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May 2024
Career of the Month
counsellor and their patient sat opposite each other

Key Facts

Starter Salary
Experienced Salary
Working Hours
35-40 hours a week


Counsellors and psychotherapists encourage their clients to talk confidentially about themselves and help them think about the problems and difficulties they are facing.

Counsellors and psychotherapists work in private practice, schools, colleges, charities and some hospitals. They mainly undertake one-to-one sessions but may also work with groups, families and couples.

Rather than give advice, counsellors and psychotherapists help their clients see things more clearly and think about the options open to them to make changes. This may include setting a timetable of change, referral to other specialists, taking part in group sessions etc. Some work with clients who seek help for a variety of reasons; others specialise, such as in relationship or addiction issues.

Counsellors and psychotherapists are excellent listeners, observant, patient, sensitive and non-judgemental.

What it takes

What it takes:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • active listening skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • customer service skills
  • thinking and reasoning skills


Day to day

Day to day:

Your role may involve

  • using one particular type of therapy or a combination of methods to help clients
  • building accepting and trusting client-therapist/counsellor relationships
  • agreeing what will be covered in sessions
  • helping clients to talk about their feelings, think about their choices and find ways to cope
  • focusing on the best ways for your clients to make positive changes
  • listening carefully, asking questions and checking your understanding
  • empathising but challenging when necessary
  • helping clients to see things more clearly or in a different way
  • keeping confidential records
  • having supervised sessions with your own mentor to reflect on your practice
  • keeping up to date on theory and research

You could work in a therapy clinic, hospital, GP practice/health centre, at a school or college or from home.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.


You will need
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in English
  • Substantial experience in counselling
  • An accredited qualification in counselling
You may need
  • An A Level (or equivalent) in psychology
Academic and Vocational Notes

For many people this is a second career or an addition to help with their main one (for example as a teacher, nurse, youth worker or welfare worker). Life experience is valued.

Before starting a course, it may be useful to take a part-time taster/introductory programme to see whether a career in the area might suit you. Volunteering is also useful and will help when it comes to applying for training.

Although counselling and psychotherapy are not regulated, to give your future clients confidence in your skills and professional standards, you need to gain a qualification that will allow you to become a member of a relevant professional body and join an accredited register; these are at higher education level and include supervised practice. You can work your way up to this level by taking lower-level courses first.

Courses in counselling are offered by further education colleges, universities, private providers and voluntary organisations; some can be taken part-time. When researching courses, make sure you check carefully their content, whether they are accredited/suitable for the area of work that interests you and their entry requirements.

Degree courses often combine counselling with another relevant subject, such as psychology or coaching. There are also postgraduate-level programmes. Training at postgraduate level, along with a certain number of hours of practice, are required to register as a psychotherapist.

You would be expected to undergo enhanced background checks.

Work Based Training Notes

Qualified counsellors and psychotherapists are required to have regular supervision with another qualified person. They are also expected to continue to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

As many counsellors and psychotherapists are self-employed, their success depends on their reputation and marketing skills. With experience, some move into teaching, research roles or specialise in specific areas of work, such as relationships or eating disorders, by taking further qualifications.

Other Routes
Whilst these are the usual routes to this career, there can be alternatives. You will be able to discuss these with your adviser.
Some data provided by NCS. May contain public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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