Counsellor imageYou’ll provide emotional support to help people overcome challenges for example bereavement, living with a long term condition or drug or alcohol addiction.

Counsellors can work in a care organisation, health service, community centre, youth service or have your own counselling business.

Your role might include:

  • giving people the opportunity to talk through their feelings
  • listening to people and asking questions to encourage them to reflect on their experiences
  • encouraging people to cope with their challenges and make positive changes in their lives.


Everyone working in social care needs English, number, digital and employability skills including team work and problem solving skills. What core skills do I need to work in social care outlines some of the skills you need and has short activities to help you think about transferable skills from your previous experiences.

There are also some specific skills needed to work in this role. These include

  • excellent listening skills
  • the ability to put people at ease
  • the ability to cope in emotional situations.

You don’t need to have a degree to become a counsellor as there are qualifications in counselling at different levels. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) recommend a three stage training route.

  • Introduction to counselling: basic counselling skills course usually lasting 12 weeks and is available at further education colleges.
  • Certificate in counselling: provides theoretical understanding of counselling at a higher level usually lasting a year part time and available at further education colleges.
  • Diploma level qualifications in counselling: usually one to two years part time with a minimum 100 hours’ work placement. There are lots of different courses and qualifications and you can find a list of BACP accredited courses here.

A degree in a related subject such as nursing, psychology, social work or education might also be useful.

You may need some previous experience of working in social care, health or counselling role. You could gain this experience through a work placement, from your personal life, through volunteering or as part of a traineeship or apprenticeship.

What’s also important is that you have the right values and behaviours to work in social care.


If you’re interested in working as a counsellor, there’s lots of advice about finding a role on the Starting your career page. You could look online or in your local newspaper to find vacancies.

The NHS and some charities or community groups also advertise for counsellors, or you might want to work self-employed.


If you’ve completed an accredited counselling course that meets BACP requirements, you’re eligible to become a BACP member. This is desirable for employers as it shows you adhere to high standards of ethical practice.

When you start in your role your employer should put you through an induction. This might include training necessary for your role such as health and safety and first aid. You might also receive specific training such as autism awareness, communication skills or working with people with dementia.

When in your role you could do a vocational qualification or a continuing professional development qualifications such as courses on new therapeutic approaches. You could also work towards becoming an accredited counsellor.

There may be opportunities to progress into senior counselling roles and supervise others or a management or training role. You might also choose to specialise in areas such as bereavement, family therapy or substance abuse.

You might also choose to go into other social care roles such as a rehabilitation worker, social worker or occupational therapist. Read more on the Job roles in social care page.