Counselling is a rather broad term and it can have different meanings for different people. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th Edition) gives these two definitions of counselling:
“give advice to (a person) on social or personal problems, especially professionally.”
“the process of assisting and guiding clients, especially by a trained person on a professional basis, to resolve especially personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties.”
A professional counsellor is a highly trained individual who is able to use a different range of counselling approaches with their clients to guide their clients through difficult or stressful emotional or professional situations. A counsellor will help their client by encouraging them to openly talk about their client’s concerns. This is why counselling is often referred to as ‘talking therapy’. A counsellor is trained to listen with empathy to your concerns and fears in a confidential and professional environment and allows the client the space to talk through issues of grief, work or school-related stress, anxiety and conflict.
Here is an example of what a typical counselling session would look like and involve:
What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychologist?
It is important to be aware that there is a difference between studying towards becoming a counsellor and studying towards becoming a psychologist. While you can certainly become a certified counsellor with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, to become a registered psychologist you will need to have an undergraduate degree in psychology as well as the below criteria.
5 years full-time formal education in psychology – for example:
- A three-year Bachelor’s degree majoring in Psychology or the equivalent thereof
- An Honours degree in psychology, plus
- A directed Master’s degree programme in psychology approved by the HPCSA;
- Successful completion of a full-time approved internship of 12 months’ duration;
- Successful completion of the National Examination of the Professional Board for Psychology in the relevant registration category.
On the other hand, becoming a counsellor does not require as many years of study, but will still require you to be registered with the HPCSA before you can begin practicing as a professional counsellor. To become a counsellor, you may only need to complete a one-year course.
Is it right for me?
If you have an undergraduate degree and feel a calling towards becoming a professional counsellor, you have so many options available to you. It may be relevant to consider that becoming a counsellor requires a commitment to helping people deal with some of the hardest moments in their lives. If you’re not really a ‘people-person’ this kind of profession might not be for you.
On the other hand, if you think you were born with a natural talent for helping others, you’ve always been the group leader in school, have a huge group of friends with your number on speed-dial whenever they are feeling down. Perhaps throughout school you’ve enjoyed mentoring other students and in university you have been a student counsellor or tutor, you probably have exactly what it takes to be a counsellor!
But what kind of counsellor exactly? There are so many paths and options! So here are a few examples of the many different kinds of counsellors and counselling paths:
- Marriage and family counselling
- School or Educational counsellor
- Guidance and career counselling
- Grief counselling
- Addiction and substance abuse counsellors
- Spiritual counsellors
- Rehabilitation counselling
- Mental health counselling
- Child Abuse counselling
- Domestic Violence Counselling
Sign Me Up! How Can I Become A Counsellor?
So, how exactly can you begin your journey into professional counselling? If you are interested in pursuing vocational training or a short course in counselling here are some awesome certificates you can do through INTEC.
This qualification will provide you with the knowledge and skills to integrate the theory and practice of counselling within a solid ethical framework.
The Certificate: Basic Counselling Skills equips the student with skills that are applicable to the use of counselling as part of the therapeutic process and the identification of common challenges in the counselling process. It also provides an understanding of a variety of counselling approaches and the ability to work with a variety of techniques. In addition, the programme will enable understanding of the social context in the counselling relationship.
Ever-increasing issues that impact health, education, employment and personal relationships require specific techniques and counselling approaches to match the person’s needs.
The Certificate: Methods of Counselling, helps you to understand how counselling forms a part of the therapeutic process. If you are good at listening and want to help clients understand their challenges, working with them to develop life improvement strategies, then this course could be right for you. The programme will support the relevant skills and competencies required to support the use of a variety of counselling approaches as part of the therapeutic process.
Understanding what it means to become a counsellor is important and should not be taken for granted. Everyone on this planet has something they are working through and struggling with. Becoming a counsellor is just another opportunity for you to bring light and hope into another person’s life. Ultimately human beings just want to be heard, understood and accepted. You might be that person to help them feel this way.
These are just a few of the options available to you if you are interested in becoming a qualified, practicing counsellor through vocational training. If you are interested in becoming a counsellor or practicing psychologist it may be worth considering doing a three-year degree in psychology and then taking your studies further by studying towards an Honours Degree. When you get to a Masters level you will be able to specialize in counselling if you wish.