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What skills do you need to become a counsellor?

The 6 essential qualities that can kickstart your counselling career

If you are a people person, working as a counsellor can be one of the most rewarding lines of work you can choose. You could be the helping hand for individuals facing a variety of life problems. Whether it’s daily stresses, psychological issues or challenges that impact feelings of well-being and happiness. You’ll have the chance to help your clients move forward in their lives, uncover their inner strength and get to where they want to be!

If all the above appeals to you, then you might be wondering what are the skills you need to study counselling in Australia? Below, we have collected the 6 specific attributes and skills to work on for the best chance of fulfilling your dream!

Let’s start by breaking down the job a little further.

What does a counsellor do?

Counsellors offer a professional setting where people from all backgrounds can talk about what’s holding them back in life. The nature of these problems can vary depending on your chosen area of expertise, or if you choose to see a wide range of clients. It can also vary depending on which setting you choose to work in, either a hospital, care centre or private practice. Common reasons for a client seeking counselling include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Relationship issues
  • Job stress
  • Bereavement
  • Managing harmful emotions and behaviours
  • Difficulties with coping with traumatic experience and events
  • Mild to moderate mental health problems
  • Drug-related problems
  • Support with genetic disorders or diseases such as cancer

Counsellors seek to help clients understand themselves better and find ways to cope or resolve problems, as opposed to simply offering advice. Counselling typically involves a series of formal sessions at a regular time and place, where the counsellor and client discuss the client’s challenges, experiences and feelings.

Important skills for a counselling career:

1. Empathy

Do you find it easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Are you able to easily tune into another person’s emotions?

Counsellors help people through the most difficult and stressful times in their lives. It’s important to be able to understand and empathise with those struggles. By being able to feel compassion for your clients, they feel understood and heard, meaning they are more likely to progress through the problems they face.

2. Listening

Are your friends always turning to you with their problems? Do you relish being a support for them?

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but a counsellor needs to learn to listen on lots of different levels. A counsellor needs to not only listen to what is being said, but also how and why. It’s also important to understand how the client’s background and current situations may impact what is being discussed.

A counsellor also needs to be able to listen to what isn’t being said. Reading between the lines, being aware of what a client doesn’t say in a session, can be just as important as what is communicated aloud.

Perhaps most importantly, a counsellor has to work on the ability to listen without judgment. Clients walk in the door with all sorts of difficult and complicated issues, and they’ll need to feel they have the space to say everything and anything they feel they need to. Counsellors learn how to create a neutral or non-reactive stance when working with clients.

Exercise: Try working on listening with a neutral reaction to other people’s problems. Note down any judgements you might have made. These are perfectly natural! Noting them down means you will become more aware of them.

3. Flexibility

No two days are the same as a counsellor. Your workload will vary depending on whether you need to provide counselling face to face, over the telephone, or online; whether you are working with individuals, families or groups.

In addition to this, each client is going to be unique in their background and experience. They will all engage differently with you and your work. So to be able to transition between clients is a skill every counsellor needs to work on. Great counsellors are always reflecting on whether what they are doing is effectively supporting their client, prepared to adjust their approach and methods if needed.

4. Patience

It’s important to understand that a client’s journey cannot be rushed. Just like anything in life worth having, we can’t get instant results no matter how much we wish we could. Often there’s a lot of time involved in the counselling process; it may take several months or even years before results become apparent. Patience is key for allowing your client to make true progress at their own pace.

Exercise: Try meditating. Meditating tends to help us slow our rushing thoughts to see things a bit more clearly and put issues into perspective. As we continue to meditate on a regular basis, not only do we tend to become clearer in ourselves but feelings of impatience also tend to decrease. Try apps like Headspace or Calm to get started.

5. Commitment

Do you wake up every morning wanting to help others? Does it drive you and ignite your passion?

Great! Because becoming a qualified counsellor is not for the undecided. It requires lots of time, effort and heart. It can also require an investment in your training, due to the highly skilled nature of the work. The minimum requirement to work as a qualified counsellor is an AQF Diploma – costing anywhere from $5,000 – $12,000 depending on the institution.

That is why our Counselling Pathway has been specifically designed to give you an overview of the essentials to becoming a counsellor. As well as honing all the skills above, you’ll gain insight into the different approaches used by mental health professionals – so you can determine which one might be right for you. Plus, you’ll learn all the building blocks needed to start a counselling career on the right foot. So before you dive into a costly commitment, find out if you have what it takes with a Counselling Pathway certificate.

6. Experience

Counselling courses often have different entry requirements. But what’s always valued is… experience!

Many training courses suggest taking an introductory course first, one that covers the basic skills and ideas of the field. In our Online Counselling Pathway Certificate, we cover all the requirements you need for a thorough and expansive introduction to counselling. Our material is based on the AQF Diploma course material, meaning it can be a great aid to securing a future place on a training course when you are ready.

Likewise, on completing the Counselling Pathway Certificate, you can look to secure employment in counselling support roles or mental health organisations – to gain further experience and insight, whilst working towards your higher qualifications.

And even if you are a mature student, don’t think it’s too late to start your dream counselling career. Life experience is also valued highly. Age can definitely be an advantage, and often counselling is not a first career path. In fact, counsellors come from all manner of different backgrounds and it is often their second or third career.

That is why our Counselling Pathway Certificate is also ideal for Aged Care workers, Nurses and Life Coaches looking to master new skills in Counselling, or someone considering a completely fresh start.

Whatever your counselling dreams, the Counselling Pathway Certificate can help make it happen. It can support you to develop the top 6 skills we’ve listed above and can give you the best possible start to this industry and skillset. 

Step toward your dream career today.