The Examiner

Counsellor considerations: What does it take to succeed in the field of mental health?

A career in counselling is ideal for those with a willingness and passion for genuinely helping their peers. Picture by Shutterstock
A career in counselling is ideal for those with a willingness and passion for genuinely helping their peers. Picture by Shutterstock

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While counselling can sound like a role that is simply about telling folks what to do or the provision of advice, however, it's much more nuanced. In fact, one of the essential elements of a counsellor's role is their capacity to listen.

Listening is important, but there are a number of other skills and attributes that make good counsellors. Let's explore some of these skills and how they can contribute to the strategies you learn while undertaking a counselling online Masters degree.

What defines a good counsellor?

When you think about the reasons that people consider a career in counselling, one of the common reasons that emerge is a willingness and passion for genuinely helping their peers. However, while a passion for helping others is great in any field, there are a number of core counselling skills that can guide you through your career. Some of these skills include:

  • Working with difficult and complicated emotions: Depending on your individual career path, it may be important to embrace and respond to different types of complex emotions and feelings.
  • Knowing when to listen and when to speak: Active listening plays a role here. Engaging, reflecting on what a client is saying, and responding to their needs while being mindful of how they might feel is a fundamental part of effective counselling.
  • Seeking help when it's needed: It's important to understand that as a counsellor, you may not have all the answers, and that's ok. When you're out of your depth, don't be afraid to escalate or refer to other support services. After all, you're a part of a journey - you're not the only solution out there.
  • Taking care of yourself: Working with others can often be draining and difficult, particularly when working in complex fields such as school or relationship counselling. Know how to look after yourself and when to take a break - after all, your health is just as important as the health of your peers.

The role of empathy in counselling

Working with complex client needs can often take a lot of work to reconcile. After all, as a counsellor, you may not necessarily experience the same trials and tribulations that your peers face.

Empathy, or trying to understand an individual's situation and how they feel, can be a powerful way to understand the feelings of others. While applying empathy is in no way easy, building up empathic communication skills such as active listening is a great way to be successful in the role.

Working with a diverse range of beliefs and perspectives

Depending on the client and the specific counselling role, a counsellor can be exposed to an array of experiences and situations. Take, for example, a child that has experienced trauma. Young people may not necessarily be able to describe the way that they feel in words.

On the other hand, a counsellor may be involved in experiences with people that are experiencing severe distress. Overall, you may be involved in a litany of different situations which require different strategies to manage them.

More than just study - Ongoing learning in counselling

While it may not seem like it, counselling involves ongoing study. Learning new techniques is part of the role; however, being able to apply strategies and skills across a spectrum of interpersonal problems may present opportunities to learn and adapt your existing strategies.

Invest in training not only yourself but for ongoing professional development and review. After all, keeping up to date with the latest research can assist in improving your counselling strategies so that they are the best they can possibly be.

Applying these skills away from counselling

While the skills in this article form some of the core competencies of counselling, did you know that they can be applied and used in many other industries? In fact, you may choose to pursue a counselling qualification yet choose to work in another industry.

Counselling can help provide the skills necessary to survive and thrive in roles such as management, sales and teaching - and help to benefit your personal relationships as well. There's a wide range of rewarding activities that can be supported with a professional qualification in counselling - if it's a field you wish to consider, it may be worth speaking to a careers counsellor.