This is a very demanding course that we can only run when we have sufficient candidates. This is the recognised qualification to practice as a professional counsellor, and takes at least two years and involves 420 Guided Learning Hours together with a minimum of 100 hours of supervised counselling experience. You will also need to experience personal therapy yourself and also to receive supervision for your counselling practice. It is therefore a major commitment both in terms of time and money. Most counsellors in the UK work on a voluntary basis, and there is no guarantee of employment at the end of the course. However, if you really feel called to professional counselling in the sense that it is understood in the UK, this qualification, or an equivalent, is essential. The course will cover both counselling theory and practice and will equip you to work as a counsellor in an agency context. The professional bodies would suggest that you gain a bit more experience in an agency before you set up in private practice.
You will have to find and pay for your personal therapy, and will need to find your own placement for your counselling practice. Some placements may provide supervision but most students also have to pay for supervision sessions.
While you can start a level 3 course before you have passed the external assessment for your level 2 course, you must have completed your portfolio successfully and also paid all outstanding fees. Your tutor must also be satisfied that you will be able to cope with the more demanding work that the level 3 course requires. To sit the external assessment for the level 3 course, you must have passed the external assessment for the level 2 course. For admission to the level 4 course, you must have completed your level 3 portfolio and satisfy the tutor that you are able to cope with the very tough demands of level 4 and are committed to complete the course. At the end of the first year of level 4, students who are not keeping up with the work may not be re-enrolled for their final year, and may be required to take time out to complete their first year’s work.
What do these courses equip you for?
If you want to become a professional counsellor who can be registered with or accredited by a professional body such as the Association of Christian Counsellors or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, you will need to study and pass all three courses. You will also need to gain more experience and keep up your ongoing continuous professional development to reach and maintain the level of accreditation.
However, not all students want to become a professional counsellor and want to use their skills either in a church setting or as part of their secular job. It is important here to recognise how certain terms are used in the UK at present, as these can affect issues such as insurance and liability. Often in church situation we have used the term counselling quite lightly to describe situations where we listen to and help others, perhaps sharing some Bible verses or praying for them. This would not be seen as counselling, but rather pastoral care. In some churches the term pastoral care is confined to very simple practical caring tasks, and some students ask why they should spend time and money studying if that is all they can do afterwards. In the UK however, pastoral care would include a lot of the deeper support and ministry that is involved in the pastoral work of the church, and therefore a lot of what many churches would regard as counselling. It is advisable in the UK though not to claim the title of “counsellor” unless we are a fully qualified professional counsellor, since most churches’ insurance policies will cover pastoral care in terms of personal liability but will specifically exclude professional counselling. A professional counsellor needs separate insurance which will often require that they can demonstrate adequate training and supervision.
So, if you feel that your ministry will be listening to others and helping them in a church context, then a level 2 course may be all that you require. If you want to go a bit deeper and understand a bit more about human psychology and counselling theory, then you may want to carry on and do a level 3 course. We would recommend that if you are going to be the senior pastor in your church, a level 3 course will be of great assistance to you in equipping you well for your task. The Association of Christian Counsellors has a Pastoral Care membership category which provides support and training for those who are using their counselling skills within a church context. You can find more details on the ACC website (www.acc-uk.org).
The level 4 course is very demanding and requires a lot of commitment. We can only run it when we have a sufficient number of students, and it is not so likely that we can run it on local campuses. This course is only really for you if you feel called to become a professional counsellor. Since in the UK most counselling is done on a voluntary basis, it is no guarantee that you will gain a paid job, and many counsellors who set up in private practice find they do not make enough money for it to be their only source of income. You need to understand a lot of these factors before committing to this course as it will take a lot of your time and money.