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Counsellors help people to deal with any problems, distress or loss of direction they experience in their lives. They usually work with clients on a one-to-one basis, meeting them in private and treating their problems in confidence. People may need counselling to help them cope with situations or issues such as bereavement, anxiety, drug or alcohol dependency, debt or domestic violence.
Counsellors help people to explore, understand and come to terms with their problems. They give their clients the opportunity to work through their emotions by offering them time, attention and support within a confidential and trusting environment.
They aim to enable their clients to talk freely, to improve their self esteem, develop better relationships and discover more satisfactory ways of living.
Some counselors work in specialised areas such as victim support, marriage guidance or bereavement.
They may also choose to work in a specialised way for example by using cognitive behavior therapy or psychodynamic counseling.
Personal Qualities and Skills
You must enjoy working with people and helping them to solve their problems. You must respect the client's right to make their own decisions, and avoid making judgements, giving advice or imposing solutions.
The ability to use tact and treat your client's problems in strict confidence is essential to counselling. Some clients experience positive changes after a short time, but others need counselling over a longer period, so you will need patience, tolerance and determination.
You will need excellent communication skills, to listen carefully and to ask the right questions to guide the client towards decisions. Maturity, self awareness and an openness to self-development are also key factors in this profession.
Clients may reveal intense emotions, and discuss painful aspects of their past or present experiences. You must be comfortable with this, and not become burdened by the problems you encounter.
Pay and Opportunities
This is quite a limited and very competitive career. Employers include schools, hospitals or community centres. Many counselors are self employed. Earnings can be low and many counselors supplement their income with another job. Counsellors should earn upward of EUR30k a session. Qualified and experienced counsellors can earn upward of EUR45k a year.
Entry Routes and Training
At the moment, there are no legal minimum qualifications needed to become a counsellor. However, the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) is very concerned that counselling standards should be developed and improved. For this reason, the IACP has developed strict Codes of Ethics and Practice for its members. They also have strict accreditation criteria, and this accreditation is very highly valued by employers.
The entry requirements for Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy recognised training courses vary depending on the course and college. The IACP publish a full list of courses.
It should be emphasised that in order to become a professional counsellor extensive training and supervised placement will need to be undertaken. Many entrants to this profession come with a primary degree in psychology, social studies, pastoral care, nursing, and then go on to do a postgraduate course in counselling.
The principle of continuous professional development is strong in the occupation of counselling and counsellors would continuously up-grade and develop their skills through attending further training programmes.
The entrance requirements for courses vary and the individual college prospectus should be consulted.
Application for admission to undergraduate courses must be made in accordance with the regulations and procedures and timetable described in the CAO Handbook.
The Handbook is confined to giving information on how to apply for admission to the relevant institutions. Applicants should not attempt to complete the application form without first referring to the information literature on courses, which is available from the institutions to which application is to be made.
You should check with the individual Institutions' prospectuses for specific entry requirements and course details.
Please see http://www.cao.ie/courses.php for information on course qualifications.
Counselling is a career where maturity and general life experience are seen as being highly relevant. There is no upper age limit for entry into counselling.
Contact your local FÁS office for Career Guidance, planning and support that will help you make informed decisions about the best career direction for you
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