Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Qualifications required for various types of counselling

I often get asked about the qualifications required to be a counsellor. Here is a guide to what is required:

Counselling and Psychotherapy are not statutorily regulated professions, so the only course open to them in order to validate their credentials is voluntary accreditation. BACP and organisational members of UKCP are the main accrediting bodies for counselling and other modalities of psychotherapy (not CBT). BABCP is the main accrediting body for Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapists, along with AREBT (Association of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy).

Many people with a statutorily regulated professional title also choose to become accredited with BABCP as well. This is because BABCP accreditation is specific to the CBT model of therapy, and their professional title is not.

Counsellor accredited with the BACP/UKCP

Minimum diploma level qualification in counselling: at Level 4, this course and should be at least one year full time or two years part time, with a minimum of 100 hours in a supervised placement. The course may be at diploma, degree or postgraduate level.

You don’t need a degree to become a counsellor. Training as a counsellor involves a combination of theoretical study and practical experience and you don’t need a degree to become a counsellor. … Usually, you need a qualification at foundation degree/diploma level or above to join a professional body or to become accredited. (such as the BACP or UKCP).

People move into counselling from many different backgrounds. Counselling is often a second or third career, and life experience is highly valued.

There is currently no statutory regulation in this area but you can improve your prospects by working towards membership of a professional body, such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), or the National Counselling Society (NCS).

The BACP recommends that in order to work as a fully qualified counsellor, you should complete training that is accredited by an awarding body and includes the following stages:

  • an introductory course – a part-time, 10- or 12-week course on the basic ideas and skills in counselling
  • a certificate in counselling skills – a one-year, part-time course introducing counselling theories and ethics, practical counselling skills and self-awareness (this course is also useful if you do not plan to become a fully trained counsellor but you work in a job where you advise or help people)
  • a diploma or advanced diploma in counselling – a detailed study of counselling theory and ethics, plus a supervised work placement. The course involves a minimum of 400 hours of study and is normally completed over two to three years

Accredited courses are widely available through local colleges and training centres, so check with them for exact details. Universities also offer a range of counselling courses from foundation degree to postgraduate level.

Depending on the course, you may be required to do some further study or placement work if you wish to gain membership of one of the professional bodies above. They will be able to give you more details about this.

There are many counselling courses offered by distance learning but, while these can be useful at an introductory level, courses at certificate and diploma level should include face-to-face contact/placements in order to develop your counselling skills and practice.

You could gain some experience of counselling work by volunteering with a charity. Some charities will offer initial training related to their particular client group but you will still need to undertake training up to diploma level to fully qualify and gain membership of a professional body.

Regulation of counselling and psychotherapy

A new system to accredit registers of counselling and psychotherapy practitioners has been developed following government legislation in the health and social-care field. The Accredited Registers Programme is being overseen by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. Statutory regulation is not planned at the moment but this will be kept under review.

Psychotherapeutic counsellor

To become a registered psychotherapeutic counsellor, you will need to complete training recognised by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Most courses last around four years, part-time.

Chartered counselling psychologist

To become a chartered counselling psychologist, you will need a psychology degree approved by the British Psychological Society (BPS), followed by a BPS-approved postgraduate training programme in counselling psychology.

You may need to have background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if you work with people under 18 years old or with vulnerable adults.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapist accredited with the BABCP


You’ll usually need:
  1. degree in nursing, social work, occupational therapy, arts therapy, psychology or psychotherapy.
  2. experience of working in mental health.
  3. an accredited postgraduate qualification in CBT.

Some Health Insurance companies will only authorise CBT treatment from a BABCP accredited therapist.

Other reference documents:

The Core Curriculum Reference Document – The main purpose of the Core Curriculum is to provide information about a proportion of the CONTENT that might be expected to be included in the training received by an Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Practitioner. Prior to the development of this curriculum all that had been available in the MTS was a statement about the QUANTITY of training.

Standards of Proficiency (SoP) for CBT – written by Malcolm Adams, commissioned by the Board of BABCP in 2010. The SoP for CBT are modelled on the Health Professions Council’s standards of proficiency and used the MTS, Roth and Pilling CBT competencies and the KSA criteria to create CBT specific standards.

CORE competencies in CBT as authored by Roth and Pilling

What is CBT Written by Anne Garland and Katy Grazebrook in June 2005, and approved by the Board of BABCP in July 2005.




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Photo by Joe Houghton