What Is Counselling? Definition and Role of a Counsellor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 December 2022

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People from all different backgrounds and age groups may visit counsellors for therapy. A counsellor has many different roles, from listening to a client to helping them to find a solution to their problems. Knowing what counselling is can help you better understand the role of a counsellor if you're interested in becoming one. In this article, we explore what is counselling, what is a counsellor and how to become one.

Related: What Are Counselling Skills? Definition and How To Improve Them

What is counselling?

There are a few aspects to counselling. The definition of counselling is a therapy session that involves a trained therapist listening to a client and helping them find ways to deal with different emotional issues. To better understand what counselling is, it's important to know these aspects:

  • A process: Counselling is when a counsellor and client set a time to explore the emotions a client is feeling and the situations that are causing them stress as well as to guide them on how to deal with those emotions.

  • A therapy: Counselling occurs when a counsellor examines a client's feelings, experiences and behaviour and helps the client sees his issues from a different perspective.

  • A relationship of trust: Counselling is very important as it requires a lot of trust and confidentiality. Whatever a client tells a counsellor always remains strictly confidential.

Related: What Is Counselling Psychology and Is It Suitable for You?

What is the purpose of counselling?

During counselling, clients may reflect on challenges and changes in their lives. As a counsellor, you may discuss strategies and methods to help the particular client reach their goals. The purposes of counselling can vary depending on your speciality. Some common purposes may include:

Facilitating the next step

A counsellor may help clients identify their individual challenges and emotions so that they may take the next step to solve their problems. A counsellor may also help the client determine what the next step might be by offering suggestions. Counselling is very client-focused and helps the client grow a sense of responsibility to help themselves overcome their difficulties.

Working through a long-term process

Counsellors can offer opinions to their clients, but counselling is typically a long-term process for the clients. The purpose of this long-term process is to help clients realise that they have the potential to make good decisions for themselves. This long-term process is to help clients take small and steady steps to reach their personal goals or health objectives.

Finding strength in the client

Through the process of counselling, the counsellor may help the client find their strengths during challenging times or changes. The goal of counselling may be to help the client feel better so that they can eventually resolve their challenges. The counsellor may discuss what the client thinks their strengths are. Then, they help to build on those strengths.

Why is counselling important?

Counselling can be beneficial for everyone, especially individuals overcoming challenges or experiencing changes. Through counselling, the client can speak their mind and share their feelings freely. A counsellor listens without judgement and may provide advice or treatment steps. This can help the client express their emotions better to the counsellor, who acts as their support system.

Counselling also helps a client find clarity through their issues and emotions. Making sense of their emotions can be a confusing experience for clients and they can find clarity by speaking to a counsellor about what they're going through. Becoming more self-aware of their emotions can help them to find the answers to their problems, so that they may know what steps to take after each session.

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What does a counsellor do?

The role of a professional counsellor is a very important one. They speak to many different people and help their clients develop an understanding of their own issues and situations. The duties of a counsellor include:

  • Evaluating a client's needs and developing treatment plans

  • Listening to their client's problems

  • Acting as a support system for their clients

  • Guiding their clients in expressing difficult feelings like guilt, fear, anger or resentment

  • Providing their clients clarity on some of the emotions they're feeling

  • Helping their clients make effective decisions to change their attitudes and behaviours

  • Planning and implementing programmes for their clients

  • Following up with their clients after every session to assess their progress

  • Keeping confidential records of their clients and monitoring their progress

  • Building a relationship of trust and respect with their clients

  • Educating their clients on trauma coping mechanisms


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How to become a counsellor

If you have a passion for helping others, a counsellor might be a good job for you. Becoming a counsellor requires patience and time, as well as relevant educational background and certifications. Here are some requirements to become a counsellor:

1. Complete your education

Becoming a counsellor requires a minimum of a postgraduate diploma from a recognised course and school. You can pursue a diploma in counselling or psychotherapy. To have a successful career in counselling, you can also pursue a bachelor's degree or master's degree in counselling. During your course of study, you can understand the guidelines and ethical codes of counselling, which can help you advance to a professional qualification.

Related: How To Become a Counsellor: A Step-by-Step Guide

2. Get trained

After obtaining the relevant degrees, it's important for you to get enough training to become a counsellor. The Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC) requires all counsellors to go through at least 100 practicum hours with 10 hours of clinical supervision. By conducting counselling sessions, you can gain practical experience and develop your skills. The best way to get training is to sign up for traineeships or internships with clinics or therapists near you.

3. Obtain certification

After completing the practicum and clinical supervision, you can register to be a Provisional Clinical Member (PCM). Upon completion, you can gain employment as a professional counsellor in hospitals, private clinics or schools. After becoming a PCM, you can work towards accumulating 600 hours of face-to-face counselling, 60 hours of clinical supervision and three years of working experience to upgrade to a Clinical Membership. To become a registered counsellor, you require a Clinical Membership.

4. Register with the Singapore Association for Counselling

After obtaining the Clinical Membership, you can register with the Singapore Association for Counselling as a counsellor. To register with the SAC, you would require the following:

  • A $50 registration fee

  • A counselling log sheet personally endorsed by a SAC-registered counsellor

  • Complete 600 hours of face-to-face counselling and 60 hours of clinical supervision

  • Your academic transcripts

  • A current letter of employment with an organisation with an official letterhead

  • A valid professional indemnity insurance

After successfully registering with the SAC as a registered counsellor, your status requires a renewal every two years.

Related: What to Expect From Career Counselling? (With Examples)

What skills does a counsellor have

Counsellors possess a variety of skills to provide the best service to their clients. Here are some of them:

Communication skills

As a counsellor, it's important for you to listen effectively to your clients and give them your full attention. Counsellors are also sensitive to their clients' nonverbal communication such as their body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. They often ask their clients about their emotions in an appropriate way to better understand their issues. Developing your communication skills can help you succeed in these tasks.

Related: 9 Communication Skills Interview Questions With Answers

Empathy skills

Empathy is a very important skill for counsellors because they work directly with clients. Having empathy means being aware of your client's feelings and emotions to better understand how your client feels. This skill can help you ask your client the appropriate questions to lead your client to the best solutions for them.

Related: Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Counsellors communicate and liaise with clients and their families daily, hence interpersonal skills can be a good skill to have. As a counsellor, you build a lot of rapport and trust with your client, so that they can confide with you. The trust you build up with your client helps you better understand their issues so that you can find a suitable treatment for them.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definition and Examples

How much does a counsellor earn

The average salary of a counsellor is $4,359 per month. There are several factors that contribute to the differing salaries, including the type of environment you work in. Counsellors may be posted to a private clinic, local hospital, or school.

Related: How to Write a Counselling Resume Objective in 6 Steps

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed.

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