Deciding to become a counsellor is often an act of compassion and a deep desire to help people. Australians are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of mental and emotional health, and many want to equip themselves to provide professional support in times of grief, stress or change. Alongside the vital service counsellors offer society, many have said they find a career in counselling or community support extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
If you are thinking about becoming a counsellor, keep reading to learn more about the industry and how to become a counsellor in Australia.
What does a counsellor do?
A counsellor uses talk-based therapy to help an individual in identifying and working through challenges they may be experiencing across all stages of life. Counsellors may specialise in marriage, education, career, family or drug and alcohol support to provide a more specific service. Counselling sessions can be provided individually, to couples or groups, and may be face to face or via video link.
Counsellors aim to empower the client to identify their concerns themselves and provide guidance and tools to address the issue positively. A focus remains on the client’s self-awareness to build confidence and allow them to cope outside of the counselling session. Solutions offered by counsellors include cognitive behavioural therapy or creating a plan with a series of small milestones for the client to achieve over a period of time.
Excellent listening and interpersonal skills are required to be a counsellor. A warm and approachable personality is beneficial to help develop a trusting relationship with your client. Although emotional support is an essential part of counselling, the counsellor must remain impartial and objective. It is vital that all support and advice offered by counsellors is free from bias or judgement.
Counsellors can work in conjunction with other providers, and may be based in healthcare or educational facilities as part of this. They may take on a case study role, looking at the overall requirements of the client, and collaborate with other providers, therapists and services, for example, housing support or a child’s classroom teacher. Although counsellors cannot prescribe medication, they will work with clients who are also receiving psychiatric care and medicated support.
Most counsellors are females over the age of 45, however with appropriate training, any person can become a qualified counsellor. A broad demographic of counsellors is the best.
How to become a counsellor in Australia
To become a counsellor, you will need to undergo formal training and apply for membership with external bodies such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA).
A Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015) is required for professional accreditation and to start your own accredited counselling practice.
Diploma of Counselling
CHC51015 – Diploma of Counselling is a nationally recognised certification that offers a pathway into counselling as a career. Training for the Diploma typically lasts 24 months and may be self-paced with certain providers.
Topics within the course include; working with diverse people, identifying at-risk individuals, self-reflection and professional improvement, and how to recognise and respond to crisis situations.
Assessments are a mix of written and oral presentations, exams or tests, and practical assessment. Practical assessment may occur in a registered workplace with a supervisor, or in a controlled simulation environment with a trainer acting the role of the client.
Completion of the Diploma of Counselling leaves students job-ready for most entry-level counselling positions in health care, education, and community support fields or to begin private practice.
A Diploma of Counselling may also be obtained to allow someone within an existing qualification to offer counselling services within their field of expertise.
Bachelor and Postgraduate Degrees
Universities in Australia offer a range of courses to obtain a counselling qualification. These typically last 3 years in full-time study and HELP loans may be available.
Bachelor studies offer a deeper insight into counselling practises and psychology, and allow the student to register as a recognised practitioner with the Australian Counselling Association and Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. Government data also shows that counsellors holding a Bachelor’s Degree have a higher chance of finding work, and may be employed in more specialised fields including Child Protection.
As with Diplomas and Certificates, practical workplace assessment is required beside written and oral presentations. Course entry is generally stricter, requiring Year 12 completion or prior tertiary education.
Masters and other postgraduate degrees require successful completion of an undergraduate degree before enrolment and offer employment in supervisory or specialist counselling roles such as alcohol and drug studies, or child, youth and family therapy.
A growing industry
As mental health awareness grows, so do positions for qualified counsellors. The Australian Government Job Outlook initiative notes that over 31,000 Australians are currently employed as counsellors in their main role, and predicts the industry to grow to over 38,000 workers by 2024.
Counselling work is widespread, and available in most areas of Australia, with an average annual income of around $60,000 for full-time employment.
The ongoing discussion about mental health, recovery from the effects of a global pandemic, and the prevalence of RUOK day and similar initiatives will see the demand for counsellors and improved mental health support continue to grow.
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