Do you have a strong desire to help others work though the challenges and difficulties of life? Do you long to empower diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish their own mental health, wellness, education, and career goals? Do you seek a career in a field that feels enriching? If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, then you should consider a career in counselling.
One of the most common reasons people decide to enter the field of counselling is because they have a powerful urge to help others, says Dr Ashley Smyth, Academic Dean and Educator at the South African College of Applied Psychology. ‘Registered counsellors are professional practitioners who make primary psychological services available in diverse community contexts, thereby enhancing psychological wellbeing of the public at large,’ he explains, adding that ‘they work with individuals or in groups, focusing on prevention and primary intervention for psychological difficulties rather than psychotherapeutic interventions, which is more the realm of the psychologist.’
Dr Smyth summarises the scope of the counsellor’s work as follows:
- Being the first line of community-based psychological support;
- Providing preventative and developmental counselling services;
- Performing supportive psychological interventions to enhance wellbeing;
- Performing basic psychological screening for the purpose of mental health (in other words, as a preliminary screening tool in order to refer appropriately);
- Designing, implementing and monitoring preventative and developmental programmes;
- Provide counselling in conjunction with interdisciplinary support teams;
- Report writing and providing feedback to clients on interventions.
He adds that, sadly, our context in this country is often one of ‘brokenness and fragmentation, crisis and trauma,’ which makes the need for qualified counsellors who have both robust theoretical training as well as plenty of practical experience all the more pressing. ‘At SACAP, we never lose sight of that context and, as a result, we give a lot of practical applications in our training. We embed into both our Advanced Certificate and Diploma counselling courses 200 hours of practical fieldwork training which really gives you a chance to go out into the field and apply theory with practice.’
In his book The Essential Counselor: Process, Skills and Techniques, David Hutchinson points out that counsellors are also often people who want to experience a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their careers. ‘Some people simply feel that they were “called” to the field. They may have a desire to be a part of something larger than themselves,’ he says.
Dr Smyth agrees: ‘In addition to the acquiring the skills and training one needs to effectively counsel others, there is also a deeply personal aspect to the therapeutic field. One of the ways SACAP differs from other training facilities is that the college places a strong emphasis on personal growth, including being coached around your own personal and professional development in relation to the concepts you are learning about. In this sense, the individual drives his or her own process of transformation through continuously reflecting and enquiring into his or her own behaviour and belief systems.’
Counselling is a diverse field that allows you to work in areas that interest you. School counsellors work with children or teens, other counsellors work with people in the community or private practice. Some counsellors prefer working with individuals, while others enjoy working with couples or groups. Whatever your preference, the counselling relationship is rewarding and growth promoting for both patient and counsellor alike.