Counsellors work with people experiencing a wide range of emotional and psychological problems to help them bring about effective change and/or enhance their wellbeing.
You’ll help people with issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, loss and relationship difficulties that are affecting their lives.
Life as a counsellor
Some counsellors specialise in working with particular problems, such as depression, bereavement, loss or addiction. Others work with particular groups, such as children and young people.
You could work in a wide range of contexts and at different levels. Within the NHS, most counsellors work in an NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression Service (formerly known as IAPT). Here, experienced counsellors with specific accreditations are trained to deliver forms of counselling and psychotherapy particularly recommended for depression.
- provide help, care and support to patients with cancer and their families
- work with people who have drug- or alcohol-related problems
- help people understand and deal with genetic disorders
- provide support for families with an unplanned pregnancy
Your role depends on building a relationship with your patients. You’ll do this by:
- agreeing with them what will be discussed
- encouraging them to talk about their feelings
- listening carefully, asking questions and checking that you understand their situation
- empathising with the patient’s issues, but challenging them when necessary
- helping patients to see things more clearly or in a different way
You could work in community centres, GP surgeries, hospitals, schools or advice centres. You could also counsel people over the phone or by video call.
You will be provided with ongoing supervision to help you engage in self-reflection, seek and respond to feedback, and develop your professional knowledge and skills.
How much can I earn?
There are nine pay bands and you’ll usually be paid at bands 5, 6 or 7 on entry, depending on the role and you’ll have opportunities to progress with experience.
Terms and conditions can vary if you are employed outside the NHS.
How about the benefits?
- make a difference
- work flexible and part-time hours
If you’re employed by the NHS you’ll also have good holiday entitlement and access to:
- an excellent pension scheme
- NHS discounts in shops and restaurants
- be able to make people feel relaxed
- have excellent interpersonal and communication skills
- be able to positively challenge people
- be patient, tolerant and sensitive
- be empathetic and non-judgmental
- have good self-awareness and the ability to examine your own thoughts and values
Depending on the specific role, you may need further experience or skills in a particular area, such as the ability to speak multiple languages or a background working in mental health.
For some counselling roles, employers may also ask for a clinical/professional qualification, such as being a registered nurse, occupational therapist or social worker. For other roles you may need a scientific background – in genomic counselling, for instance.
How to become a counsellor
Where a career as a counsellor can take you
There is currently a pilot running for a three-year salaried and funded training for trainee psychotherapeutic counsellors to work in NHS Talking Therapies for adults with depression. Any future NHS-funded psychotherapeutic counsellor training will be determined following evaluation of the current pilot.
It’s important to note that a two-year psychological professions funding rule policy was implemented on 1 April 2022. This means that if you start NHS-funded psychological professions training from April 2022, you won’t be eligible for NHS funding for further psychological profession training for two years from the expected completion date of your first training, where it would lead to a change in your job role.
Visit the funding for psychological professions training programmes web page for more information about NHS funding.
Find a vacancy
For a list of organisations accredited by the Professional Standards Authority to deliver education and training in counselling, visit: