Before embarking upon a professional counselling training course, it is really important that you have plenty of information about the profession, the different approaches to working, and the different professional settings in which counselling is offered.
A good investment, in time and money, might be to read one of the following:
- Dryden, W. (Ed) (2007) Dryden's Handbook of Individual Therapy (5th edition). London: Sage
- Feltham, C. and Horton, I. (Eds) (2006) The Sage Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy (2nd edition). London: Sage
Qualifying and accreditation
Currently, there are no legal requirements for having had a particular length or type of training before you can work as a counsellor in the UK. However, this is likely to change in the future.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the largest organisation that accredits qualified counsellors to work with individuals. Organisations that employ paid counsellors will be looking for qualified, but not necessarily accredited counsellors.
Generally speaking a Diploma in Counselling is regarded as the minimum qualification required to practice. However some organisations do advertise positions for accredited or accreditable counsellors. The requirements for individual BACP accreditation are published on their website.
The BA Humanistic Counselling Practice meets both the training requirements and personal development requirements for individual accreditation, but you will need to build your counselling experience after the course to the required level. There is a rigourous application and assessment procedure, and accreditation is not automatic even if you have completed these requirements.
How much does it cost?
As well as the course fees, books and other materials, you also need to be aware of the 'hidden' costs associated with undertaking professional training. These include:
- Cost of your own therapy, and the length of time you will need to be in therapy (you will be required to undertake a minimum of 40 hours of personal therapy in years one and two). In year three you can choose how to meet your personal development goals - either through further personal therapy (20 hours) or the equivalent in professional development activities (for example, short training courses often provided at placement agencies).
- Cost of supervision if not provided free by the placement agency, you are required to have one hour of supervision per four hours of counselling work.
- Cost to you in energy required for personal development and growth.
- Cost to your personal relationships - counselling training places stress not only on yourself but also on family and close relationships. You should be aware that interpersonal relationships can change during your course.
- Cost of additional 'joining fees' such as a requirement to be an individual member of the BACP while you are in training (some placement agencies require this as you are then subject to the Ethical Framework for Good Practice and the Complaints Procedure) and individual professional indemnity insurance costs, if you are not covered by your placement agency.
- Time - at college, at the placement, at therapy, at supervision (and in travelling to and from these places), and in private study, reading, writing esssays and case studies etc.
It is important to realise that there are very few paid counselling jobs, and only a very small number of these are full-time. Try looking in the Guardian newspaper on Wednesdays or online on jobs.ac.uk or contact the BACP for their jobs supplement. This will give you an idea about the number and range of available jobs nationally for counsellors, and the background required.
Furthermore, private practice is difficult to establish, and is often an unreliable income source. It is almost always irresponsible for trainee counsellors, and those without substantive experience of clinical work under supervision and personal therapy, to work in private practice. Despite all of this, practising and trainee counsellors and psychotherapists would probably all agree that this is an extremely rewarding profession!
Progression to MA
If you achieve a first class or upper second class degree you will be offered Recognition of Other Learning (ROL) towards one module of the MA Person-Centered Experiential Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice.