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Counselling with no qualifications


Alex F
Posts: 4
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(@alex-f)
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Joined: 4 years ago

Dear all,

I'm curious to find out peoples' views about working as a counsellor while not having any formal qualifications.

I currently work in IT but I'm looking to get out of this industry and move into people work (i.e., counselling/psychotherapy). My plan at the moment is to follow a course (or two, starting this October) that will lead to a BACP-accredited qualification. This will take at least three years, however, and I'm not sure I will be able to stay in IT for another three years (I've been in my current job for over eight and over the last couple of years I have felt that this is really not the place I should be).

I've discussed this with two my of friends (both of whom have a lot of life experience, they're not therapists themselves, but know what therapy is all about), and both have, completely independently, said to me: you should start now.

My first reaction to this was, "what? now?! but I have no qualifications!!". But when I gave it more thought, I started to think that this might not be so outrageous after all. I would be completely honest with my clients about being a counsellor-in-training, having no formal qualifications, and would charge a fraction of the standard hourly rate.

My unofficial "qualifications" are mostly my own experience of therapy (4 years or so, and still ongoing), which has helped me to go from where I was several years ago to where I am today (that's quite a long way, and I know I still have a long way to go); my own life experience, reflections, observations (of myself, other people, family, relationships); a natural curiosity about people; being a sensitive person (being sensitive to my own feelings and as a consequence, to the feelings of others). Listening is a skill that I have been consciously trying to develop ever since starting therapy and being amazed at how well a therapist can listen and hear things that I didn't even seem to say, and thereby get an understanding of the world of his/her client. I have the support of my long-term therapist, and another therapist (both with decades of experience) I met more recently, with whom I have regular sessions partly for therapy and partly in order to learn her way of working.

Anyway, sorry to go on. I would be very grateful if you could share your views about working as a counsellor without qualifications -- do you think it's outrageous, or is it perfectly acceptable, or maybe that's actually how lots of people work (this is not the impression I get, because whenever I see an advert for counselling services, the person always seems to have some form of accreditation)?

Many many thanks!

Alex

13 Replies
Cascara
Posts: 980
(@cascara)
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Joined: 12 years ago

Hi Alex,

Welcome to HP πŸ™‚

Interesting post. Before I trained as a counsellor I thought pretty much like you do, in fact I actually thought along the lines of "what on earth can take 2 or 3 years to teach, it's only counselling fgs!"

But, I was very pleasantly hooked by some of the deep psychology, the reasons we think like we think, why some people can react like they do too. Ways of talking to people, listening and hearing and why people may hear but don't actually listen and understand or take it in. How to deal with those that are vulnerable, depressed, angry, furious, hostile etc etc.

What I am trying to get you tho think about is how would you cope with different situations. When I teach Tarot or other courses that include people giving readings we go over lots of different scenarios and I try to prepare them for everything that may happen. You need to do that too so that you will be ready and prepared.

I am not against what you suggest, I just wanted to point out some pitfalls. Some of the best counsellors I know are self trained πŸ™‚

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amy green
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Joined: 15 years ago

Hi Alex and welcome to this forum!

Whilst I can see you have good intention (e.g. admitting to the client the situation you are in) and have some qualities beneficial to counselling, receiving therapy is not the same thing as being a therapist (as I am sure you realise!)

You would learn the skills necessary to become a good counsellor, e.g. asking key questions that would open the person up where needed.... "how does that feel?" being a very basic one.

I have a BA in Humanities, specialising in psychology and wanted to become a psychotherapist but couldn't afford the elitist fees. However, I came across an evening class called co-counselling. Are you familiar with it? I have no idea if they still operate these classes (I did it in North London). It's based on learning counselling skills as you sort out your own problems. I jotted down all the useful skills I learnt and went on to do the advanced counselling course, again I don't know if that is still operating. I just describe this in case it is a useful added option for you to explore along with doing your counselling.

Needless to say I didn't set myself up to be a professional counsellor on that basis (since there are no recognised qualifications attached to it) but I find it very useful in my interactions in daily life.

Good luck!

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Crowan
Posts: 3429
(@crowan)
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Joined: 11 years ago

Whether you need qualifications depends on the type of counselling, of course. But any type needs training.

I would suggest that you wait until you start the training and then talk to your tutors about it. They will be able to tell you when you could start practising. If this is what you really want to do, then it must be worth doing properly. If you check online whether you need qualifications, the answer is a resounding, "Yes"!
I pick up a sense in your post of "how difficult can it be?" - well, you won't know the answer to that until you do the training.

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amy green
Posts: 2258
(@amy-green)
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Joined: 15 years ago

It occurred to me that to do counselling without the training may be operating out of your depth, i.e. opening up a client to their issues without fully being able to deal with what may ensue.

So I now see that it could be irresponsible and somewhat potentially damaging to offer counselling without the backup of knowing how to use the tools for that profession.

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jnani
Posts: 1837
(@jnani)
Noble Member
Joined: 11 years ago

Dear all,

I'm curious to find out peoples' views about working as a counsellor while not having any formal qualifications.

I currently work in IT but I'm looking to get out of this industry and move into people work (i.e., counselling/psychotherapy). My plan at the moment is to follow a course (or two, starting this October) that will lead to a BACP-accredited qualification. This will take at least three years, however, and I'm not sure I will be able to stay in IT for another three years (I've been in my current job for over eight and over the last couple of years I have felt that this is really not the place I should be).

I've discussed this with two my of friends (both of whom have a lot of life experience, they're not therapists themselves, but know what therapy is all about), and both have, completely independently, said to me: you should start now.

My first reaction to this was, "what? now?! but I have no qualifications!!". But when I gave it more thought, I started to think that this might not be so outrageous after all. I would be completely honest with my clients about being a counsellor-in-training, having no formal qualifications, and would charge a fraction of the standard hourly rate.

My unofficial "qualifications" are mostly my own experience of therapy (4 years or so, and still ongoing), which has helped me to go from where I was several years ago to where I am today (that's quite a long way, and I know I still have a long way to go); my own life experience, reflections, observations (of myself, other people, family, relationships); a natural curiosity about people; being a sensitive person (being sensitive to my own feelings and as a consequence, to the feelings of others). Listening is a skill that I have been consciously trying to develop ever since starting therapy and being amazed at how well a therapist can listen and hear things that I didn't even seem to say, and thereby get an understanding of the world of his/her client. I have the support of my long-term therapist, and another therapist (both with decades of experience) I met more recently, with whom I have regular sessions partly for therapy and partly in order to learn her way of working.

Anyway, sorry to go on. I would be very grateful if you could share your views about working as a counsellor without qualifications -- do you think it's outrageous, or is it perfectly acceptable, or maybe that's actually how lots of people work (this is not the impression I get, because whenever I see an advert for counselling services, the person always seems to have some form of accreditation)?

Many many thanks!

Alex

Counseling is second nature to us humans. We share views, light a lamp, give advice, want to make others happy. I have no experience of receiving a professional one, but mum, aunts, uncles, close family, cousins, friends are one of the greatest counsellors I have benefitted from....mind you all those interactions were heartfelt, casual, natural and not professional. No one had an agenda to counsel, hence they were very effective.

But if you are looking to advice people professionally, it is. a different ball game. People usually have challenging situations they seek help for, it is very specific and usually there is an element of vulnerability...a certain set of skills is more than needed to deal with the client, yourself and the dynamic of a professional advice -giving. Natural flair for it is good, but mastering an art is a must, beacuse with each person, you are likely to enter an unknown territory. Training can help the natural ability and give it a sharp focus and create a safe environment for both parties. It can only help

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David100351
Posts: 258
(@david100351)
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Joined: 13 years ago

Hi,
I've been watching this question for a while, and wondered what people would say.
Well, I've got all the expensive qualifications, and certainly having therapy training is helpful to the client, and isn't that what it's all about?
OK, so there are a few things I want to say as well, in no particular order.
1. Supervision.
Having a supervisor is an essential part of counselling. The supervisor is there to bring out what you may be missing in your interaction with the client. It will be very difficult for you to attract a good supervisor without going the training route.
2. Insurance.
There is little chance of you getting insurance without having completed training. Is insurance necessary? - Well, as my grandfather was once heard to say when standing in the ashes of his business "who expects a fire?"
3. Natural talent
If you aren't the type of person who people naturally offload to in the pub, at bus stops, in social occasions, then I wouldn't bother starting, quite frankly. It sounds like you are, but its a good idea to get some training because seeing clients is not the same as this. You can move pubs when you have had enough of a particular offloader, but you can't betray a client's trust by just dumping them when it suits you. And the training (and supervision) will help you retain your faith in the process through feeling hopeless, powerless, clueless, down, useless, aggressive, frustrated and all the other feelings counsellors (and clients) feel several times a day, most days.
4. Therapy is NOT about giving advice in the commonly accepted sense of the word. So, it's OK, I think, to suggest a client should listen to relaxing music rather than watch horror films when faced with anxiety and stress. It isn't OK to tell them whether they should get a divorce - indeed if you notice that you are coming down on the right answer being yes or no it's a sign that you need a chat to your supervisor.

So, as you aren't my client, I can say, yes, get training!

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(@darrensurrey)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago

I think the key thing about not having training is that you don't know what you don't know.

I was investigating coaching as a career so bought a couple of books. I have a reasonable understanding of coaching but when you talk to a professional coach, you realise how little you really know or are able to apply to help a client.

Counselling isn't just about being a friendly ear (you might not think this but a lot of people do think this is all counselling and therapy work is - why pay for it when your mates can provide a friendly ear for the price of a pint???). It's about having the tools and techniques plus the guided experience (training) over 2 years (that's how long the courses last IIRC) from qualified, professional trainers.

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Alex F
Posts: 4
Topic starter
(@alex-f)
New Member
Joined: 4 years ago

Dear all,

Many thanks for all the replies. I'd like to clarify a few things...

1. I do intend to get a professional qualification -- my question is not about whether I should get training or not, I'm just thinking about what I can do in the few years before I'm qualified
2. I have two professional therapists, with decades of experience, who are both encouraging me to start doing something like this (although maybe not calling it "counselling" at this stage), and both would be prepared to act as supervisors
3. I understand that therapy is not about giving advice, rather, (for me) it's about encouraging a person to find their own path in life, one that is right for them
4. I understand that therapy is not just being a friendly ear
5. I understand that I can't just abandon a client
6. I understand that being a therapist is very different to being a client
7. I believe (and this applies to pretty much anything, not just counselling) that, no matter how good the training, the real learning only starts when you actually start doing it yourself
8. As I said, I will be completely honest with clients about not being qualified, not having insurance, etc., and if that makes them feel uncomfortable I will suggest that they see a qualified professional instead

Alex

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Cascara
Posts: 980
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Joined: 12 years ago

Alex I am sure you could still get a professional insurance with public liability πŸ™‚

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David100351
Posts: 258
(@david100351)
Reputable Member
Joined: 13 years ago

Sounds good to me. Although I do think that real learning starts in the training, actually! - but maybe you are further ahead than I was. Certainly one of my heroes, Sheldon Kopp, said that once he had got his PhD he was able to unlearn lots of stuff and at last do something useful, but then that was the old days, in the USA. And even he said that a lot of what he learnt was good to keep in the background.

Not long after you start training you will be required to take up a placement, which is heavily supervised practice.

If you intend to start up before any formal training then something like cruse bereavement counselling (who have their own on the job training) might be a useful place to go.

For most therapists in the UK, it remains a part time job at best. Perhaps IT isn't where you are meant to be, but it might provide the fuel you will need - there is value in that.

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Topic starter
(@alex-f)
New Member
Joined: 4 years ago

If you intend to start up before any formal training then something like cruse bereavement counselling (who have their own on the job training) might be a useful place to go.

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that, I only knew that Samaritans have in-house training.

Perhaps IT isn't where you are meant to be, but it might provide the fuel you will need - there is value in that.

I agree, it's a useful skill to have, and one that I can use as a backup if all else fails. It's just been too long, and I'm feeling burnt out.

Alex

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Alex F
Posts: 4
Topic starter
(@alex-f)
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Joined: 4 years ago

Alex I am sure you could still get a professional insurance with public liability πŸ™‚

All the places I've looked (which isn't many, to be honest) seem to require a recognised qualification -- are you saying there are some that don't?

Alex

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Zandalee
Posts: 429
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Joined: 4 years ago

Welcome Alex to the forum! Great place to learn, laugh and share. When I read this I was delighted that you are open to learning and exploring your options. Counseling is a huge commitment and being prepared and learning about tools to use are important. Yes, getting certified and having qualifications is to me upmost importance. Good luck on your learning experience and journey.

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