Professional Practice in Counselling

Discover how to succeed in private practice as a consultant therapist. Learn how understanding yourself can benefit your clients, the importance of an ethical code, multicultural awareness and ongoing training amongst other things.

Course CodeBPS207
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Who should study this course?
Whether you are a counsellor or psychologist working in private practice or for a public health service, this course may be of benefit to you. It can also be useful for other health care workers working in counselling type roles or working with those with mental health problems. 
What you will get from it
Studying this course will enhance your understanding of best care practices for clients and patients. This is achieved in part through developing awareness of your own beliefs, values and any issues you might have which could interfere with the counselling process. It also includes adhering to ethical and moral standards such as continuously striving to improve oneself, and recognising when it is necessary to refer a client on to someone else for their benefit.
What is professional practice?
It is essential that if the counsellor or psychologist is to enable the client to experience growth, they themselves must discard stereotyped roles in order that they can become a real person in a real relationship.
It is the counsellor’s own genuineness, alertness, and ability to make life choices that are the inspiration for clients to make changes to their own lives.

Of course, this does not have to mean that the counsellor is on top of everything at all times in their own life, but rather that they are willing to make changes where necessary. As such, the counsellor is able to convey to the client that taking risks and instigating changes can be worthwhile.

It can be argued that if the counsellor remains hidden behind low-risk behaviour and does not disclose too much about themselves, then the client will exhibit similar behaviour.

Similarly, if the counsellor portrays themselves as an expert who is there to diagnose and offer a cure, then the client is less likely to take an active role in therapy. They may also feel more impotent and helpless and consequently reveal less of themselves and become more defensive.

The psychological health of the counsellor is crucial in determining the success of the counselling relationship. A counsellor owes it to the client not to engage in counselling whilst experiencing problems of their own.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Understanding Counselling: The client-counsellor relationship; Effective counselling; Counselling the counsellor; Counsellor’s values; Multicultural counselling
  2. Ethics & Confidentiality: Needs; A code of ethics; Informed consent; Right to privacy; Legal requirements; Use of psychometric tests; Ethics and multiple relationships; Keeping records.
  3. Understanding the Self: Self-awareness; Self-monitoring; Self-concept; Social Perception; Attribution theory; Implicit personality theory; Relationships; Social exchange; Love and intimacy.
  4. Personality: What is a healthy personality?; Trait approach; Psychodynamic approach; Humanistic approach; Social learning and cognitive approaches.
  5. Emotions & Behaviour: What are emotions?; Emotions and Counselling; Effect on communication, Aspects of emotions, Emotional expression and counselling.
  6. Supervision: Why supervision?; Working with others; Quantity and effectiveness of supervision; Personal counselling; Dependency; Types of supervision.
  7. Referral Practice: Counselling v mental health issues; Secondary care counsellors; Abnormal psychology; Anxiety; Depression; Schizophrenia; Personality disorders.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Discuss some of the main personal qualities that counselling will draw upon and demonstrate an awareness of the types of issues that new counsellors will need to resolve within themselves.
  • Raise awareness of: the ethical issues that arise within the profession, legal requirements, informed consent, decision-making and other related topics.
  • Gain insight into how the self, and one’s perception of the self influences both the client and the counsellor, and to understand the effect of the self upon relationships both within and outside the counselling process.
  • Enhance awareness of what is considered a healthy personality, to consider different types of personality tests, and to become aware of the application of different approaches to personality within the counselling process.
  • Explain how emotions arise, what they are, how they influence our bodies, minds and behaviour, and their role in the counselling process.
  • Understand the necessity for counsellors to have ongoing supervision throughout their professional career and to be constantly striving to upgrade their skills.
  • Delineate circumstances in which it is preferable to refer a client on to another health care professional, and to understand some of the main disorders that they may encounter.

What You Will Do

  • Explain why a counsellor needs to be open to personal growth.
  • Discuss personal qualities that are beneficial to a counsellor.
  • Discuss how the counselling of a counsellor can be of benefit to their personal effectiveness’
  • Describe how a counsellor’s own values can impose on the counselling process’
  • Outline the importance of an ongoing education and an awareness of other cultures.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of other useful counselling qualities through role play.
  • Discuss the importance of having a ‘code of ethics’ in counselling.
  • Describe what is meant by ‘informed consent’.
  • Discuss the extent to which the client has a ‘right to privacy’.
  • Understand when and how psychometric tests may be used.
  • Describe how to keep client records.
  • Discuss how the counsellor’s own sense of self-awareness can affect the counselling process.
  • Describe how self-perception can influence identity, roles and self-actualisation.
  • Define schemas, scripts, and attributions and their influence on social-perception.
  • Discuss the effect of attractiveness, closeness and similarity on relationships.
  • Discuss the effect of different levels of self-disclosure on the counselling relationship.
  • Describe symptoms of relationship breakdown.
  • Define a ‘healthy personality’.
  • Discuss the effect of nature and nurture on personality.
  • Describe the use of different personality tests.
  • Compare and contrast different approaches to personality and their application to the counselling process.
  • Discuss what is meant by emotions with other people.
  • Describe the effect of emotions on communications.
  • Define different aspects of emotions including: physiology, cognition and behaviour.
  • Demonstrate ways in which emotional expression can affect the counselling process.
  • Discuss different methods of supervision of counsellors.
  • Describe how dependency can evolve in the counselling process.
  • Discuss the importance of upgrading skills and ongoing supervision.
  • Outline methods of observation used in supervision.
  • Discuss the counsellor’s responsibility to the client.
  • Explain what might be considered as abnormal.
  • Define symptoms of commonly encountered disorders.

How Can a Counsellor become More Effective

A number of characteristics of effective counsellors have been identified:

  • Sense of Identity - They know who they are, what they want, what they need and what they are capable of.
  • Self-Respect -They are able to offer help to others because they have a sense of self-worth. As such they can respect others.
  • Power - They recognize their own power and are happy to allow others to feel power in their presence. They do not use power for their own means, but only where it may facilitate the counselling process.
  • Changeable-They are happy to give up the security of what they know, in order to make changes if they are not satisfied. They are prepared to grow.
  • Ability to make Choices -They are able to make decisions about others, themselves and so on, but are also able to revise decisions that they made earlier in their lives. They realise that there is no absolute state and that everything needs to be continuously revised and re-assessed.
  • Liveliness-They have the ability to make life choices and live life fully, rather than merely exist. They do not remain static.
  • Sincerity-They strive to be sincere at all times. Genuineness is one of the greatest tools for reaching out to clients.
  • Humour-They retain a sense of humour, and are capable of laughing at themselves. They may also call on humour as a means of demonstrating a sense of the ridiculous and irony where appropriate.
  • Accept their Fallibility -They realise that they are capable of making mistakes, but do not dwell on them. Positive elements can be gleaned from mistakes.
  • Live in the Present -They are aware of past influences and future goals, but live in the present.
  • Cultural Awareness -Have a broad understanding of the influence of culture on both themselves and the client. They will strive to maintain and improve this awareness.
  • Commitment to Welfare -They are genuinely concerned with the welfare of others. This is essential if they are to construct a collaborative and caring relationship.
  • Involvement -They become deeply involved in their work and are able to derive meaning from it. As such they will seek to improve their knowledge and remain actively involved in their profession.
  • Psychologically Healthy -They are able to leave the emotional strains behind them when they go home.
It would be totally unrealistic to expect any individual counsellor to possess all these traits. However, if they are each viewed as a continuum, then the individual counsellor can assess to what extent each of them is characteristic of themselves, and to what extent they may need to develop others in order to achieve personal growth.


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Benefits of Studying This Course

This course is one of the stalwarts of our counselling faculty. It covers the type of background knowledge that all counsellors should possess. Whether you choose to work for yourself or propose to work for someone else, understanding yourself and your strengths and weaknesses is very important. So too is recognising the value of moral and ethical codes, multicultural awareness, the benefits of supervision, and knowing when to refer a client to another professional. This course represents an important part of the jigsaw for all therapists.  

This course is of most value to people working in or contemplating working in:

  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Nursing
  • Caring roles
  • Health professions

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Lyn Quirk

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Tracey Jones

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Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
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