The therapeutic value of counselling is increasingly recognised, with practitioners employed in private practice and in settings such as:
- health and social care services
- agencies dealing with specific issues such as bereavement, family relationships or homelessness
- advisory organisations and helplines
- human resource departments in organisations across all employment sectors
- churches and other faith-based organisations.
You don’t need a degree to become a counsellor, so you could consider taking a course that focuses specifically on counselling. However, if you are considering degree level study then a psychology degree could be useful, especially if you’re considering postgraduate study in counselling and psychotherapy. Other relevant disciplines include education, nursing and health-related subjects, sociology, social work, and theology/religious studies. Training as a counsellor involves a combination of theoretical study and practical experience. Courses accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) are the most widely recognised in the profession. They range from introductory courses that teach basic counselling skills to qualifications at higher levels that provide theoretical understanding of counselling at a deeper level. Usually, you need a qualification at foundation degree/diploma level or above to join a professional body or to become accredited.
There is more information on how to get into counselling on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website. The BACP also has a jobs page.
To get detailed information about jobs in counselling – including day-to-day activities, the qualifications you need and what you might expect to earn – visit the Prospects careers website, gradireland website, or Skills Development Scotland website.
COSCA is the national, professional organisation for Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland and awards and accredits courses in counselling skills at both certificate and diploma level for professional practice. Details of these courses can be found on the COSCA website. The OU does offer a Foundation Degree in Counselling (Diploma in Higher Education (DipHE) in Scotland) through partner organisation and awarding body CPCAB which requires completion of a level 4 CPCAB course. There are currently two centres in Fife offering CPCAB level 4 courses, with plans to extend their provision to CPCAB level 5. Those choosing to complete the CPCAB courses with a view to gaining the OU DipHE in Counselling should however still contact COSCA for professional recognition and registration as the Scottish accreditation and professional practice body.
For students living in Ireland, please refer to the gradireland website for careers related information relevant to counselling.