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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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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

Student Reviews

I had hoped this course would concentrate on Fear and Sadness (anxiety and depression) and their causes, how to treat...
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This is a fascinating and highly informative course. Comprehensive in historical formation, current debate, developing ideas and pointing out common...
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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'll 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 module is primarily academic, you'll be encouraged to apply what you're 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 various approaches. You'll 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. You'll also be introduced to the 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 provides key knowledge and skills for those seeking careers in all areas of applied psychology. The module also 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'll 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'll 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

Counselling: exploring fear and sadness starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019 when we expect it to start for the last time. A replacement module is planned for October 2020. 


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations 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.

    Entry requirements

    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) (now discontinued), but it is not a requirement to have studied this module first. If you are new to studying at university level, or haven't studied for some time, we strongly recommend that you study an OU level 1 module first.

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

    Although we support students in learning 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.

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


    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 £1506.00

    Registration closes 12/09/19 (places subject to availability)

    October 2019 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, 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 your module has started.

    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.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. 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 module 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 module.  

    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, Mastercard, Visa 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 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 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 23/07/2019.

    What's included

    Textbook and virtual learning environment (VLE), with additional learning resources provided by the module website.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying D240 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.