost of education.

Beware - buying counselling books can become addictive and hence expensive! Many courses will expect you to purchase one or two books a year, some of which may cost £25-£30. Local library facilities are worth investigating, and also ask how much you might be expected to spend on books over the period of the course. You are likely to want at least some of your own, because you can then keep going back to your own notes in the margins.

Time commitment is also an important consideration. A Diploma course is likely to require attendance at the course on one day a week, typically for 6-7 hours. In addition there will be a fairly considerable

amount of course work and reading, your own counselling/therapy and possibly supervision outside this attendance time. There are likely to be three or four weekend residentials as well during the two year duration of a Diploma course, for which there may be an additional charge -typically £200 per weekend.

The BACP Training Directory is published in March each year and is the most comprehensive index of training courses in counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. Here is a selection of courses which are available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are BACP Accredited Courses. There are some listed at the end which are either not accredited, not running this year or already full. Where the course is accredited by BACP, the date of that accreditation appears in (brackets) in this list. Contact BACP for up to date details:

The dates in brackets refer to the date of accreditation. Students successfully completing the course after that date may claim to have undertaken an accredited course.

HEALTH (and wealth!) WARNING:

This is not an exhaustive list. Your choice (as was mine) may be limited by travel, time and cost. There are other courses offered - see Tuesday issues of the Guardian and any copy of the Therapy Today (Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, pub. BACP). Most colleges (of Further Education, and Universities) will run counselling courses of one sort or another. If you explain where you are in terms of the courses you have completed, they will point you in the right direction. Applications and selection onto Diploma courses, most of which will be Post-Graduate (level 7 or above) is usually thorough - it’s not in anyone’s interest to offer places to students who are not yet ready for the length, depth and academic difficulty of a Diploma course.

When enquiring, ask about:

 theoretical orientation of the course,

 whether there are supervised casework discussion sessions,

 whether there is an experiential or personal growth group built in to the course,  what the placement (and placement supervision) requirements are,

 what the personal counselling/therapy requirements are,

 what the likely time and cost commitments are outside of attendance and the course fee. Employment Prospects


Page 7 of 7

Counselling is not a road to riches, nor are employment prospects very plentiful. It can be a very rewarding occupation, but has its own hazards. As a result, counsellors tend to be on the “mature side” of 30 (some considerably more mature than that!) and as an occupation it lends itself to a second (or subsequent) career. Training as a counsellor is, for many, a life-changing experience – indeed many training agencies might say that it should be so. From initial interest to becoming an accredited counsellor is likely to take at least 5 years, during which time you may be able to earn some income (from counselling) during the latter two. Many people train part-time whilst holding down a full-time job (where the job may include using counselling skills as part of it, for instance in Nursing, Social or Youth Work or Pastoral work in schools or colleges). For others, training may be combined with part-time work, or the latter stages of child-rearing.

Personally whilst in training I found that I spent almost half of each week on counselling-related matters (course 1 day, placement half a day, supervision, reading, essay writing and case-studies). It is a major undertaking, and that’s without taking full account of the personal “journey” or trauma involved in such a life-changing experience.

Suggested reading for would-be counsellors, psychotherapists and counselling psychologists:

Author Title Publisher Date ISBN

Clarkson P (Ed.) Counselling Psychology Routledge 1998 0415145236 Dryden W (Ed.) Individual Therapy – A Handbook Open Univ.


1990 080397843X

Dryden W (Ed.) The Stresses of Counselling in Action

Sage 1995 0803989962

Dryden W (Ed.) Key Issues for Counselling in Action Sage 1988 0803980523 Horton I & Varma

V (Eds.)

The Needs of Counsellors & Psychotherapists

Sage 1997 0761952993

Jacobs M Psychodynamic Counselling in Action

Sage 1988 0803980469

Kennedy E & Charles S

On becoming a counsellor Crossroad 2001 0824513339

Kottler J On Being a Therapist Jossey-Bass 1990 Mearnes D & Thorne B Person-Centred Counselling in Action Sage 1988 0803980507

Murgatroyd S Counselling & Helping BPS 1985 0901715417 Rogers, C On Becoming a Person 1974 0094604401

Dave Berger Senior Counsellor,





Related subjects :