Truth Joy Beauty

Just my thoughts and reflections about living and loving in the post-post modern age.

So where ARE the counselling jobs for counselling graduates?

A couple of months ago I finally completed my graduate diploma in counselling. After three and a half long years of sacrifice, studying part-time while working full-time I find that many of the roles which have the word ‘counsellor’ in the title, don’t actually ask for specific counselling qualifications. More-so, many ask for social work qualifications, which I know can include counselling as a subject, but not necessarily. So, if a role is advertised as a counselling role, why ask for a social work qualification? Asking for a psychology degree seems to make more sense, however, even psychology degrees don’t have counselling specific subjects.

Below is an example from the Sydney Universisty Post Graduate Diploma course outline:

Semester 1 Year 1 PSYC2011 Brain and Behaviour *
PSYC2012 Statistics and Research Methods for Psychology *
Semester 2 Year 1 PSYC2013 Cognitive and Social Psychology *
PSYC2014 Personality and Intelligence I *
Semester 1 Year 2 PSYC3018 Abnormal Psychology *
Plus one of the following:
HPSC3023 History and Philosophy of Psychology & Psychiatry **
PSYC3011 Learning and Behaviour
PSYC3012 Cognition, Language and Thought
PSYC3015 Personality and Intelligence II
PSYC3017 Social Psychology
Semester 2 Year 2 Any 2 of the following:
PSYC3010 Advanced Statistics for Psychology ***
PSYC3013 Perceptual Systems
PSYC3014 Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience
PSYC3016 Developmental Psychology
PSYC3020 Applications of Psychological Science

As you can see, there are no counselling specific subjects. Also, no pracitcal counselling requirements. I’d like to contrast that with the course I did, the Graduate Diploma in Counselling at ACAP (Australian College of Applied Psychology):

Graduate Diploma of Counselling (GradDipCouns)(Re-accredited)

Year 1

1.  COUN5131 Counselling Practice

2.  COUN5141 Counselling Theories

3.  COUN5151 Cross Cultural Counselling

4.  COUN5161 Counselling Over the Lifespan

5.  COUN5171 Ethical Decision Making

6.  Elective

Year 2

7.  COUN5201 Counselling Skills and Models

8.  COUN5211 Grief Counselling

9.  COUN5221 Mental Health Practice

10. COUN5231 Field Placement and Supervision 1

11. COUN5241 Field Placement and Supervision 2
12. Elective

Electives – choose two

COUN5801 Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselling
COUN5811 Narrative Therapy
COUN5821 Creative Therapies
COUN5831 Groupwork Theory and Practice
COUN5841 Family Counselling
COUN5851 Trauma Counselling

As you can see, most of the subjects are counselling related and counselling specific.

As an employer, if I was recruiting for a counselling position, then it would make the most sense to ask for a counselling specific qualification, however this is not happening as far as I can tell. I have called up advertisers of these sorts of roles and asked, why are they not asking for a specific counselling qualificaton for this counselling position and have been met with little more than defensive or ignorant responses. Clearly the question makes them uncomfortable. To be fair, some have said, yes a post graduate diploma in counselling will be considered…but my question is then, why not state that in the ad? At the very least, from what I have gleaned so far, there seems to be little knowledge in the community services sector about the difference between a counselling qualification, pyschology and social work. My suspicions were confirmed depressingly when I came across this article written by a counselling educator at UWS: Where are the jobs for our graduates? (This blog post is kind of a response to this article). I say depressingly because the Google search term I used which delivered this article, (third result from the top) was “gradaute jobs counselling”.

So after spending the last three years studying I can honestly say this article was a low point. As someone who also has a Bachelor of Arts and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism, I can tell you the ACAP Grad Dip Counselling is not an easy course, not academically nor practically. If I wanted to be a researcher, then yes, a psychology qualification would be most appropriate, (and to be honest, it sounds really interesting so as a glutton for punishment perhaps, I am acutally considering it!) If I was interested in social justice then a social work degree would be the right qualification to have.

But I see myself, quite specifically as a counsellor. Someone that wants to work one on one, or in small groups with people who need the sort of help only a therapeutic counselling relationship can offer. I strongly feel this is where my particular skills are best suited.

So, why is it so difficult to find a counselling role that asks for counselling qualifications? Clearly, more work needs to be done by our governing body, PACFA (The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia) and educational institutions, such as ACAP, to educate the sector and government about the differences between these three different occupations.

The fact that Medicare does not cover counselling does not help. At the moment, if you have a social work degree which included counselling as s subject then you may be eligble to apply for a Medicare rebate number (although I have heard through the grape-vine that this is changing.) Still, most private health care funds will cover pyschology, but not counselling. Somewhat surprisingly, most will also cover alternative therapies (such as aromatherapy, massage etc) as well, but only Medibank Private offers a rebate for counselling services.

The situation is very disheartening and frustrating for counselling graduates, such as myself. However, there is more than one set path to achieve any goal and that is why I am considering going straight into private practice if I can’t get a counselling position. Because, not only are there not as many positions vacant that ask for counselling qualifications, when they do they also ask for a ‘minimum of 2 years experience’, the conundrum faced by many graduates.

So, it was not my initial intention, as I had hoped to get a few years experience working for a not for profit or in the mental health sector, but as my very supportive partner has said to me, why not try it?  What have you got to lose?

And then, yesterday, I came across this quote which has inspired me so I’d like to share it with you:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

William Hutchison Murray


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