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Counselling: exploring fear and sadness

Fear and sadness are the most common problems that people seek counselling for. This module introduces you to the ways in which they have been understood: as 'mental health problems'; by different forms of individual therapy; and by approaches that focus on the family, the social group, or society. While the module is primarily academic, you’ll develop awareness of counselling skills, processes and techniques. The main sections of the module cover: historical developments in understanding fear and sadness; key individual counselling approaches; approaches that consider relationships and cultural aspects of human suffering; and the practice and evaluation of counselling.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

There has been tremendous growth in counselling since the late 1980s, with huge numbers of people seeking help in individual counselling, in group therapy and through related 'self-help' books. Fear and sadness (often classed as 'anxiety' and ‘depression’ if they are diagnosed) are the most common 'mental disorders' in Britain, with a combined prevalence of 15 per cent diagnosed each year. In recent years, many celebrities and authors have documented their own struggles with these difficulties, decreasing some of the stigma that has surrounded them. Related to this, there has been a significant growth in counselling over the last twenty years; this is likely to continue with further recognition of the need for counselling across a number of arenas (NHS, voluntary sector, education, business) and the current economic state of the nation.

Counselling: exploring fear and sadness is designed to chart the relationship between the counselling profession and the emotions of fear and sadness. It covers the ways in which these types of human distress have been understood and treated in the past and how they are currently conceptualised and worked with in the counselling profession. The module traces the history of counselling and therapy from their origins in industrialisation and secularisation, through the development of psychoanalysis, the medical diagnosis and treatment of emotional difficulties, and the recent expansion of the counselling profession and proliferation of approaches. A story is woven through the main branches of individual therapy (psychodynamic, humanistic/existential and cognitive-behavioural) to illustrate how fear and sadness have largely been located in people's ways of viewing and thinking about the world. You will be encouraged to build your own understanding of how these issues may be best understood and worked with through comparing differing key approaches and attempts that have been made to synthesise them. In addition, a critical stance towards the 'individualisation' of problems in counselling is presented through consideration of fear and sadness at the level of the relationship (such as the couple or family), the group, and the society we live in. Key threads are drawn out such as explaining fear and sadness as located in individual perceptions or in real-world social problems, and understanding them at a psychosocial and/or biological level.

While this an OU level 2 module is primarily academic, you will be encouraged to apply what you are reading to your own life, the lives of others and your own practice (if appropriate) through the inclusion of reflective exercises and case studies to demonstrate the similarities and differences between different approaches. You will be taken through the process of counselling, the ways in which the relationship is used within therapy, the balance between listening and offering interpretations in various approaches, and the use of specific techniques. Through this material, and related exercises, skills in counselling practice are further developed. Research evidence on the outcomes and process of therapy is also introduced and discussed, along with skills in understanding and interpreting research findings, encouraging you to consider how counselling, and other common ways of treating fear and sadness, might usefully be evaluated.

The module is taught primarily through a textbook and online via the module website. Counselling skills are also introduced through specially produced audio-visual materials and by practising self-directed activities. Tutorials are offered to further support you in your learning.

Vocational relevance

This module does not qualify students to practise counselling, but it is a compulsory module in the Foundation Degree in Counselling and Diploma of Higher Education in Counselling. It provides key knowledge and skills for those seeking careers in all areas of applied psychology, and provides academic and practical learning of relevance to many others – for instance, those in business or other professions where ‘people skills’ are particularly important – who are seeking further knowledge and training in counselling theory and skills.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. You will also have access to the module website and the online forum.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year, in October.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module that provides core subject knowledge and study skills. It builds on the themes covered in the OU level 1 module Introduction to counselling (D171), but it is not a requirement to study this level 1 module first.

If you are new to study at university level, or haven't studied for some time, we strongly recommend that you study an OU level 1 module first before OU level 2.

As this module can lead to a professionally recognised qualification in counselling, and some aspects of the course content and activities are unsuitable for students under the age of eighteen years, entry is only open to students over the age of eighteen at module start date.

Although we support students in the learning of this subject, please note that your tutor is not there to help with your own life or personal difficulties. This is not a function that this module can fulfil.

Taster – to see a taster of some of the module content please go to our OpenLearn site.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2018.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 05/08/2015.

What's included

Textbook and VLE, and additional learning resources provided by the website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio-visual components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader though most should be suitable. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.