Selection Policy for Counsellor Training
Training as a counsellor or psychotherapist is demanding intellectually, emotionally and socially. It is not a benign process that can be managed by reading, attending lectures and writing essays, but involves the whole person.
Research evidence on effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy is wide ranging and diverse in its conclusions. However, the irrefutable evidence is that it is the quality of the counselling relationship and the therapeutic alliance it produces, that are essential to good outcomes.
Effective competent counsellors need considerable knowledge and skill, but everything revolves around their ability to make, sustain and end sound, reliable therapeutic relationships. Such relationships are at times hugely demanding.
Clients/patients can present with a multitude of difficulties, can bombard the counsellor with all kinds of demands, may be abusive, seductive, angry, distraught or manipulative: the counsellor must maintain a relationship and withstand whatever they encounter.
People can develop a capacity to sustain such relationships and do this work, but it takes time, dedication, motivation, openness and sufficient self-esteem and emotional responsiveness to bear the challenges that training throws up.
Counsellor training always involves experiential work, interacting with others in roleplay and actual client work. It involves group work in which individual weaknesses and vulnerabilities are often revealed and worked with. Students give and receive support from others, which is essential to a safe learning environment.
The learning experience will often feel unsafe, as all aspects of an individual’s emotional world are laid bare. It has to be like this, as each person must be prepared to encounter the unknown world of their clients and be helpful to the other, but survive themselves.
For these reasons, we need to select prospective students/trainees with care. We need to use our own therapeutic skills and experience as therapists to make a judgement about who will be able to withstand the demands of training and ultimately withstand the demands of a therapeutic relationship as a practitioner. This is not a precise science, but two tutors and a range of activities are used in the selection process to give us the best possible opportunity to make that judgement.
Specific criteria for selection are used for each of our courses, that differ slightly depending on the level of study and intended learning outcomes. These criteria have evolved as a result of our experience of training counsellors and noting over the years factors that influence the successful completion of our courses.
If we choose not to accept someone it is almost always because we do not feel at this time that the individual can benefit from what we are offering or because we are concerned that the training may expose too many vulnerabilities and be damaging to them.
For these reasons we ask about mental health problems that people have experienced.
It is not a barrier to training that people have had mental health problems in the past, that have been resolved, but we think very carefully about applicants with current health problems as the training may exacerbate their difficulties. The bottom line is ultimately the relationship with potential clients and our decision is based on our judgement about the ability of the individual to sustain such a relationship without harming themselves or the other.
We also have to consider the dynamics of the training groups and we usually make the decision not to have established couples of people who have a close employment relationship in the same training group.
Rejection can be painful for the individual to hear and we are often asked for feedback. It is our policy not to give detailed personal feedback as it is inevitably of a personal nature. We are not able to provide any ongoing support as a result of the feedback and hence consider it to be unprofessional to offer it. Ethical guidelines indicate that it is inadvisable to provide insightful comments that leave a person vulnerable and unable to process the information.
There are sometimes instances where a student suffers some kind of psychological breakdown or serious ill health during the course.
The BACP Ethical Framework clearly states that attention to the practitioner’s well being is essential to good practice and counsellors are required to seek advice of experienced colleagues if their effectiveness is impaired or threatened as a result of ill health.
Careful consideration will be given in each instance as to whether the student should continue with the course or return after their illness. Sometimes a recommendation will be made that the student should take time out or withdraw from the course, in their own best interests.
The University has a Fitness to Practise Policy and procedure that has to be followed if there are any concerns about the well-being of the potential counsellor or the relationship with their clients.
We have a range of training programmes at different levels, each with specific entry requirements