Choosing the right counselling training provider

quality counselling training

Given the immense responsibility that comes with being a counsellor, it’s vital that all counsellors receive proper training. A well-trained counsellor can transform their client’s life for the better, but a poorly trained counsellor could end up doing more harm than good.

But, as you may have already discovered, there are hundreds of counselling training providers across the UK with a whole range of qualifications and courses on offer. Hence, we understand that working out which is the right course and provider for you can be a massive hurdle when you’re starting out.

So, we’ve explored some important areas that you should be considering or issues that you should be taking into account when making your decision as to the best quality counselling training both for you and to support your career plans

We’ll begin by discussing the subject of counselling qualifications and then look at what’s involved in undertaking counselling training, giving you a better idea of what your training journey will look like. Then we’ll see what you can expect from in-person or online training providers and what your options are in this area. Finally, we’ll move on to the specifics of what you should be looking for when trying to find quality counselling training (and things to avoid) so you can make the best choice possible!

1. What qualifications you should look out for

2. Counselling training in-person vs online

3. How important should cost be in choosing a counselling course provider?

4. Summary: What to look out for with a counselling training provider

1. What qualifications you should look out for

Unlike in the US, where only doctors can call themselves therapists or psychotherapists, counselling/therapy in the UK is not a government-regulated industry, and anyone can call themselves a counsellor. 

However, if you don’t have the right training and qualifications, not only are you likely to be less effective (and may even cause harm), you will be less recognised and could struggle to attract clients or employers.

To state what you probably already know (you’re here after all!), to become a successful counsellor, you will need to undergo training, earn a qualification, and join a reputable professional body recognised and respected by those both inside and outside the industry. Check out our ultimate guide to becoming a counsellor if you want more of an overview of this process.

We’ve also specifically written a definitive guide to counselling qualifications, but the conclusion that our experienced counselling experts have reached is that CPCAB (the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) is the best UK-based counselling qualification you can pursue.

Why? Well, because you can expect to receive quality counselling training on a CPCAB course that will teach you all you need to know to become an effective counsellor capable of supporting a diverse range of clients. So, what’s the basis for this claim? CPCAB audit their test centres to ensure that quality is maintained. Not only that, CPCAB awards BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) approved courses, meaning that BACP recognises their rigorousness. This then also means that you can apply to become a member of the BACP after you’ve qualified with CPCAB. 

And, you’d want to do that because the BACP is the leading UK professional body for counsellors, therapists and psychotherapists. Becoming a member will earn you recognition as a skilled member of the profession. 

counselling qualifications to look out for

To become a qualified counsellor through CPCAB, will take you around 3 years in total (though there are further levels you can do after you qualify enough to practise). If you’re keen to know more about them, we’ve written a guide to CPCAB qualifications that you’ll definitely find helpful.

counselling qualifications

Whichever route you choose, you must ensure the course you choose is based on the practical application of counselling knowledge and isn’t just about learning academic knowledge to pass a test. A purely theory-based course will not adequately prepare you to provide effective counselling and is held in less regard within professional counselling circles.

Also, without a practical qualification, such as one offered by CPCAB,  you may struggle to obtain membership of a reputable professional body, such as BACP, as they may not recognise your qualification. As mentioned earlier, this will in turn, impact your career options or your ability to attract clients. 

So, all that said, the overriding point is that before signing up for any course from any provider, you must check that the course is approved by a professional body.

2. Counselling training in person vs online

Can I (or should I) study counselling online? – is a very good question to be asking.

Since counselling training involves a significant amount of talking to people, video calling technology (e.g. Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) can be a perfectly good substitute for in-person lessons. This means you can expect the same high quality counselling training from online providers as you could from face-to-face training.

However, it’s essential to note that not all counselling courses will be available online. Some training providers don’t offer them, some qualifications don’t allow them, and some professional bodies prefer you undertake your lessons in-person. So, it’s key that you know what you can and cannot do online.

For instance, CPCAB’s level 4 Diploma (which is the essential qualification you need to qualify and become a practising counsellor) must be taken in-person. But the rest of CPCAB’s qualifications can be taken online (or in-person, whichever you prefer).

The BACP requires a certain number of training hours to be done in-person in order to qualify for membership. So, again, make sure to check with any training providers to ensure they will be setting you up to join a professional body.

Overall, training online is just as good as training in-person, but there are still a few differences – both benefits and drawbacks – that you may want to be aware of before deciding which you want to do. You can find out more about these and online counselling training in general in our definitive guide to online counselling courses.

in-person or online counselling training

However, as a summary, while searching for your provider, consider these 2 key takeaways:

A quality counselling training course that’s run online should give you everything you would get in a classroom course – The same level of support, practical group discussions, tutor interactions, etc., and shortcomings such as lack of body language can be mitigated through sessions covering how to make up for the lack of body language in online sessions.

You won’t be able to qualify with only online courses so your options are either to take all of your training in-person or just the required hours.

What counselling training involves

So, having come up with a shortlist of possible courses and providers based on what we’ve already said, what should the content actually consist of?   

Well, we’ve mentioned that counselling training involves talking, but there’s a bit more to it than that. 

Not every course follows the same structure, but there are 4 common activities found on good (practical) courses:

  • Group counselling – Counselling training involves looking within yourself, and you need to be prepared to identify and confront your own issues before you can address other peoples’. This is one of the reasons it’s paramount that your course is led by experienced practising counsellors. 
  • Course content – While theory shouldn’t be the only thing covered in a course, you will need to be taught the important theories that you can use in your counselling (e.g. boundaries and ethics). 
  • Group discussion and practice – Splitting off into groups and not just talking about the counselling theory or technique but actively trying it on each other in a safe and supported environment is a vital form of experience (before you go and try it on clients). 
  • Reflective journal work – Writing notes about your thoughts and what you’ve learnt and then having your tutor review them, is important to make sure you are taking away the right things from the training.

Two terms you need to be aware of (especially if you plan to study online) are ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ learning:

Synchronous – Learning (in-person or online) with other people and a tutor, and everyone involved is live – in sync!

Asynchronous – Learning independently using provided/pre-recorded material, i.e. not learning the same thing at the same time as everyone else – not in sync!

Be warned that some professional bodies (including BACP) will not recognise most asynchronous learning, and many reputable training bodies (including CPCAB) will not count any asynchronous learning towards the total learning hours required for each qualification in order to become qualified. 

While you can learn theories and concepts without others, you can’t learn to practically apply that information to counselling like this. So, watch out for these terms or for any mention of learning materials for independent studying. Make sure you are going to be receiving enough live/synchronous learning to become truly qualified.

Choosing an in-person course provider

As well as the issues already covered, this option has its own additional considerations: 

  • Location – You’re going to need to be able to attend regularly for several years, so ideally, you’ll want somewhere closer to home unless you’re comfortable with travelling.
  • Synchronous hours Even though it is an in-person course, it’s still wise to make sure that the synchronous/taught hours will be enough to gain the qualification you’re seeking and help you become a member of your chosen professional body. You don’t want to sign up only to find out you’ll be reading a study text and not getting to try out what you’re learning.

Choosing an online course provider

Again, many of the factors relevant to finding a quality counselling training provider will be just as relevant to online training. But there are some things you should consider in particular if you’re looking to do online training:

  • The technical requirements – It may sound obvious, but you need to make sure you have a device (e.g. a laptop or tablet) and a reliable internet connection that will actually allow you to attend the sessions.
    • The format of the sessions – Check that the tutor has planned for interaction between you and the other students to give you a chance to apply your learning, rather than just an online lecture.
      • Professional body membership – Will the training you receive online enable you to join a top professional body? Many professional counselling bodies have restrictions on what they will accept in terms of online training. See the earlier section on “Counselling training in-person vs online” for further information on this issue.

      Online classes vs distance learning

      It’s worth clarifying, while we’re here, two terms you may encounter when searching for courses that involve an online element: online classes and distance learning. Particularly in terms of counselling training, the terms typically mean::

      • Online classes – This is what we’ve been referring to so far as online learning: synchronous, classroom-style courses (teaching, peer interaction, etc.) held online using video conferencing software. 
      • Distance learning – This is the infamous asynchronous self-study mentioned in earlier sections, where you receive a collection of materials (e.g. study text, pre-recorded tuition videos, etc.) that you use at your own pace. As we’ve said before, be warned, counselling membership bodies (such as BACP) generally do not accept students from asynchronous courses.

      3. How important should cost be in choosing a counselling course provider?

      You NEED quality counselling training, but this will come at a price. You don’t want to skimp on your counselling training and receive substandard results – it’s simply not worth it. 

      However, that doesn’t mean you should just book yourself onto the most expensive course on the market. Once you’ve chosen what qualification and type of training you want (online or in-person), you can shop around to see what providers are available and their prices. You’ll find a range of course prices available. Online courses are often cheaper than in-person courses because a meeting space isn’t required. 

      Here are some illustrative figures of what an average CPCAB course might cost you in total (along with some estimates on how long they’re likely to take):

      CPCAB Level 2

      (6 months)

      £800 – £1,000

      CPCAB Level 5

      (1 year)

      £2,300 – £2,750

      CPCAB Level 3

      (6 months)

      £950 – £1,500

      CPCAB Level 6

      (1 year)

      £1,750 – £2,750

      CPCAB Level 4

      (2 years)

      £5,500 – £7,500

      Note: This is the level needed to qualify

      (Though, it’s worth bearing in mind that levels 5 and 6 aren’t necessary to qualify, and they might be done further into your career as a counsellor.)

      Even if a cheaper course is available, if it doesn’t fulfil your needs (i.e. getting into a professional body, giving you the skills you need, teaching you in a supportive and engaging environment, etc.), it doesn’t need us to tell you that it isn’t worth taking.

      We discuss the costs involved in training a little more in our ultimate guide to becoming a counsellor, and we also discuss potential funding opportunities there.

      4. Summary: What to look out for with a counselling training provider

      We’ve covered quite a few things here, so let’s do a quick recap of things for you to consider when searching for a quality counselling training provider, as well as some additional points to check as you go:

      Location

      When looking to do training in-person, you need to be able to get there as often as there are planned sessions for the full length of the course.

      Self-study vs teaching

      Make sure you will be getting enough guided, synchronous learning hours for your goals (i.e. gaining a qualification).

      Qualification

      You should be aiming to earn a recognised qualification at the end (e.g. CPCAB level 4 diploma) rather than a small provider’s own certification.

      Technical requirements

      For online learning, you will need a device and internet connection that will allow you to attend the sessions without any interruptions.

      Format of sessions

      The training should be practical and synchronous, not purely theoretical or pre-recorded (if it’s online).

      Professional body application

      Your training should set you up to gain entry into a professional body like BACP.

      Beware of online vs distance learning

      The terms may be inconsistent, so don’t be afraid to confirm the course teaching style by asking questions.

      Don’t prioritise price

      It’s more important that the provider can give you the training you need, not just be the cheapest.

      Tutors with counselling experience

      You need tutors who can teach you how to provide counselling in the real world, not just someone with academic knowledge.

      Talk to them

      Don’t be afraid, the training providers won’t bite! Get in touch with any that you think you might like to join and see what it’s like to interact with them – ideally both their customer service and their tutors. You might be working with them for several years so you need to feel comfortable with them.

      Use an official directory

      If you select a qualification, the awarding body may actually have a directory of official providers you can search. For instance, CPCAB has a directory that you can use to find approved training providers.

      The level of support

      Some providers will offer more support than others. You need to decide how much help and support you’re likely to need during your training and then make sure your chosen provider is prepared to meet that need.

      If you bear these things in mind, you are more likely to find the right training provider to meet your individual needs and expectations.

      It may seem like there’s a lot to think about (and, to be fair, there is), but it is a big decision. Finding quality counselling training that will fulfil your needs means that the effort you expend here will be worth it. Don’t forget, this is just the starting point – soon, you will be embarking upon your course and training to become a skilled counsellor capable of helping a range of clients with a diverse collection of issues. 

      If you choose carefully, your training will reward you with a life-changing experience and the beginnings of a fulfilling new career.

      To learn more about Astranti Connect’s CPCAB qualifications, why not come to one of our Open Evenings or sign up to our free email newsletter packed full of course offers, study tips and career advice to learn more.

      If you have any questions, feel free to ask them below and someone from Astranti Connect will get back to you as soon as possible.

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