Ten Helpful Tips for Trainee Counsellors
Updated: Nov 20
I started my own training with little idea of what to expect. A few tips including practical and emotional aspects would have been very helpful. Here are some suggestions taken from my own experiences as a trainee and as a counsellor and supervisor.
1. Find out about college or university assistance
There might be extra support available if you have particular needs such as mobility or learning differences. If you inform course directors and tutors of your needs from the start there is more clarity about what is required and what is available.
2. Find out about time commitments and financial costs. This will give you more options for planning ahead.
As you check fees and course dates look out for extras such as residential training.
Set aside adequate time for completing work that needs to be submitted. Be prepared for plenty of reading.
Having your own regular therapy is usually a course requirement that will add to your expenses.
Counselling practice is often at a placement that offers clients free or low-cost therapy. Most placement counsellors work voluntarily and are provided with free group supervision.
During supervision counsellors discuss their work with clients and their personal and professional development. You will probably also need to have individual supervision adding to your time and cost commitments.
3. Be prepared to experience the emotional effects of counselling training
Many trainees experience a range of feelings and emotions. Training includes self-exploration and working with emotional areas such as bereavement. Some topics may resonate with your own issues. Peer groups can be both supportive and challenging. Working together with any conflicts that arise is part of your learning and development.
4. Be prepared for changes in your relationships
As you develop personally and professionally your perceptions, attitudes and interests can change. You may become more self-aware and self-accepting, more confident and self-sufficient. These changes can affect your relationships with family and friends.
5. Keep written records of everything
Receipts and payment records help if there are any administrative queries.
To avoid misunderstandings keep records of communications that relate to your course, for example time extensions for handing in assignments.
Keeping information about course details and areas of study can save you time in the future, for example when approaching placements and applying for jobs.
Keep records of time spent in personal counselling, your hours of voluntary counselling, and individual and group supervision. This information will be needed to complete your course, and later if you apply for BACP Accreditation. Many, but not all courses have forms and procedures for this.
6. Find a counsellor
Most but not all training courses require that you have a number of counselling sessions. Whether or not personal counselling is stipulated I would recommend it for the following reasons:
As a counsellor it is important to have sat in the client’s chair. To have experienced being in a therapeutic relationship from a client’s perspective, and to have worked at depth with your own issues.
Whilst training there are various situations where your own material might be triggered. Counselling can support you emotionally which is important for your own self-care as well as enabling you to be grounded whilst working with clients.
7. When choosing a counsellor and a supervisor make sure that each is approved by your college or university.
This avoids forming a bond with a counsellor or supervisor only to discover that you have to end the relationship and start again. Some trainings have a list of approved counsellors and supervisors.
8. Consider looking for a placement at the earliest opportunity
Counselling clients is likely to be a central part of your training. I recommend applying to a few placements and starting early as there are a limited number of places. Some trainings will not let you continue into the next year without a placement.
9. Invite fellow trainees to form a peer group
As you approach the end of your training it is a good idea to think about future supports. Courses include opportunities for learning, discussing, sharing and attending to personal and professional development. Following graduation, meeting fellow trainees regularly can be mutually helpful and supportive.
10. Take good care of yourself
Training can be immensely rewarding, intense, exhausting, exciting, emotional, deep, challenging, stressful, life changing and more. Attending to your own well-being is essential. Allow yourself some time for pausing and considering your own needs. Notice what nurtures you, what helps you to relax, what gives you a sense of peace and well-being and what replenishes and energises you. With good self-care you are better equipped to meet the demands of your course, and to be more grounded, energised and present as a counsellor.
I will conclude with a quote by Carl Rogers, these are the words that come to me when I reflect upon my own experiences of being a trainee.
'If I am to facilitate the personal growth of others in relation to me, then I must grow, and while that is often painful it is also enriching'. Carl Rogers (1995)
Carl Rogers (1995) On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy