Career advice – what makes a good counsellor

Career advice – what makes a good counsellor

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I have reached a point in my motherhood journey now where I am starting to think about what career I want to have when Alex starts pre school. It is hard to know what to do when I have never had a career before. If you are in a similar position or are thinking of a career change, perhaps you will be interested in learning what it takes to become a counsellor. Today I have a guest post from Chrysalis Courses about what skills you need to be a good counsellor. Also, if you are struggling and feel you may need to see a counsellor, this post will help you know what traits and skills your counsellor should have to be of a real benefit to you and your mental wellbeing.

What makes a good counsellor

Different careers suit different people and demand different skills and traits; it’s so important that, for a fulfilling and enriching life, you choose a job that suits you. Many of us started on a path when we were young, just because it was convenient, but when we get a bit older we realise we need a change of direction, but maybe lack the courage to go out there and do what we really want to do. Write down what you think your best qualities are: is ‘good communicator/listener’, ‘trustworthy’ or ‘critical thinker’ on your list? These are some of the skills needed to be a good counsellor – a challenging but satisfying career, with good earning potential, where you can really make a difference in someone’s life and learn a lot about yourself in the process. You can embark on a new journey, which will help you build in confidence, by enrolling in a part-time course, giving you the flexibility to carry on with other aspects of your life as you earn accredited qualifications with Chrysalis Courses. Take a look below at a detailed overview of some of the essential skills you need to become a good counsellor.

Good Interpersonal Skills
It seems pretty obvious that a good counsellor must be a good listener, but it can’t be stressed enough. Clients need to be able to rely on you to actually listen to them, and not let your mind wander, whatever other stresses may be going on in your life – you might be the only person they feel they can open up to. If the client is struggling to put their feelings into words, you may need to help them by repeating back what they say or interpreting it in an astute manner. It’s important that you are warm and empathetic to help a client feel at ease and that they are not being judged for whatever problems they feel they have. You also need to remain calm should they disclose anything distressing, be optimistic about their chances of recovery and be sensitive towards the cultural backgrounds of all your clients.

Critical Thinking
To counter-balance the important emotional skills outlined above, it’s also necessary for therapists to be able to think critically. You need to do this when you’re plotting the best treatment plan for each client; a good therapist needs to be able to mentally sift through dozens (if not hundreds) of therapeutic theories and discern which is best for individual patients using logic and not gut feelings. Then, should things not be progressing as you’d hoped – you must be able to question why this might be without letting emotions get in the way. Aside from knowing your own form of therapy, you may need to understand the basics of alternatives, such as medication and alternative therapies, should your patients ask about them. A scientific mind could help you to understand research into a range of therapies and how new trends are developing and sift the genuinely useful information from the sensationalised stories about ‘science’ and ‘psychology’ that end up in the media. With this ability to remain emotionally distant but critically switched on, you’ll be able to give more insightful guidance.

Trustworthiness
To be able to open up to you, a client needs to feel that you are trustworthy. That partly comes across in your manner – that you aren’t going to mock what they tell you or react in an emotionally unacceptable manner. Additionally, having a commitment to a code of ethics is crucial. Possessing a strong knowledge of your ethical code will reassure patients that, although they may feel like they are placing themselves in a vulnerable position, they are working with a trustworthy professional who will keep their clients’ needs at the forefront of their work. This entails not discussing patients with anyone else, having a complaints system in place and setting healthy boundaries (it’s exceedingly unethical to, for example, start a romantic relationship with someone you treat during therapy) that protect both you and the client; you will go on an emotional journey together and you need to avoid becoming co-dependent or pushing any of your own emotional needs onto the patient.

Part of gaining trust is also down to the qualifications you have. If you have trained with an accredited organisation, such as Chrysalis Courses, you will be eligible to join an accredited register, recognised by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. This is an independent body that protects the health and wellbeing of patients and the public by improving the regulation and registration of people working in healthcare, meaning that clients know that you are working to monitored safe standards.

Business Skills and Organisation
Many counsellors are self-employed, so this means that you also need a high level of organisation and multiple business skills that you might have overlooked. You may have to do your own time-consuming marketing (though a website, blog, social media and networking), accounting and taxes and administration. You may also need to juggle a diary that is full enough to bring in enough money for a decent salary, but that is giving enough time to each client for a good, reliable service – to build a good relationship with patients, you mustn’t double book or cancel on them time and again – these people are relying on you for essential treatment. If you worry you might lack these skills but think you’d make a good therapist, you could hire an assistant or office manager, but you need to be making enough money to do so.
You also need to factor in time for personal and professional development. This may mean learning new approaches, gaining further qualifications, attending support groups or even having therapy yourself.

For more information about the types of Counselling course offered by Chrysalis, you can request a brochure from: enquiries@chrysaliscourses.co.uk

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what makes a good counsellor

For more posts about mental health, post natal depression and a list of charities and resources, please visit the mental health section of my blog.

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