A further education (FE) guidance counsellor will work collaboratively with the college community to foster the learning and wellbeing of all students by offering a proactive, inclusive guidance and counselling service.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is a professional body for counsellors and psychotherapists. It recommends a three-stage route during the training phase of becoming a counsellor or psychotherapist. This route can take three to four years and involves starting with an introductory course at an FE college to determine whether or not this is the right career path for you.
A Certificate in counselling skills will then develop your counselling skills giving you “a deeper understanding of counselling theories, ethics and self-awareness”. Such courses are usually run at FE colleges and are one-year part time as a rule of thumb.
The third and final stage centres on core practitioner training, which should be a diploma level in counselling of psychotherapy at the minimum. It may also be a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctorate.
There is never a substitute for gaining experience and volunteering can be a good way to get some. A number of counselling bodies offer volunteering opportunities, which you can find on the Do-It website.
As a student, you will be asked to undertake a placement. The placement must be carried out with genuine and appropriate clients in an appropriate setting. Assessment will be an integral part of your training and fortnightly supervision is an important aspect of the placement.
The emerging role of CBT
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy favoured by the NHS. It has been prioritised because it has been shown to be effective, quick and resource efficient. CBT is available on the NHS for people with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health problems.
With the lockdown having a detrimental impact on the mental wellbeing of a sizeable amount of the population, it is not an over-exaggeration to believe that students will return to FE colleges with anxieties. Offering CBT, mentor support and counselling are key ways that FE institutions can provide mental health support for students.
Day in the life
Sonia Hoey and Aoife Ward, both Guidance Counsellors at Cavan Institute in Ireland both agree that that there is no such thing as a typical day. September is the most hectic time given that students are busy settling in to a new environment.
They state that: “As always there is pressure on resources, time constraints and many other issues that crop up during the year however the day flies in and we leave each evening feeling we have contributed to improving the wellbeing of our students and our learning community.”
Guidance counsellor vs psychologist
There is a large amount of overlap between the guidance counsellor and psychologist role in terms of both training and practice. However, there are key differences between the two.
Counselling is designed to help individuals identify their problems, encouraging them to take the positive steps needed to reach a resolution to these.
Counselling is deemed the most appropriate course of therapeutic treatment for those who already understand wellbeing and who have the capacity to resolve their problems. It is considered a “short-term process that encourages the change of behaviour”.
It will be decided during the first therapy session how many sessions will be conducted. Due to it being over a shorter term than psychotherapy, counselling can be quite structured.
Psychotherapy is designed to help those experiencing psychological problems built up over a long period of time. It is a longer-term process than counselling and is designed to help the client understand their feelings, thoughts and actions in a way that makes sense to them.
Can you be a guidance counsellor with a bachelor’s degree in psychology?
It’s possible to become a guidance counsellor without a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
While a bachelor’s degree in a related subject — such as psychology, social work or education — might help you to get onto a counselling course, relevant counselling skills and evidence are just as important as academic achievement.
To become a fully-trained accredited BACP counsellor, your core practitioner training should be at the minimum level of a diploma in counselling or psychotherapy at minimum of level 4, but could also include a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctorate.
There are 169 universities in the UK offering 1,280 psychology and counselling bachelor’s degrees.
Hoey and Ward, mentioned earlier, came to their FE counsellor positions from different backgrounds. Hoey graduated from University College Dublin with a higher diploma in guidance counselling after studying for a BA (Hons) Degree in Psychology, while Ward graduated from the University of Ulster with a Degree in Engineering, working in the medical device industry for 5 years before completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Adult Guidance in 2006 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Further and Higher Education in 2011.
Payscale puts the average psychologist salary in the UK at £34,654. There is a large range in salaries for the role from £22,000 per year to £55,000 per year. The gender breakdown for this role is 63.3% female and 36.7% male.
A psychologist with one to four years’ experience can expect to earn £30,000, with this rising to £58,000 with more than 20 years’ experience. Psychologists working in London earn an average of 2.4% more than the national average.