Counselling Psychology

How do we compare to other professions, what roles do we take, etc. Includes descriptions of "a week in the life" of relevant posts.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 1497
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 4:18 pm
Location: The other side of paradise

Counselling Psychology

Post by Spatch »

Originally posted by a counselling psychology trainee some time ago, but additional notes have been added below and some information updated when checking and consolidating the information.

Well I’d say that the main difference between counselling psych and clinical psych training is £20,000. :D This is what you can expect to pay for a 3 year full-time course, plus you need to fork out for your own compulsory personal therapy – a minimum of 40 hours, lets say at a student rate of £30 per session – it doesn’t come cheap.

The BPS changed the structure of counselling psychology training a few years ago to make it a doctoral level qualification, normally done on a full-time basis over three years. I’m just about to complete my second year and I’m absolutely broke. From my experience of the course and talking to colleagues who are clinical psychologists, I would say that coun psych training is much less broad than clinical – you don’t have to work with learning disabled or older adults etc. The focus is more on learning the different models of therapy – usually CBT, psychodynamic, systemic, solution focused etc. and being able to apply these appropriately. There is also less emphasis on evaluating treatment outcomes and clinical audit etc. There is more of an emphasis on ethical issues raised by working with certain clients and there is a separate code of ethics laid down by the BPS. There is much more focus on how many client hours you manage to chalk up in each of your placements (normally a minimum of 450). You are required to keep a reflective journal of your experiences in your placements – process issues, what you have learned, what you need to develop etc. Assessment on the first year of my course includes two exams (stats/research meths and psychological methods of therapy) an ethics essay plus 2 case studies and 2 process reports + research dissertation.

One particularly problematic area of these counselling psych courses is that most of them require the trainee to secure his/her own placements. So if you can’t get a good mix of specialties that’s tough luck. I would also say that your career prospects in the NHS are much more limited compared to clin psychs due to counselling psych still (relatively speaking) being in its infancy (of course, once qualified you can work in private practice). However, it is possible that this might change in future especially if the number of clinical training places does not continue to expand fast enough to meet mental health needs in the NHS.

Further information 1

It is important to note that counselling psychologists are not exactly the same as clinical psychologists - they would not usually carry out psychometric testing - they don't get taught how to do the WAIS for instance. They have an emphasis on the process of therapy and would learn several therapeutic aproaches such as psychodynamic and CBT. So maybe they are similar to a therapist - one who is trained in several therapies. Often employed in primary care such as GP surgeries and possibly less likely to work with people with serious mental heath problems.

Further Information 2

Counselling psychologists tend to be trained "in depth", rather than "in breadth". Effectively, this means that newly qualified counselling psychologists hit the ground running, and are able to work in a comprehensive, and eclectic, framework from day one. Discussions with clinical psychologist colleagues suggest that newly qualified clinical psychologists, having had training in a wide range of specialisms, (breadth), often have little depth, initially, and require ongoing training and development of their therapeutic skills. Indeed, I have witnessed this when interviewing for vacancies. Of course, one should be wary of making sweeping generalisations, and I have come across exceptions to this "rule".

In terms of therapeutic models, counselling psychologists are required to demonstrate competency in at least three distinct models of intervention, and have the ability to work in an integrative manner, prior to achieving chartered status.

The BPS require that all chartered psychologists have "doctoral-level" qualifications. However this has not always been the case and until 2004 training could have been completed at Masters level, meaning many counselling psychologists do not use the title doctor. At a time of shortfall in the profession, some jobs were advertised for clinical OR counselling psychologists in reflection of the scarcity of clinical psychologists. However, some people believe that the compentencies of counselling psychologists are such that direct equivalency can be drawn between these two applied psychologies. Indeed, such an equivalency is enshrined in the advice given to NHS employers that counselling psychologists should receive the same terms and conditions of employment as clinical psychologist colleagues.

There are actually many more similarities between clinical and counselling psychology than differences. I personally work from a CBT perspective, in terms of formulation, diagnosis, and intervention. I've had 40 hours of personal therapy as part of my accreditation - and this certainly opens up one's psychotherapeutic vistas . And I can choose to integrate CBT with a solution-focused, psychodynamic, or systemic approach. But, as I'm sure everyone is aware, the equivalency paradox suggests that it doesn't actually matter all that much which model one uses in psychotherapy - it's the way in which it's used that is important.

Miriam posted this viewpoint in response to the above

I do think they are two different professions. I don't think you get to the same end point through two different training routes - and why would you want to? Why not clarify and celebrate the differences and strengths of both roles, not blur them into one?

I'm sure that therapeutically there are many similarities in skills, and that individual differences are greater than inter-professional ones. However I think it is important for Counselling Psychology to claim its own ground and step out of the shadow of Clinical, both in public and professional awareness, and in career structure.

I'm not sure about your breadth/depth argument, but you are right that I do not know enough about what current training for counselling psychologists contains to make accurate comparison. Most of the counselling psychologists I know gained that title through equivalence from international qualifications (and I got the impression that this was based on therapeutic experience, rather than the mix of academic, research and clinical experience it would take to gain equivalence in clinical psychology).

I would welcome greater clarity of role, and also greater opportunity for this fledgling profession to train and recruit more psychologists - there is plenty of room for all of us!

Additional information 3
My professional training programme in Counselling Psychology integrates various theories, practice, skills, research and personal development. Whilst adopting various models of therapy within our Clinical work the focus is very much on the therapeutic alliance with our clients. Our training programme has an Humanistic underpinning which I believe to be essential for ensuring a good quality therapeutic relationship. In terms of client contact hours we need to complete 450 hours by the end of our 3rd year of training. We do need to secure our own clinical placements, which can be problematic as we may not always have the opportunity to gain experience in various specialities, however, so far in my training I have been lucky enough to secure a clinical placement in different settings and often with clients with severe mental health issues. The assessment process in my training programme is intensive and we need to complete numerous written assignments and presentations each year in addition to a research thesis in our 2nd year of training. The interview process for gaining entry onto this training programme is also extremely rigorous and my impression, having spoken to Clinical Psychology trainees, is that there is very little difference in the interview process in each of these professions.

I am based at the University of Wolverhampton and I am just about to enter the final year of a 3 year Counselling Psychology training programme. I would recommend the training programme to others because I personally value the wide range of theoretical models that we have been taught, and in particular the Humanistic underpinnings of the training. With regards to the course fees, at the time I trained the course fees are just under £15,000 for the 3 years. The University recently increased their fees for this training programme by £500 per year and there is a strong upward trend in the cost of postgraduate training, so I could not quote exactly how much the training would cost for others considering the programme, because it could change again at some stage in the future.

We need to complete at least 30 hours of personal therapy over the 3 years and we pay for this ourselves. It can be very expensive and I know that some of my peers are paying nearly £50 an hour for personal therapy because they are unable to get anything cheaper in their area. I would say it costs anything from £900 to £1500 for 30 hours of personal therapy. In terms of living costs, I live in student accommodation which is near to the University and it costs just under £3000 per year to reside here. That does not include living costs in general, books etc. It will cost me a minimum of £25,000 by the time I complete my training this time next year. For anyone wishing to follow this training route I would recommend it, but would advise that one is fully aware that it is very expensive to do so.

spiketwinkle added their experiences on qualifying on the 29th June 2010

Having just qualified with a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology I'd thought I'd add some brief reflections about my experiences. Firstly, I'd say both counselling and clinical psychology courses obviously vary a lot as do the subsequent roles counselling and clinical psychologists are employed in.

I would argue with the person above who suggested that counselling psychs are not trained to deliver WAIS, WISC and other psychometric tests as in fact on my course such training was integral along with modules on neuropsychology, pharmcology and a whole range of other areas which having compared with clinical psychologists at the same university seem to differ little.

What was different was the need to be independent and highly motivated from the start as it was a financial and practical challenge to fund and fit in 40 hours of personal therapy (at between £30 and £60 an hour typically for a trainee), nearly £6000 a year course fees and the need to secure our own placements. We were expected to have experience in at least two areas and to be competent in integrating at least two distinct models.

Having to find placements, manage our own caseloads immediately in order to accrue a minimum of 450 hours of supervised practice meant I felt I needed to be far more independent and motivated than some of my clinical psych trainee colleagues who sometimes (and this is a generalisation I apologise for!) were glad when they had DNAs so they could get on with essays and research. On the other hand us counselling psych trainees were under a lot of pressure to take on extra cases if DNAs were a problem as we had to get those hours and fit in our research, essays, supervision, therapy and 40 hours of documented CPD as well.

Most of us were either mature students with savings or partners in employment which generally meant we had children to fit into the equation too or else we had to fit in other paid work alongside training and placements too. There were a few younger trainees but dspite having less practical pressures their lesser life experience seemed to be to their detriment and some dropped out and others seemed to struggle along more than the older trainees.

I have really enjoyed my training and have met and worked alongside some fantastic qualified and trainee clinical and counselling psychologists in my placements in secondary and primary care. Personally I have gained most from my work with severe and complex cases in secondary care and feel this is where I am most likely to work. Having had to be so responsible for my own destiny throughout training I also confident that I could set up a private practice and have been encouraged by clinical and counselling psych qualified colleagues to do this. So, all in all I feel the future is exctiting and that for me counselling psychology was the right choice.

Note: If you have a suggestion about how to improve or add to this wiki please post it here. If you want to discuss this post please post a new thread in the forum. There is information about the structure, rules and copyright of the wiki here.

Content checked by a qualified Clinical Psychologist on 27th February 2012
Last modified on 27th February 2012
Last edited by miriam on Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Updated
Any Psychologists out there want to come and join us? We have an opportunity for an additional clinical/practitioner psychologist to join our highly skilled, tight knit, diverse clinical team
User avatar
Posts: 433
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2008 8:37 pm
Location: West Midlands

Re: Counselling Psychology

Post by bex4010 »

Might worth adding a link to the BPS site for Counselling Psychology ... psychology
Post Reply