Could You be an Effective Counsellor?

With soaring violence, devastating levels of women and child abuse combined with the debilitating effects of endemic poverty, HIV AIDS and high unemployment, as well as the prevalence of bullying, gangsterism and substance abuse, it is not surprising that South Africa has large-scale mental health issues. Unfortunately, trauma, suffering, shock, distress, deprivation, depression, grief, anguish, anxiety, agony and fear, and a plethora of other mental and emotional conditions strongly and constantly permeate all levels of South African society.

Do you have what it takes to be a Registered Counsellor?
“Counselling is a profession that is well suited to individuals who are warm, caring, empathic and have a strong desire to help, support and counsel people who are experiencing challenges in their lives”, says Laura Fisher, Director of Academic Affairs at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology). Some of the top qualities and skills of effective counsellors include:

  • A strong interest in the wellbeing of people
  • Empathic respect
  • Good communication skills, especially when it comes to listening
  • A high degree of comfort with, and enjoyment in cultural diversity
  • Emotional maturity and intelligence
  • A passion to commit skills and energy to make a positive difference in the lives of others
  • Effective personal stress management
  • An ability to champion and help facilitate social coherence

While personal attributes such as these form the bedrock of a successful counselling career, having a Registered Counsellor qualification is essential. In order to become a Registered Counsellor you have to enrol for a programme such as SACAP’s Bachelor of Psychology (BPsych). This BPsych develops a thorough grounding in the knowledge, theory and principles of psychology as well as training students to provide psychological services that are focused on prevention and primary intervention for psychological difficulties in diverse community context. It also includes a practical component in which students provide short-term supportive counselling services, engage in psychological screening as well as referral and management strategies and promote psychosocial health and community based care with individuals, families and communities. This kind of qualification is critical in providing good quality psychological care at primary health care level.

Registered counsellors are professional practitioners who make primary psychological services available in diverse community contexts, thereby enhancing psychological wellbeing of the public at large.

Once qualified, Registered Counsellors may seek employment and work opportunities in a wide range of fields, including:

  • Non-Government Organisations
  • Community programmes and support facilities
  • Schools and other educational institutions
  • Rehabilitation and addiction treatment centres and programmes
  • Crisis and trauma centres
  • Hospitals and hospices
  • Consumer organisations
  • Corporate Wellness Programmes
  • Support services for South African Police
  • Correctional Services

This qualification allows students to be self-employed as a Registered Counsellor in a practice and is also a notable stepping-stone for those aiming at a career as a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist. Registered Counsellors differ from other categories of psychology in that their primary function is to prevent, promote, intervene, and appropriately refer. Their primary role at a preventative and promotional level involves screening and engaging early and appropriate levels of intervention. The scope of the Registered Counsellors work includes:

  • Screening and identification of mental health challenges
  • Containment of presenting difficulties
  • Providing preventative, developmental counselling services and interventions
  • Psycho-education and training
  • Promotion of primary psychosocial well being
  • Referral to appropriate professionals or other appropriate resources (know when to refer to a psychiatrist or psychologist)
  • Working in a context appropriate, multi professional team
  • Assessments (intellectual assessment, BASIC functioning, kinetic figure drawing)

SACAP’s Bachelor of Psychology degree, is approved by the HPCSA. Graduates of this programme are eligible to write the National Examination of the Professional Board for Psychology in the Registered Counsellor category. Successful completion of the exam will allow the student to register with the HPCSA as a Registered Counsellor. As a four-year NQF8 degree programme, SACAP’s BPsych degree has a ‘built-in’ Honours year. Graduates are therefore also able to advance into a Masters programme if they wish to continue their training in Psychology.

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