How To Become A Counsellor: A Step-By-Step Guide With Skills

Updated 15 August 2023

Counsellors are individuals who take care of the mental and emotional health of others. They typically use their expert knowledge to help patients live more fulfilled lives. Learning about what counsellors do and what it takes to become one may help you decide whether it is the right career for you. In this article, we define this profession, explain how to become a counsellor, outline the skills needed for the role, describe their work environment, list their specialisations and provide answers to two frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the role.

Related: Student Counsellor Job Description (With Duties And Skills)

What Is A Counsellor?

A counsellor uses various counselling methods to help people manage and overcome their mental and emotional challenges. They provide emotional and psychological support to patients. Counsellors typically meet their patients to understand their challenges, develop relationships and guide them towards solutions. Using coping techniques, they strive to improve the quality of their patient's lives. Some of their specialities include disabilities, marital issues, mental health problems, delinquent behaviours and addiction. Here are some duties of counsellors:

  • Diagnosing patient's emotional and mental disorders

  • Creating effective treatment plans, including the use of both medication and counselling

  • Discussing treatment plans with patients for areas that require improvement

  • Discussing ways to pursue professional development

  • Undergoing personal therapy

  • Conducting sessions with people suffering from issues in their personal life

  • Developing relationships with patients to identify underlying reasons for their behavioural issues and problems

  • Listening attentively and responding to patients to ensure their comfort

  • Working with patients and developing goals

Related: 11 Skills For A Guidance Counsellor To Have (With Examples)

How To Become A Counsellor?

Review the following five steps to learn how to become a counsellor:

1. Complete your education

After completing your 10+2, choose a psychology or counselling-related degree. Earning a bachelor's degree in counselling psychology, clinical psychology or other subjects can help you enter the profession. If you selected arts as your stream in 10+2, pursue a Bachelor of Arts but if you selected science as your stream, pursue a Bachelor of Science in related subjects. Many counsellors complete a bachelor's degree in sociology, social science, social work, education, medical science, allied medical science, nursing or similar fields.

2. Pursue higher studies

After completing a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, pursue a master's degree in clinical, child or mental health counselling and behavioural psychology. Completing a Master of Arts or Master of Science in a similar discipline can increase your chances of securing a job. Often, employers prefer counsellors with a master's degree because it shows their skills and knowledge and conveys what they can achieve.

3. Earn professional certifications

After graduating from university, consider completing certifications in mental hygiene, counselling and career counselling to enhance your resume. Earning these certifications can increase your chances of securing new patients. When working for a firm or a hospital, certifications can demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement. They may reassure patients that you can help them overcome the distress they are facing.

4. Determine your speciality

Before you begin your counselling career, determine the speciality you enjoy the most. Explore various opportunities and focus on the one that you find the most appealing and rewarding. Here are some types of counselling specialities to consider:

  • Child counselling

  • Victim support

  • Bereavement support

  • Career counselling

  • Education counselling

  • Academic counselling

  • Relationship and marriage counselling

  • Health counselling

  • Rehabilitation counselling

Related: How To Become A Counselling Psychologist

5. Join a professional association

Join a professional counsellor's association according to the speciality you choose. These associations provide networking opportunities that can connect you with other counsellors and help you in your job search. Participating in such an organisation may reinforce your commitment to professional development and allow you to demonstrate your abilities to others.

Related: How To Become A School Counsellor (With Essential Skills)

What Are The Skills Required To Become A Counsellor?

Here are some key counsellor skills that can help you complete your job-related tasks:

Active listening

Active listening is a soft skill that refers to your ability to listen to a speaker with complete focus. It enables you to understand, comprehend and remember the information a speaker shares with you, allowing you to respond thoughtfully and carefully. This is a key skill for the role, helping you ensure you treat patients properly.


Written and verbal communication skills refer to your ability to receive, share and process information. Excellent written communication skills may help you maintain accurate records of the treatment plans and the sessions you conduct with patients. Your verbal skills can enable you to have productive conversations with your patients.

Related: Communication Skills In Leadership: Importance And Benefits

Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking is your ability to collect information, assess data and solve a patient's problem using the information available. Knowing how to analyse the patient's situation and provide a treatment plan is key for this role. As your patients may have underlying issues they do not discuss directly, this ability may allow you to better comprehend their situation.

Related: How To Improve Analytical Skills (With Steps And Benefits)

Clinical skills

Clinical skills are your technical abilities relating to caring for your patients. Making diagnoses and developing and implementing appropriate treatment plans may help you solve your patient's issues. Diagnosing your patient based on what they say is key for this role.


Having a friendly approach to treating patients is an integral part of being a counsellor. If you are friendly with your patients, they are usually more likely to discuss their problems. Being approachable may help you build trust and strengthen your relationship with your clients.

What Is The Work Environment Like For A Counsellor?

The work environment of a counsellor depends on the speciality they choose. Generally, they work 40 hours per week, though their specific hours or days may vary. For example, a counsellor working with a hospital or having a private practice may work Monday through Friday during standard business hours. Sometimes, counsellors may work only for some hours during the morning and evening.

Counsellors in mental health facilities may have shifts in the evening or overnight. Some might work on weekends or holidays to accommodate their patient's needs. Some counsellors may provide virtual services using video conferencing software to meet their patients.

What Are Some Counsellor Specialisations?

Here are some areas in which you can specialise as a counsellor:

Child counselling

Counsellors who specialise in childhood development work with children. They are knowledgeable in aspects of emotional and physical development in childhood. For instance, parents may take their children to counsellors for difficulty speaking in social situations because of nervousness and anxiety.

Mental health counselling

Health counsellors often use therapeutic practices to help patients navigate challenges. They may also develop healthy routines, improving their patient's lives. Such counselling typically supports patients who experience various mental health issues and conditions affecting their daily life.

Speech therapy

Speech therapists typically work with patients who experience challenges with speech and who have language disorders. They usually help patients through speech exercises. They may also create plans for therapy and monitor their patient's progress.

Related: What Is Career Counselling? (With Definition And Benefits)

Trauma counselling

Trauma counselling aims to help patients who have experienced traumatic events in their life. These counsellors typically assess a patient's requirements through discussion and observation before developing treatment methods. Depending on the person's condition, they may even refer patients to other specialists.

Marriage counselling

This counselling aims to help married couples navigate issues they are facing in their relationship. Marriage counsellors typically observe how couples behave and interact with each other. They often discuss family goals, fidelity, domestic violence, fertility and mental health conditions with their patients.

Admission counselling

This type of counselling provides support to students seeking admission to a particular institution. Admission counsellors typically meet students and help them determine whether a course suits them. Part of their job involves interviewing students who want to secure admission to an institution.

Related: What Does An Admission Counsellor Do? (Duties And Skills)

FAQs About Counsellors

Here are answers to some FAQs about counsellors:

Is counselling a good career?

Counselling can be an excellent career choice for compassionate people who want to make a difference in the lives of others. It can be a rewarding job for those who find pleasure in improving someone else's quality of life and reducing their stress. Though this career can have emotional challenges, especially when a patient shares their traumatic experience, it is often very fulfilling.

Related: How To Write An Admission Counsellor Resume: A Detailed Guide

Where do counsellors work?

Counsellors typically own a private clinic. Some counsellors may work with mental health facilities and hospitals that offer counselling services. Here are some other places where they may find employment:

  • Care facilities

  • Schools

  • Community health centres

  • Long-term care facilities

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