Counselling Psychology? How?

Since I updated my status to the current university and degree, people have questioned me about my choice. Why another degree? Why this subject?

It does seems like I have been in education forever. At times I have hoped to get a proper full time paid job which offers me stability. Rather than unsociable part-time works coupled with taxing demands of a full time education leaving me with a virtually nonexistent social life. I have watched with jealousy my friends in the finance, law or engineering industry climbed up the career ladder, successfully earning and affording. Well, you’re probably asking, with all these discontentment in mind- Why don’t I just switch career path? That is a question I have asked myself numerous times. Considering my best subjects at high school and college had always been accountancy, economics…basically finance related. Switching into the mental health sector have been a radical and admittedly an experimental decision. Nonetheless, 6 years down the road I have not regretted nor even think about quitting.

Having said that BPS (British Psychological Society) quoted an average of 7 years to be a professional psychologist, 6 years have passed for me and I’m only at the beginning of my qualifying degree which by the way lasts for 3 years ie. a total of 9 years. However, I studied in a Scottish university which means 4 years to get an undergraduate degree, 1 year out for work experience, 1 year for counselling skills training (which is pre-requisite for most if not all doctoral level training programmes albeit it could be a shorter one) and at the 7th year I’m in a doctoral programme. You can see that I haven’t wasted much time considering the work experience you have to obtain too prior to entering the final throw of the HPC (Health Professions Council) system. Therefore, 7 years seems like a very optimistic figure. Also, if that is the average figure, it suggests that most people who achieved chartered status only had this one aim in their further education path!


Let me start with some background info

So what is it about being a professional psychologist that takes such a long time?; counselling psychology not excluded. In the UK, psychological related fields are regulated by BPS (British Psychological Society) and HPC (Health Professions Council). There are 9 possible areas to specialised in to become a chartered psychologist;

For more information on each category please click on the one you’re interested in which will bring you to its official description on BPS’s website. There are other positions that ends with the title psychologists however the list presented above are the only ones that are recognised by the HPC. For the purpose of this post, I will concentrate on counselling psychology.


As you can see, the route to calling yourself a counselling psychologist is to undertake an accredited doctoral training programme or through the independent route (which involves a lot more self regulating). To put it simply, for me the fundamental difference between counselling psychology and other fields like accountancy for example is the location of training. Graduates enter a multinational company (not necessarily, but for simplicity sake) as a graduate trainee/recruit and they are trained on site and depending on performance goes for career advancing exams such as ACCA. This is similar to the principles of clinical psychology training whereby trainees are employed by the NHS (National Health Service). However, counselling psychology is less established than clinical psychology thus receive less funding therefore most if not all courses are self-funded. Also, clinical psychology trainees train (paid) in NHS clinical and community settings exclusively whereas counselling psychologists have the choice to train (unpaid) in NHS settings, charitable or private settings.

You probably wonder then, why not train to be a clinical psychologist since you get paid on training whereas counselling psychologist don’t? I have once aspired to be a clinical psychologist but I concede that it is extremely difficult to get onto the course. The success rate for the year 2010 was 21% ie. 1 in 5 applicants obtained a place. These figures are drawn from Clearing House, the central body responsible for processing applications for clinical psychology. Unfortunately there isn’t a central body for counselling psychology and we make applications to individual universities therefore numbers can’t be obtained. I’m aware that for my current university, the professional tutors reported a total applications of about 80 of which about 40 obtained an interview and 20 were accepted onto the programme ie. 25% chance. Higher probabilities there.

It is also the case that in the UK, they do not accept international applicants as their main aim is to “to train clinical psychologists to work in the UK on a long term basis“. Therefore this has been a very big discouragement for me if not the initial defining criteria for me to opt out of this career path. I have personally clarified this with the Clearing House before and the international applicants they were considering were in the process of applying for permanent residency. There wasn’t any chance of me applying for permanent residency yet even though I intend to stay in the UK as I feel at home here having spent most of my teenage life here. The only option I have was to leave or consider other fields. Counselling came into mind.

End of part 1



Initial Reading List

Received my initial reading list for my studies due to start end of September. For those who are interested and might wanna see the difference between courses, here it is.

  • “A good overview of the professional areas within counselling psychology”. I think this is pretty much the bible for Counselling Psychology. It has introductory information and references for further readings.

Woolfe, R., Strawbridge, S., Douglas, B., & Dryden, W. (Eds) (2010). Handbook of counselling psychology. (Third edition).  London: Sage

Woolfe, R., Strawbridge, S., Douglas, B., & Dryden, W. (Eds) (2010) London: Sage.












  • “A good overview of the research areas within counselling psychology” is. I have heard of Mick Cooper, but don’t think I have read any of his books. The book title sounds like it is a good overview of the research done in this field. Don’t have to search far and wide for representative research.

Cooper, M. (2008). Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy. London: Sage.

Cooper, M. (2008). London: Sage.












  • “A good overview of the therapeutic dimension within counselling psychology”. I have a feeling the therapeutic part of this course would be similar to the Certificate in Counselling Skills. I am so glad I took a year out to study counselling on its own rather than entering counselling psychology as it is. I would struggle with the amount of reflexivity that is needed (on top of the demands of the course), the complexity of power involved in therapeutic relationships and the ability to hold and contain powerful emotions.

Clarkson, P. (2003) The Therapeutic Relationship; London: Whurr.

Clarkson, P. (2003) London: Whurr.










Egan, G. (2006) The skilled helper: A problem-management and opportunity development approach to helping, Thomson Learning:

Egan, G. (2006) Thomson Learning












Busy days ahead of me!

ps. Should I buy them?

Placement update and End of MSc!!

As you know, I didn’t succeed at the first placement interview so I emailed the course secretary at my university  to ask her if it’s possible to get an interview at a different place. Well, guess what they replied me with details of another Children and Young People Service Centre! This time they were specific that the centre has agreed to accept a first year trainee. This news revived my excitement! I’m so glad I am able to have another go at trying out for CAMHS. I will try my best and hope that I get it.

Anyhow, I handed in my dissertation today!!!! Finito! Another degree K.O! (not like I’m planning to do loads of degrees). In the end I cut it down to about 14.5k words but packed full of my hard work and dedication for the past few months. I am so proud of myself.

It had been one eventful morning which consists of me waiting patiently for a printing shop to open, pacing about waiting for them to finish printing and binding and handing it in! And what a lovely surprised I had when I bumped into few of my course mates. Followed by lunch with an ex course mate of mine which is going on to do Clinical Psychology. We talked about some of the differences and similarities between Counselling and Clinical Psychology. She doesn’t think there are many differences except maybe the Clinical Psychologist Trainees get paid while we don’t! Anyhow, Great stuff! It was just absolutely delightful to catch up with them before I leave for England next week. Next week! One more month to the start of my professional training in Counselling Psychology. To put it in a cliche way: The end to all beginnings. Finally, I got into something that I have been working towards. All those jobs here and there in counselling centres, support work, charities, research paid off. It has been a truly outstanding experience.

By the way, for anyone who are interested, the abstract for my dissertation is as follow:

Tittle: Vicarious Traumatisation Revisited: Capacity for Growthful Experience for Therapists Working with Traumatised Children and Young People


It has been well documented that work with these client groups is hazardous in nature and therapists could potentially experience a change in previous memory and schema as a result of this exposure (vicarious traumatisation). Moreover, growth following adversity has been displayed in survivors of trauma (posttraumatic growth). This dissertation aims to bridge the gap between these two phenomena in an effort to explore the personal development of therapists as a result of negative emotional demands. This is done through obtaining rich descriptive accounts from counsellors and psychotherapists. The interviews showed that it is difficult not to acknowledge the phenomenal role personal values and beliefs plays in counsellors and psychotherapists process towards achieving growth. Also, analyses of the interviews found that they were more aware of the real world and this comes with the notion of uncontrollable circumstances, realising that children and young people are extremely resilient which encourages hope and that they gain personal growth from observing client’s growth. They appeared to have rearranged their previous schemas to accommodate the knowledge they acquired through work with traumatised children and young people.



1st placement interview results


As predicted, she accepted a 3rd year trainee student instead cos they have more clinical experience. But she was very nice about it, spoke to me over the phone rather than sending me an email saying I was unsuccessful and end it at that. I really appreciate it. She even said that once I get to 3rd year she could just arrange to start the placement without a prior interview because she has already met me. I can’t help but wonder, what if it’s just a competition between 1st years? Would I then be able to get this placement of working with children and adolescent which is my first choice? Or maybe, for now, I should start with an easier placement, for instance student counselling service or in primary care settings? Where the clients’ cases are possibly less complex and there would be less external influence to work with (for instance, guidance teachers etc in child and adolescent’s case).

Well, looking forward to my second interview at a cancer care centre which is not any easier than this one! :S

Placement interview

Hello there, yesterday had been one hectic day. Started with me leaving my house before daybreak to catch a flight to London for my placement interview and house viewing.

The placement interview I attended is part of my training as a counselling psychologist. One of my choices for placement is at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) which is step 3 care in the current mental health system. The interview was very straight to the point.

She was unsure that this placement would be suitable for a 1st year as it involves working not only with the child or adolescent but also with guidance teachers, social workers, parents, guardian etc. Also, the successful candidate would be required to conduct their own family therapy but of course for a newbie, that is only required after about half a year of training. She was worried that all these might be too much for someone who not only needed time to get used to offering counselling but also to gain the confidence to speak to others about the client. It does seem like a lot of work. I am especially apprehensive about speaking authoritatively to parents who might not accept my comments readily. How should I present myself? How should I tackle uncompromising parents? How much of it is my professional advice and how much of it is my personal opinion? I voiced some of these concerns with my interviewer to show that I have thought about it and it is something that I still need to think about.

On the same note, from what I gathered talking to other counsellors and therapists, I felt that with children and young people, more often than not they are referred for counselling. This means that there are people out there who are concerned about their welfare. This could be the schools they are currently at, or parents or relatives. This in itself is a support base for the counsellor ie. there is someone to share the emotional burden the child brings, and someone to discuss and understand in more detail about the child’s day to day well being. I told my interviewer this in regards to approaching the complexity of working with children and adolescents. It might seem that I’m undermining the work or being overly positive about the challenges of this work. However, I felt that it’s better for me to go in with a positive outlook and tackle things one at a time rather than feel overwhelmed.

She brought up another issue which my fellow Friday class classmates would be familiar with- what if the client questions your ability to understand her experience because you have not been in that situation, for instance, the challenges of being a mother. Like we have discussed in the course, this in itself could be an area of exploration. Why does the client feel only someone who have gone through childbirth could empathise with her experience? Is this the root of the issue? I suppose counselling is to empower the client to explore and understand how certain beliefs and thoughts come about.

The interview proceeded with us discussing about some findings from our previous research work. It was great hearing about her work experience in different agencies of significant polarity especially in London where you have very deprived and very affluent areas. Those in poverty have their own set of problems and those who are financially privileged have other issues that have to be dealt with. We got to this topic while we were discussing how therapists seems to hold previous conceptions about certain scenarios. For instance, therapists were more able to accept that a woman has been raped by a man rather than a man to be rape by a woman. Or that gay rapes were less traumatising than heterosexual rapes. It is not to say that it is impossible to empathise with these cases. Counsellors are human, we approach different subjects with different ‘rulers’ to measure humanness. There are still some scenarios which we or I am not sure I can tackle, for instance, taking an extreme example of working with a serial raper. I am not sure I can work at that level, if i could, it almost seem like the actions are justifiable. Absolute objectivity and positive regard is a supreme form of enlightenment which I’m unsure could be achieved.

Well anyhow, she said she had a lot of interest in this placement and some are 3rd year, so chances are I might not get it. I really want to work with children and adolescents though and this is the only placement with this group of individuals that is offered by the university. I’ll know tomorrow if I got it.

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