Aside from the generic competencies expected of a counsellor, such as empathy, congruence and active listening, a College Counsellor must possess a detailed knowledge of developmental phases pertinent to FE students (namely, adolescence and early adulthood).
Candidates for this role will usually be expected to hold a relevant counselling qualification to Level 4 and previous experience of counselling young adults in an education setting will be beneficial for most roles. Experience of working with external support agencies for signposting will also be advantageous.
College counselling services routinely work with services such as disability support services and those providing financial support/advice so College Counsellors must have a good knowledge of what such services offer and how to work in collaboration with them.
Some colleges will ask for registration or accreditation at a professional body specialising in psychotherapy/psychology (British Psychological Society [BPS], British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy [BACP] or UK Council for Psychotherapy [UKCP] for a College Counsellor role.
As sixth-form colleges can be large and diverse institutions, College Counsellors must be au fait with the organisational context to work efficiently within it, according to the BACP. Student counselling will have certain characteristics that mark it out from traditional counselling, such as strengthening a student’s ability to study, improving job prospects and enriching the student experience.
The role will involve working with psychosexual development and sexual relationships so a working knowledge of theories in this regard will be needed. It must be borne in mind that many students’ time at college will correspond with development of adult sexuality and sexual relationships.
Students will also routinely present with exam-related stress and anxiety in and around exam season. Student Counsellors will likely be expected to come up with coping strategies for students during these stressful periods.
An ability to work with groups may be beneficial for the College Counsellor role. This includes being able to plan the group, and specify and apply inclusion and exclusion criteria for the group. An ability to follow a group therapy model and manage the group process will be necessary.
College Counsellors must be mindful of the specific nature of the FE context, being flexible with the therapy issued as they work around term times, timetables and exams. For this reason, a degree of flexibility is needed in relation to interventions.
With students typically attending sixth-form colleges in 10-12-week blocks, this has a knock-on effect on counselling provision. Provision should, therefore, be concise, strategic and flexible.