Published January 11, 2021
How to Become a Counsellor in Australia
- Published on January 11, 2021
- Updated on August 11, 2021
In this post
Counselling is suited to people who want to support the mental health and wellbeing of others and want to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Passionate and empathetic counsellors feel rewarded when they see clients tackle challenges in their lives. The profession is much-needed, and offers strong, well-paying, and flexible employment prospects.
If you’ve been asking yourself, “How do I become a counsellor?” This article has the answers. From what skills you need, what to study, and what you can expect from the industry.
How to become a counsellor in Australia
- Get qualified with a Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015)
- Get professional accreditation by registering with ACA or PACFA
- Select an organisation or sector to work in and apply for jobs
Getting relevant qualifications
In Australia, counselling is not a regulated profession. This means that there are no particular qualifications or accreditations required to be a counsellor, although some states (including NSW, Vic, QLD and SA) do require that counsellors abide by a code of practice.
That said, studying counselling in Australia is an important step towards becoming a professional in the field. It shows prospective clients and employers that you understand what the job entails, and how to do it effectively and ethically. Courses will also give you practical experience while you’re still learning.
For those looking to explore counselling as a career option, short courses and certificate courses are a good way to test if counselling is right for you.
A popular counselling certification is a one-year Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015) which can be studied at a TAFE or other vocational provider. This counselling qualification is required for professional accreditation and to start your own accredited counselling practice. However, many advertised counselling jobs require a three-year undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Counselling, or similar studies in community services with a counselling major. Postgraduate qualifications such as a graduate diploma or a masters degree are available for those with existing qualifications.
Ongoing professional development is also recommended throughout your career.
Getting professional accreditation
As counselling is unregulated, you don’t technically need professional accreditation to practice. However, it’s a good idea to become a member of a professional group such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) which accredits counsellors and psychotherapists.
Accreditation is well-regarded in the field. It will improve your access to jobs, affordable professional insurance, and further education and training.
Starting the job
Once you’re trained and accredited, you can seek counselling careers in a diverse array of organisations and sectors, such as:
- schools and universities
- community health centres
- in-patient settings
- welfare agencies
- aged care settings
- palliative care settings
- settlement services for refugees
- crisis phone lines
Many counsellors also work in private practice, either on their own or as part of a practice team. Either way, counsellors working in private practice are self-employed and offer services to members of the general public.
5 Types of Counselling Jobs | The Essential Guide
Counselling is an important profession in supporting Australia’s wellbeing. It also provides well-paying, flexible job opportunities, with plenty of existing and expected future demand for counsellors through a diverse range of settings. Learn more about five types of counselling jobs.
Considering whether the job is for you
Nobody can be a perfect counsellor without some experience and training, but it’s worth thinking about whether the job appeals to you, and builds on your natural talents and temperament.
Counsellor job description
Counsellors work with clients for short periods of time to help them reflect on and address practical and immediate issues in their lives. These problems could include grief, making difficult transitions (such as a divorce or the birth of a new baby), relationship or career issues, poor self-esteem, and more.
Counsellors encourage clients to draw and build on their own insights and skills to solve these issues and return to a better state of emotional wellbeing.
The role of a counsellor
So, what does a counsellor do in their day to day job? It’s a role that typically varies and you’ll find no two days are the same. But there are some common counselling responsibilities you can expect to undertake:
- Talking to clients one-on-one about the issues they’re facing, employing empathy and sensitivity.
- Offering mediation or discussion opportunities for groups of clients, such as in family or couples therapy, or in facilitating support groups.
- Offering specific types of therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
- If you’re self-employed, duties related to running your own business such as marketing, invoicing, maintaining a counselling room, and responding to enquiries.
- Services offered by counsellors tend to be time-limited to a specific number of weeks or sessions.
Counsellors can have a range of different specialisations such as:
- Mental illness counselling and case management
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse counselling
- Trauma counselling
- Family or relationship counselling, and conflict resolution
- Being a university or school counsellor
- Rehabilitation counselling – working with clients in healthcare settings after they’ve been impacted by an injury or health condition.
TYPICAL FULL-TIME NON-MANAGERIAL WAGE (PER WEEK)
OF COUNSELLORS WORK PART TIME
According to Job Outlook, full-time counsellors make on average $1,584 per week, which is a little over the average national wage. Average earnings grow over time as you gain more experience. There is very strong expected future jobs growth in the industry as more funding is invested into supporting the population’s mental health. Counselling is also a good profession for people looking to maintain work/life balance – 55% of counsellors work part-time.
Counsellors require certain skills and traits to thrive in a challenging environment, such as:
Empathy, nonjudgement, and compassion
Caring about your clients, understanding their point of view, and allowing them to share whatever is on their mind without fear are key ways counsellors meaningfully relate to clients and build trust and rapport.
Counsellors need to be clear, sensitive communicators who build relationships. It’s important to choose your words carefully, especially when working with vulnerable populations. Strong communication also involves nonverbal communication skills, such as positive body language and having a calm, professional tone.
Patience and tenacity
Sometimes clients require a long time to make positive changes in their life. Counsellors need to keep supporting them, and not let frustration or burn out impact on the relationship.
Although counsellors need to be empathetic and draw on their own life experience, they also need to maintain professional boundaries so they’re not sharing excessive information about themselves with clients, or taking their work home with them at the end of the day. They’ll have a self-care practice and will be prepared to ask others – such as a supervisor – for advice, or to debrief on difficult sessions. They’re also committed to upholding the legal and ethical responsibilities of a counsellor, ensuring their conduct is always appropriate and constructive.
7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Counsellor
Gain insights about this challenging yet rewarding field from professional counsellor Amber Rules.
Becoming a Counsellor in Australia: Your One-Stop Guide
Discover a resource library that can take you from A to B on your journey to becoming a counsellor. From figuring out what specialisation to choose, to insights from professional counsellors, this guide has everything you need.
Best Leadership and Management Courses: Compare Your Upskilling Options
Ready to take on a leadership and management role in your company? Learn more about the types of onl...
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Online Education
Artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming a core part of online education. It has the ability...
What to Expect When You Start Working as a Counsellor: 6 Lessons
New counsellors hit a steep learning curve when they begin practicing. A professional counsellor sha...