I want to pursue a counselling role

I have worked in HR for the same company for five years. The department and
company has been through many changes and although I am not qualified, I have
gained experience in many elements of a generalist HR role. I have developed a
keen interest in counselling, practising skills I learnt during an introductory
course. I would like to pursue a dedicated counselling role. This is not
something my current employer will support, so I need to make my own
arrangements. I could return to full-time study, but I am also happy to ‘sit
pretty’ with my current employer. What would you suggest?

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMSConsultancy

Although there is currently no legal requirement to hold a professional
qualification to practice as a counsellor, it is very likely that anyone
wishing to employ one will insist on your being qualified. An introductory
course will have given you the basic skills, but training can take up to three
years. It is usual for prospective employers to specify British Association for
Counselling accredited or similar. You will also need to consider what sort of
course you wish to consider – person-centred counsel-ling, transactional
analysis, Gestalt, etc. You can get more information from the British
Association of Counselling on both training opportunities and career prospects.
However, careers for specialised counselling in corporate organisations are
limited and private practice may be rewarding, but not necessarily financially

Clare Judd, HR consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

You will need competence in the practice of counselling skills: knowledge of
theory, grasp of practical skills and specific personal qualities. A number of
different activities contribute to further development – training courses,
experience in ‘client contact’ situations, supervision and personal therapy.

Counselling is often taken up as a second career. As a result people often
work and train at the same time, so most courses are part-time, usually in the
evening or day release. I suggest you review the Training in Counselling and
Psychotherapy Directory 2002.

I assume you intend to specialise either in career counselling/outplacement
or occupational health/employee assistance. You need to consider where you
intend to work in the future – consultancy or in-house, as some courses will
have a higher ‘client contact’ element than others. If studying part-time you
could also consider a move to a different company where you will be able to put
into practice what you are learning, then move into a specialist role when

Susan Field, senior consultant, Chiumento

What sort of work activity do you want? In what context do you want to use
your counselling skills – career counselling, trauma counselling, marriage guidance,

Having clarified your goal you can then examine the wide variety of study
options available ranging from full- to part-time courses and open learning
options. A good place to start is the British Association for Counselling and
Psychotherapy website that has a list of accredited programmes.

Full-time study is obviously a faster route to completing your chosen
programme but selecting an open learning option enables you to stay in your
present job until you are able to move to your new career. It would also mean
you could gain some out-of-hours training and experience with a voluntary
organisation, such as the Samaritans. This would test your commitment and boost
your future credibility.

It may be worth revisiting the option of asking your present employer to
reconsider your move to a dedicated counselling role, by detailing the benefits
already gained by your organisation through your skills and extrapolating these
benefits into the future.

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