Essential skills for a career in counselling

*contributed collaborative post

If you’re considering a career in the wellness industry, particularly a career as a counsellor, you will need a particular set of skills and qualities in order to be successful. There’s an increased focus on mental health today, so counsellors are in high demand, but are you cut out for it?

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Attending and Active Listening

Attending is the art of being in someone’s company and giving them your full attention, without distraction. Attending makes a client feel supported and important. If you’re going to study to be a counseller, then this skill is essential for you to build a therapeutic relationship with your client. Your clients need to feel that their issues are being recognised and understood by someone who is empathetic and impartial. With active listening, you take in what is said, and encourage your client to keep speaking.

During a session with a client. You need to strike a balance between talking and listening and know when each action is needed.  

You need to pay attention to a client’s body language, listen to the pauses, maintain eye contact, and moderate your voice, so your client feels that you value what they have to say and don’t feel rushed.

A Non-Judgemental Approach

As a counsellor, your job is not to pass judgement or give advice to your client. Instead, through talking therapy, you should aim to help a client see things more clearly and from a different viewpoint. If you’re going to do this, you need to make your client feel able to express their thoughts and feelings without feeling judged, rejected, or criticised. You must manage your reactions in a supportive and professional way.

Respect For Confidentiality And Professional Boundaries

All counsellors must strictly observe confidentiality. You should never pass on anything discussed in a session with a third party, except in extreme circumstances, other than your own clinical supervisor. You need to be aware of, and stay up to date with, any ethical and legal responsibilities that you have towards your clients. You must also have professional boundaries. Your client must feel supported to reach their own decisions and conclusions without becoming too attached to you to be influenced by your views.

Resilience, Patience And Humility

Working as a counsellor can be very demanding and intense. You will be needed to support clients through emotional issues on a daily basis. If you let stress and overwork build-up, this can easily lead to burn out. To cope, you will need to develop emotional strength and the tools for self-care. You will also need to be willing to recongise your own limits and take a break or ask for support when you need it.

A Genuine Interest In Others

This not technically a skill, but is definitely essential for a good counsellor. If your career is going to last and remain satisfying, then you need to commit to improving the emotional wellbeing of your clients. A real interest will build a better client-counsellor relationship.

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