How to Become a Counsellor in UK?


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Becoming a counsellor is a rewarding career. As a counsellor, you will help and guide people facing different challenges. However, the steps you are going to take along your journey are not as easy as it sounds. 

What is a Counsellor?


First things first, what exactly is a counsellor? Counsellors are professionals who help people understand their feelings, thoughts, and actions. They create a safe and supportive space for their clients. A space where they can talk openly about their problems without feeling judged.

What You Need to Become a Counsellor

Specific counsellor qualifications are essential to becoming successful in this field. These are important for helping clients and encouraging positive changes in their lives. Here are the things you should consider:

1. Personal Qualities of a Counsellor

Empathy Skills


Empathy is important for effective counselling. Your ability to sense emotions makes it easy for you to understand your clients’ feelings. Without empathy, connecting with your clients on a meaningful level becomes challenging.

Pro Tip:

Think about joining workshops or courses on empathy and emotional intelligence to improve this skill. Organisations like the British Psychological Society (BPS) often offer relevant training.

Communication Skills


Good communication helps counsellors share their thoughts clearly and understand what clients need. This involves both verbal and non-verbal communication. Effective communication will ensure that your clients feel heard and understood.

Listening Skills


Active listening is crucial for counsellors to fully comprehend their clients’ issues. It involves paying close attention, reflecting, and validating clients’ experiences. This will ensure that your clients feel supported and valued during their sessions.

2. Counselling Skills Qualifications

Entry-Level Qualifications

Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills
This program gives you basic knowledge and skills to use counselling ethically and effectively in various roles. It will improve your chances of getting hired and help you grow professionally. Especially, in areas such as healthcare, education, advocacy, and support services.
Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Studies
This program is for people who already know counselling and want to become professional counsellors. Here you’ll learn about theory, ethics, and mental health. It can help you find support jobs in different areas and move up in your career with more qualifications.

Pro Tip:

Look for chances to volunteer with local mental health groups while studying. This will help you gain hands-on experience and expand your connections.

Intermediate-Level Qualifications

Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling
This program prepares you with the knowledge and skills needed to work as a counsellor in healthcare and other settings. After you graduate, you can begin counselling following agency rules. With more training or experience, you can work on your own.

Higher-Level Qualifications

Level 5 Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling
This program prepares you to work independently as a counsellor. It also allows you to take on senior counselling roles in organisations. These roles involve checking on clients, helping them find the right services, and keeping track of how they’re doing.

Degree-Level Qualifications

Foundation Degree in Counselling
A foundation degree covers a broad range of counselling theories and practices. It often includes practical placements for you to gain real-world experience. This degree is your stepping stone to more advanced qualifications.
Bachelor’s Degree in Counselling or Counselling Psychology (BA/BSc)
A bachelor’s degree offers comprehensive training in counselling psychology. It combines academic study with practical experience. This will help you to become well-prepared for various counselling roles.

Postgraduate Qualifications

Postgraduate Diploma/Master’s in Counselling or Counselling Psychology (PGDip/MA/MSc)
These advanced qualifications provide specialised training in counselling or counselling psychology. It prepares you for senior roles in the field. Postgraduate study includes rigorous academic and practical components.

Accreditation and Professional Membership

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
Membership with BACP ensures you meet professional standards. It provides access to resources and support for continuous development. Being part of BACP will enhance your credibility as a counsellor.

Pro Tip:

Go to BACP networking events and conferences to learn about industry trends and meet other professionals.

UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
UKCP membership signifies a high level of training and professional development. It offers numerous benefits which include networking opportunities. This membership is recognised as a mark of excellence in the field.
National Counselling Society (NCS)
NCS offers support and accreditation to help counsellors maintain high standards of practice. Membership provides access to valuable resources and professional development opportunities. It also offers a sense of community among professionals.

3. Train to Become a Counsellor


Find a BACP-Accredited Training Course

Choose a course accredited by BACP to ensure quality training. BACP-accredited courses meet professional standards and are highly regarded. They provide you with a solid foundation for a career in counselling.

Pro Tip:

Compare several BACP-accredited courses to find one that best fits your career goals and learning style.

Core Practitioner Training

Core training provides essential skills and knowledge. It prepares you for a career in counselling through rigorous academic and practical work. Completing core training is a significant step towards becoming a qualified counsellor.

4. Grab Opportunities


This practical approach is crucial for aspiring counsellors like you. Through this, you will have hands-on experience and training to help you develop your skills and confidence in a real-world setting.  

Volunteer Jobs

Even though volunteering is unpaid, it is still important for your career as a newbie. It helps you gain experience and learn essential counselling skills by applying what you know in real situations. Additionally, volunteering can also enhance your resume and professional network.

Pro Tip:

Focus on gaining experience and improving your skills early in your career. As you become more successful, your salary as a counsellor will naturally increase.


Becoming a counsellor is a journey of empathy, growth, and profound impact. By following this guide, you’re taking the first steps toward a career where you can make a real difference in people’s lives. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to advance your counselling career, there are paths waiting for you to explore. Take the first step—submit your CV to start training or search for jobs that align with your passion for helping others.

Want to enhance your employability? Read our guide on how to write a counsellor CV with a free template to attract potential employers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Becoming a qualified counsellor usually takes between 3 to 5 years, depending on the level of education and training you pursue. It could take longer as you build skills and gain qualifications, and practical experience in the field.

You can choose to earn a diploma, degree, or advanced qualification in counselling or psychotherapy. In the UK, many counsellors aim for a Level 4 or Level 5 diploma in counselling or a related field. Make sure to consider accredited courses as they are often more valued by employers.

You don’t necessarily need a counselling degree to kickstart your career. In the UK, there are accredited courses available outside a university that you can take. They can also provide thorough training in both theory and practice. Although there are no strict entry requirements, a higher educational background can open doors to better counselling roles.