A Quick Guide To Becoming A Licensed Counsellor

by Tanya March 23, 2023

Thinking of becoming a counsellor but wondering what you need to get set up in your new career?

A counselling career can be hugely rewarding if you love helping people reach their goals and a healthier mental state. Here is the essential information you need to know:


You’ll need a healthy dose of soft skills to be a counsellor. These include empathy and sensitivity as well as good listening and observation skills.

It’s also important to listen to clients’ accounts of significant (often negative) life events with an open mind. You’ll need to be able to do this non-judgementally and with a view to helping your clients explore and untangle their difficulties.

You must also be able to take brief, factual notes on the sessions (in compliance with GDPR) and use reporting methods that underpin the therapeutic process.


To become a licensed counsellor with a professional association like the BACP, you’ll need to have certain qualifications.

The BACP recommends a three-pronged approach to getting qualified that could take around 3-4 years:

1. An introduction to counselling course

This is usually run by a further education college or an adult education centre and last 8-12 weeks. It should set you up with the basic skills and help you clarify whether this is the career path for you.

2. Certificate in counselling skills

You can take this course at a local college for one year on a part-time basis. It will take you deeper into the ethics of counselling and the various theories.

3. Core practitioner training

This could be a diploma in counselling/psychotherapy or a relevant degree. It needs to provide a solid foundation in knowledge-based learning, therapeutic competencies and research awareness. It must include at least one year of full-time classroom tuition (two years part-time) and supervised placements that total 100 hours of experience.

When you are fully qualified, you could start running your own business. There are specialist counsellor’s insurance policies available for practicing therapists once you’ve taken this step.


Many people begin counselling after spending time following other career paths. Though not essential, this previous experience can help you lay the foundations for your new role. Experience in another helping profession such as teaching, social work or nursing can solidify those people skills. Voluntary work in the mental health sector is another way to bolster your experience base.

If your passion is helping people and you’ve got an ability to manage difficult conversations and emotions, a counselling profession could be for you.

Once you’re qualified and know how to manage your practice according to the latest guidelines, there’s no limit on where you can take it.

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