A Beginners Guide to Training in Counselling & Psychotherapy


Edited by: Robert Bor & Stephen Palmer

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    To all of the trainee therapists with whom I have had the pleasure to work

    Robert Bor

    To Pat Milner, a colleague, friend and mentor

    Stephen Palmer

    The Editors

    Robert Bor

    Robert Bor is Professor of Psychology at London Guildhall University and also Head of the HIV Counselling Unit at the Royal Free Hospital, London. He is a Chartered Clinical, Counselling, and Health Psychologist and is the Director of Counselling Psychology Courses at London Guildhall University. He trained in the practice and teaching of family therapy at the Tavistock Clinic, is a member of the Tavistock Society of Psychotherapists, a clinical member of the Institute of Family Therapy (London) and is a UKCP Registered Systemic Psychotherapist. He is also a member of the American Psychological Association, American Family Therapy Academy and American Association for Marital & Family Therapy.

    His recent books include The Trainee Handbook (with Mary Watts, 1999), Counselling in Health Care Settings (with Miller, Latz & Salt, 1998) and The Practice of Counselling in Primary Care (with Damian McCann, 1999). He serves on the editorial board of a number of journals including Counselling Psychology Quarterley, AIDS Care, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health, Psychology, Health & Medicine and Families, Systems and Health.

    He is extensively involved in counselling training in the UK and abroad. He is also a qualified pilot and conducts research into passenger behaviour. He provides a specialist counselling service for air crew and their families. He received the British Psychological Society Division of Counselling Psychology Annual Counselling Psychology Award in 1997 for Outstanding Scientific Achievement. He is also a Churchill Fellow.

    Stephen Palmer

    Professor Stephen Palmer PhD is Director of the Centre for Stress Management, London, an Honorary Professor of Psychology in the Centre for Health and Counselling Psychology at City University, and a Visiting Professor in the School of Lifelong Learning and Education at Middlesex University. He is Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, a Chartered Psychologist (Health & Counselling), UKCP registered psychotherapist, and a certified supervisor of Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapy.

    He is editor of the Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist, and the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, and Co-editor of the Counselling Psychology section of the British Journal of Medical Psychology. He has written numerous articles on counselling and stress management and authored or edited over 20 books. Some of his recent books include Handbook of Counselling (with McMahon, BACP & Routledge, 1997), Integrative Stress Counselling (with Milner, Cassell, 1998). Counselling in a Multicultural Society (with Laungani, Sage, 1999), Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (with Scott, Cassell, 2000), Introduction to Counselling and Psychotherapy (Sage, 2000) and Counselling: the BACP Counselling Reader, vol. 2 (with Milner, Sage, 2001).

    He edits a number of book series including Stress Counselling (Continuum) and Brief Therapies (Sage). He is Honorary Vice President of the Institute of Health Promotion and Education, and Honorary Vice President of the International Stress Management Association (UK).

    He has been awarded by the British Psychological Society, Division of Counselling Psychology, the Annual Counselling Psychology Award for ‘Outstanding professional and scientific contribution to Counselling Psychology in Britain for 2000’. Recently the Institute of Health Promotion and Education awarded him a Fellowship for his ‘Outstanding contribution to the theory and practice of health promotion and health education’.

    His interests include jazz, astronomy, walking, writing and art.

    The Contributors

    Malcolm C. Cross is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist. He is currently the Director of the Counselling Psychology Programme at City University London.

    Berni Curwen is a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist accredited by the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psycho-therapies and registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. She has a psychiatric nurse background and has worked in both the NHS and private practice. She contributed two chapters to Client Assessment (Sage, 1997) and co-authored Brief Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (Sage, 2000).

    John Davy is a Chartered Counselling, Educational and Health Psychologist. John works part-time in an NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, and as a research supervisor for City University's counselling psychology courses. He has particular interests in systemic therapy and cultural psychology, chronic illness, clinical and research supervision, writing and psychotherapy, and the social politics of ethical training and practice. John has a doctorate on the uses of deconstruction in counselling psychology, and is completing advanced training in family and systemic psychotherapy with the Institute of Family Therapy.

    David Glass is a counselling psychologist in training. He is originally from Scotland but has studied in a variety of places: he completed his Bachelors in the USA and settled in London to pursue his career as a counsellor. Having completed his MSc in Counselling Psychology at City University, he is currently studying at London Guildhall University where he is en route to being a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. He has worked in a variety of clinical settings, including a child and family therapy centre and primary care practice, and at present works as a counsellor in substance misuse.

    Diane Hammersley is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist working in independent practice. A former Chair of the BPS Division of Counselling Psychology, she takes a particular interest in the needs of trainees and new practitioners looking for employment opportunities.

    Charles Legg is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at City University. He initially trained as an experimental psychologist, specialising in brain and behaviour, but requalified as a Counselling Psychologist, attaining chartered status in 1995. He is interested in the impact of biological factors, such as obesity and drug use, on problem formation and resolution in counselling, the role of theory in Counselling Psychology, systems theory and postmodern approaches to Psychology.

    Gladeana McMahon is a BACP Fellow and Senior Registered Practitioner, a BABCP Accredited Cognitive-Behavioural Psychotherapist and is UKCP and UKRC Ind. registered Counsellor. She is a part-time Senior Lecturer on the Diploma and Masters programmes at the University of East London and has written, co-authored or edited 16 books. Gladeana is Associate Editor of Counselling, Managing Editor of Stress News and Associate Editor of the BABCP Newsletter.

    Linda Papadopoulos is a Chartered Health and Counselling Psychologist and a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at London Guildhall University. She has published widely in the field of medical psychology and psychodermatology and gives specialist lectures on working with clients with disfigurement and skin disease. She is course director of the MSc in Counselling Psychology at London Guildhall University, where she is also heading up a large-scale study into the psychological effects of skin disease in collaboration with dermatologists from St. Thomas’ Hospital. She has worked in numerous health psychology and primary care settings and runs workshops with medical students on the psychological implications of illness. Her recent book on psychodermatology is considered a seminal text in the field.

    Justin Parker is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He is a lecturer in psychology at London Guildhall University. He also works as a Senior Counselling Psychologist in the NHS and consultant to various primary care groups. He is currently conducting research into the effects of couple counselling upon adjustment to disfigurement.

    Christine Parrott is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. With an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in the United States, Christine moved to Britain in 1992 and earned her Masters and Post-Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology at City University. She also has a Diploma in Applied Hypnosis from University College London. Recently, Christine returned to live in New York where she writes and is producing a psychology-based programme for television. Her special interests include parenting, evolutionary psychology and moral behaviour.

    David G. Purves is a Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology at London Guildhall University and is a BPS Chartered Counselling Psychologist. Originally trained as an Experimental Neuroscientist, he has recently completed retraining in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy. David combines lecturing with a private practice and working as a specialist in psychological trauma at a dedicated NHS clinic. His research interests centre around understanding the development of responses to trauma and treatment of PTSD.

    Susanne Robbins has an MSc in Counselling Psychology at London Guildhall University and is currently studying for a Post MSc Diploma in Counselling Psychology, also at London Guildhall University. She obtained her first degree from the Open University and is also a Registered Nurse. She is particularly interested in counselling people coping with physical illness or disability.

    Peter Ruddell is a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist accredited by the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. He has worked in both the voluntary sector and private practice. He contributed two chapters to Client Assessment (Sage, 1997) and co-authored Brief Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (Sage, 2000).

    Kasia Szymanska is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, a BABCP Accredited Psychotherapist and is also UKCP registered. She works in private practice, for a Stress Unit in the City of London and as a lecturer in counselling psychology. She also works as a trainer and is the editor of Counselling Psychology Review, published by the British Psychological Division of Counselling Psychology. She is an Associate Director of the Centre for Stress Management, London.

    Jill D. Wilkinson is a Chartered Counselling and Chartered Health Psychologist of the British Psychological Society. Over the last decade she has taken an active part in the development of Counselling Psychology in the UK. She is a former Senior Examiner and is the current Chair of the BPS Board of Examiners for the professional qualifying examination (the BPS Diploma in Counselling Psychology) for Chartered Status of the BPS. Until 1999 she was Senior Lecturer and Course Director of the Practitioner Doctorate (PsychD) in Psycho-therapeutic and Counselling Psychology at the University of Surrey, where she continues to do some lecturing. For the past 20 years she has also worked in independent therapeutic practice.

    Ray Woolfe is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist (registered with UKCP) and an accredited Counsellor (registered with UKRC). He is a fellow of BACP and practises as a Psychologist and Psychotherapist in Manchester. He has written widely about counselling and psychology and after retiring from a career as senior lecturer in counselling studies at Keele University, is professor in counselling psychology at London Guildhall University.



    Every year, hundreds of people in the UK start their training to become counsellors, psychotherapists or counselling psychologists. In addition, many thousands in other countries and regions throughout the world, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the European Union, also start on this road. Counselling skills are also taught in fields allied to counselling and psychotherapy, such as medicine, nursing, law, physiotherapy, teaching and child guidance, to name but a few. Some professionals within these fields aspire to specialist counselling and psychotherapy training. If you are thinking about professional training in one of these fields, this book has been written with you in mind. Our aim is to help you make decisions about the path your studies will follow and to help you to prepare your application for the selection interview. This book is also designed for trainers, tutors, supervisors and other professionals who carry the responsibility of mentoring our future colleagues.

    Counselling, psychotherapy and counselling psychology are rapidly becoming professions in their own right. In the new millennium, it is increasingly likely that the terms ‘counsellor’, ‘psychotherapist’ and ‘psychologist’ will be restricted for use by those who have undergone a recognised professional training programme in one of the professions. Furthermore, they will be obliged to adhere to a code of practice and ethics set out by an overseeing body, and agree to participate in lifelong professional development. Training requirements have become increasingly stringent due to the rapid increase in professionalism in the field of counselling.

    There is growing competition for places on training courses. Demand for qualified and well-trained graduates is also reflected in the profiles of those who get offered jobs. The days where someone with a rudimentary training and relevant counselling experience can hope to secure a good job have long gone. Training to become a counsellor, psychotherapist or counselling psychologist is both rigorous and intense. In recent years we have witnessed fervent activity within these fields aimed at (a) defining their knowledge base and training requirement; (b) establishing licensing and accreditation bodies; (c) setting out the requirements for ongoing training, supervision and professional development; and (d) implementing and enforcing a code for professional conduct in practice.

    One might argue that the demands placed on trainees are not altogether unreasonable. After all, as a modern counsellor you will require many qualities including stamina, will power, motivation, adaptability, empathy, humour and a quick wit. You will also need to keep up to date with research and developments in the field, supervise and train more junior colleagues and manage caseloads.

    If you are aspiring to become a counsellor, psychotherapist or counselling psychologist, you will need to make decisions about your training and future career. Students have told us in several different contexts that it has often proved difficult to make decisions about their training with only limited information available. Applicants to courses typically have many different questions but no reliable source to answer some of the more important ones. Obviously, each course has its own entry qualifications and requirements and readers should ensure that at least they familiarise themselves with these.

    There are some generic questions, which can help you to be better informed when it comes to selecting and applying to a training course. In this text, we have endeavoured to cover the issues and concerns that occupy many course applicants. Hopefully, you will find the contents interesting and the style relaxed. Each contributor is an experienced practitioner who has undergone a professional training at some stage of their career. All have some involvement with the selection and training of students.

    In Chapter 1, Ray Woolfe briefly explains how a trainee can become fully qualified through one of the three key professional organisations: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP); United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP); the British Psychological Society (BPS). Then he covers how a training route can be selected. This chapter provides an excellent overview to the overlapping professions and their accrediting systems. It sets the scene for the rest of the book.

    The next three chapters focus on the key professional bodies in more depth. Gladeana McMahon (Chapter 2) explains the new BACP accreditation procedure. She gives her personal view regarding the advantages of being accredited, which include receiving additional counselling referrals. The UKCP consists of eight sections and additional members. In Chapter 3, Kasia Szymanska and Stephen Palmer describe these different parts and also provide information about the different types of therapy offered by each section. They believe that there may be more competition from other professional organisations such as the BACP or the BPS and this could affect their status as the main umbrella for psychotherapy. Chapter 4, by Jill Wilkinson, examines and explores routes to becoming a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. She suggests that by reading professional counselling psychology journals, prospective trainees can discover what staff and trainees are publishing and thereby find out the research interests of those involved in the course. This may help in deciding which course to choose.

    In Chapter 5, Linda Papadopoulos and Justin Parker describe the three main theoretical models of psychological counselling: psychoanalytic, humanistic and cognitive-behavioural therapies. Each section includes the history, theoretical concepts, therapeutic process, and the limitations, highlighting the commonalities and differences between the various approaches. In fact, a basic understanding of these is often important when being interviewed for training courses. In Chapter 6, Peter Ruddell and Berni Curwen discuss the personal qualities of a competent counsellor. They include issues such as time management skills, stamina, genuineness and flexibility. Therapist humour is also covered, noting that it can be an important catalyst in helping clients to see situations or problems from a more constructive perspective.

    The next two chapters focus on preparing for the course application and the subsequent interview. In Chapter 7 Charles Legg highlights that any kind of selection, whether for a job or a course, can be a harrowing experience. The focus of the chapter is on those readers who want to communicate accurately in their applications, not those who wish to mislead. Although there is no magic formula for completing forms and being accepted onto a course, Legg has covered the main methods to help applicants represent themselves in a constructive light. In Chapter 8, Christine Parrott develops this theme further on the preparation for a training course interview. We are reminded of the old saying, ‘You never have a second chance to make a first impression’. Therefore, appearance, body language and our knowledge about the particular course are important. In addition, the different types of interview are covered such as individual, group or panel interviews. In Chapter 9, Kasia Szymanska addresses trainee expectations of courses as compared to the reality of training experiences and seeks to offer a balanced view of what you might reasonably expect from becoming a trainee.

    The next two chapters assume that you have managed to pass the earlier hurdles and are now attending a course. In Chapter 10, Malcolm Cross and David Glass focus on helpful study habits and include issues such as participating in lectures, small group discussions known as seminars, tutorials and maintaining reflective journals. Many students suffer from exam nerves which can be quite debilitating for some, leading to very high levels of stress. This particular problem and exam technique are addressed.

    In recent years, there has been an increase in therapeutic training providers expecting trainees to enter therapy for the duration of the course. This has largely arisen due to the BACP, BPS and the majority of member organisations of the UKCP making personal therapy mandatory. In Chapter 11, John Davy outlines the arguments which have been made for and against this requirement, and offers guidance on arranging personal therapy. In addition, some cautionary guidance is given on how to avoid problems in therapy and the possible different expectations of both therapist and trainee.

    Chapter 12 describes two trainees’ perspectives of psychological counselling training. People considering entering this profession may find that reading this chapter provides a useful insight into what they may experience while attending a programme. Susie Robbins and David Purves share some of their fears and the challenges they encountered. For example, Robbins had not expected the course to be so demanding, whereas Purves sometimes felt that he knew more about psychology than some of his tutors in the first year of his course. Although this chapter has been positioned near the end of the book as the chapters have been arranged in a logical manner, it may still be worth dipping into at an early stage.

    So, what does happen after you have finished your training and become fully qualified? When you go into practice, if you do not look after yourself, you could experience burnout. You may need to select a new supervisor or you may wish to enter private practice. In Chapter 13, Diane Hammersley covers a range of these issues including finding a job and continuing professional development. She brings this book to a conclusion by reminding us to ‘Enjoy your career, the fulfilment it may bring you, and the privilege of knowing yourself and other in such a special way’.

    The book concludes with a Recommended Reading list for trainees or prospective trainees and an Appendix of the main professional organisations mentioned in this book.

    For ease and simplicity, the terms ‘counsellor’, ‘therapist’ and ‘psychologist’ are used interchangeably in this book. We do not wish to antagonise readers who may hold firm views about the apparent differences between these groups, but we believe that since they are all closely ‘related’ it is appropriate to avoid repeating all three wherever they appear. Clients and counsellors are also interchangeably referred to as ‘he’ and ‘she’. These titles do not reflect any bias on the part of the authors but are merely convenient terms.

    We wish you luck in your application and trust that the course you find is both stimulating and enjoyable. A related new text The Trainee Handbook (edited by Bor & Watts, 1999) may be a valuable resource for those starting their training and who require guidance in many of the practical aspects of their training such as finding a practice placement, planning their research, writing case studies and process reports, and finding a job, among many other topics.

    Bor, R. and Watts, M. (1999) The Trainee Handbook: a guide for counselling and psychotherapy trainees. London: Sage.
  • Recommended Reading

    We have provided a reading list of books that trainees or those considering entering the profession may find useful and insightful. Some focus on more advanced aspects of therapy but include information that may guide a person into what therapeutic approach they may wish to train in.

    Bor, R., & Watts, M. (1999). The trainee handbook: a guide for counselling and psychotherapy trainees. London: Sage.
    Clarkson, P., & Pokorny, M. (1994). The handbook of psychotherapy. London: Routledge.
    Feltham, C. (1997). Which psychotherapy?London: Sage.
    Feltham, C. (1999). Understanding the counselling relationship. London: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446218037
    Feltham, C., & Dryden, W. (1993). Dictionary of counselling. London: Whurr.
    Feltham, C., & Horton, C. (2000). Handbook of counselling and psychotherapy. London: Sage.
    MacMillan, M., & Clark, D. (1998). Learning and writing in counselling. London: Sage.
    Milner, P., & Palmer, S. (2001). Counselling: the BACP counselling reader, vol. 2. London: Sage.
    Palmer, S. (2000). Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy: the essential guide. London: Sage.
    Palmer, S., Dainow, S., & Milner, P. (1996). Counselling: the BAC counselling reader, vol. 1. London: Sage.
    Palmer, S., & Laungani, P. (1999). Counselling in a multicultural society. London: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446216965
    Palmer, S., & McMahon, G. (Eds.) (1997). Client assessment. London: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446221624
    Palmer, S., (Ed.), & McMahon, G., (Associate Ed.). (1997). Handbook of counselling. London: Routledge.
    Palmer, S., & Woolfe, R. (2000). Integrative and eclectic counselling and psychotherapy. London: Sage.
    Woolfe, R., & Dryden, W. (1996). The handbook of counselling psychology. London: Sage.
    Appendix: Useful Addresses

    British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)

    1 Regent Place


    Warwickshire CV21 2PJ


    Administration telephone:+44 (0) 1788 550899
    Information telephone:+44 (0) 1788 578328

    BACP provides a list of accredited counsellors and relevant organisations.

    British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) PO Box 9

    Accrington BB5 2GD


    Telephone:+44 (0) 1254 875277

    British Psychological Society (BPS)

    St Andrew's House

    48 Princes Road East

    Leicester LE1 7DR


    Telephone:+44 (0) 116 254 9568

    United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy

    167-169 Great Portland Street

    London W1N 5FB

    Telephone:+44 (0) 20 7436 3002

    Confederation of Scottish Counselling Agencies (COSCA)

    18 Viewfield Street


    Scotland FK8 1UA

    Telephone:+44 (0) 1786 475140

    Irish Association for Counselling & Therapy

    8 Cumberland Street

    Dun Laughaire

    Dublin, Eire

    Telephone:00 353 1230 0061

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