What is a psychotherapist?
A counsellor, or psychotherapist (as they are often referred to) is someone expected to work with
individuals or groups to improve wellbeing and mental health. This service is provided through the
NHS, as part of a charity, or a private company. A counsellor examines issues including (but not
limited to): bullying, anger management, substance abuse, and self-image. They’ll plan a course of therapies to talk through issues and help those suffering to conquer them.
While a career in this sector can be stressful – essentially taking on board other people’s problems to solve them. The caring nature of the role is undeniably rewarding. You might see yourself as a good listener, as well as someone who empathises easily with others, but what else do you need to know about a career in counselling?
A counsellor is different from a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist is someone who has trained for five years as a doctor and has chosen to specialise in psychiatry – the study of mental disorders.
According to the Guardian
Britons have consulted a counsellor or psychotherapist
‘What qualifications do I need?’
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy recommends the following three steps to becoming a qualified counsellor:
A Beginner's Introduction
Finding an introductory course can give you an insight as to whether this sector is suitable for you. It also builds the foundations for your career.
Certification in Recognition of Your Skills
Typically, this course is one or two years, often part-time, it fleshes out key counselling theories and explains the importance of ethics in this sector.
The BACP recommend a diploma or advanced diploma
This is usually three or four years, amounting to over 400 hours of experience.
Each step is an essential building block. By completing these three important steps, you can become
a fully qualified counsellor and have all the tools necessary to thrive in this field.
“That sounds excellent, but what kind of person is suitable?”
According to Prospect, a graduate careers company, the ideal candidate for a counselling career has these three primary qualities:
Patient and tolerant
It’s likely that you’ll have to listen to clients for a long time to fully understand how to help them.
Without judgement of others
You’ll find that your clients will come from all walks of life. Rich, poor, good decisions, and bad. It’s important that every client feels comfortable an able to share fully.
Understanding the sensitivity and confidentiality of each client
It might go without saying that you cannot and should not repeat conversations had inside the consulting room. Your clients will look to you as a person of trust, and this should never be betrayed.
“How much can I realistically earn and what does progression look like?”
National Careers Service, a tool run by the government, reports that entrance earnings vary
dramatically. If you provide your services through the public sector, it’s likely that you will be paid less than the private. Furthermore, within the private sectors, these earnings can also differ from one company to another. Despite this variation, the NCS estimates pay, related to progression, in the following way:
The pay seems exceptional, and the path to becoming a fully-qualified counsellor looks perfectly
achievable. Something to bear in mind, however, is that competition for full-time, paid work is
fierce. As a result, a good idea would be to combine volunteer counselling with paid work.
The Office for National Statistics estimated that in March 2018, over 4.2 million people worked in
the Human Health and Social Work sector. This is more than Real Estate, Financial & Insurance, and
Construction put together.
In the modern age, it has never been more important to talk about issues in our lives that can lead to serious mental illness and unnecessary distress. The Guardian reports that in 2004 67% considered it acceptable to consult a counsellor, this figure rose to 94% in 2010. Changing perceptions has removed the stigma around consulting a psychotherapist and made it a necessary, positive career that is suitable to those with an understanding, empathetic nature, and someone who is keen to thrive in a competitive job market.