How to spot if a learner would make a good counsellor
4 July 2023
Counsellors and psychotherapists play a crucial role in improving the health and wellbeing of our society. They help people to talk about their feelings, think about their choices or their behaviour, and make positive changes in their lives (source: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy).
AIM’s counselling qualifications are a great way of ensuring aspiring and practicing counsellors are professionally trained and qualified, but what personal attributes make a good therapist?
AIM's Marketing and Communications Officer, Jas Jandu, shares her thoughts on the skills and qualities that make a good counsellor amongst students.
Top 5 skills that make a good counsellor
1. Good communication skills
Counsellors work with people from all backgrounds and different age groups, so being able to articulate clearly and concisely is important and central to counselling sessions being a success. A client may struggle to open-up for example or communicate what they are experiencing. A good counsellor will know how to get conversation flowing by asking the right questions, encouraging their clients to share their thoughts and responding appropriately. A learner who works well in group exercises by encouraging their team mates to get involved, and is well spoken or confident when giving presentations, for example, may well demonstrate the natural skills required to be a counsellor.
2. Good listener
Just like communication skills, the ability to listen to a client is crucial to the role of a counsellor. A client is less likely to share their feelings or experiences if they feel they aren’t being listened to, and in fact, this can do more harm than good in the long run. In many instances, the reason people seek out counselling sessions because they feel they aren’t being listened to by the people they know and so, an independent counsellor may be their only option. A good counsellor will listen to their clients and not interrupt them when they are speaking. They may also gesture in a non-verbal manner, with a nod of the head or make eye-contact, to emphasise to the client that they have their full attention. Learners who pay attention in the classroom and can respond to their tutors’ questions for example, or those who give their fellow team mates time to speak without interruption, may indicate the qualities of a good counsellor.
Counselling can only be successful if a client feels they can trust their counsellor. Being approachable, trustworthy and able to provide a private space, without the risk of being overheard, all contributes to building trust in the counsellor and in the sessions. Trust naturally develops when a client feels comfortable in their surroundings and is relaxed with the person they are talking to - they are more likely to open-up about their feelings. Similarly in a class environment, there may be some learners who you can assign tasks to, over and above others, simply because of the fact they can be trusted to work with others to ‘get the job done’.
Counsellors will often encounter situations where their clients aren’t ready to open-up about what they are experiencing, and this is where patience is key. A good counsellor will understand that each client is different and that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. They will take their time with the client and demonstrate compassion of their situation; understanding that progress may take time. Learners who undertake extra-curricular activities, such as volunteering in their students’ union or are course reps and attend meetings to feedback on behalf of their peers, may naturally display these qualities.
Being a counsellor isn’t easy. Listening to other people’s problems can impact an individual on a personal and emotional level, but being resilient and having a self-awareness to be able to manage your own thoughts and feelings will be what sets individuals apart to pursue a career in this industry. Learners who, despite overcoming significant barriers to study in their private lives for example and still able to manage an intense programme of study, are likely to have a heightened level of self-awareness that would make them the perfect candidate to pursue a career in counselling.
Discover more about AIM’s Counselling qualifications here.