What Is Counselling Psychology and Is It Suitable for You?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 16 November 2022

Published 30 August 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.

Counselling psychology is a specialisation in professional psychology that seeks to improve people's physical, emotional and mental health. Understanding what it entails, the educational and licensing requirements and the responsibilities of the role can help you to decide if this is a field you'd like to pursue. In this article, we discuss what is counselling psychology, the duties of a counselling psychologist and potential career paths and progression.

Related: What Is Counselling? Definition and Role of a Counsellor

What is counselling psychology?

To understand what is counselling psychology, it's a field that aims to help individuals, at any stage in life, manage physical, emotional and mental health challenges in order to improve their quality of living. It adapts the best practices of counselling and psychotherapy to provide a more comprehensive and holistic treatment to patients. This includes developing and administering psychometric tests and assessments to measure people's interests, personality, motivation, and values.

Through their research and study, counselling psychologists can come up with therapeutic techniques and targeted interventions to help people better cope with their concerns.

Related: What Is Educational Psychology? (Skills and Examples)

What does a counselling psychologist do?

A counselling psychologist examines a person's experience and looks into underlying issues to help people improve their sense of well-being, alleviate distress, manage personal crises and enhance their capacity to solve problems and make decisions. The work varies amongst practitioners in different domains. Some common specialisations within counselling psychology are Children and Youth Counselling, Gambling and Addiction, and Workplace Counselling.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Assessment: Assess clients' needs, abilities or behaviour using various methods, such as psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation of behaviour.

  • Development: Develop treatment programmes such as therapy, counselling or advice for clients, as well as group psycho-educational and psychotherapy programmes.

  • Consultation: Provide consultation and advice to clients, their families and staff.

Is a counselling psychologist and counsellor the same thing?

A counselling psychologist and counsellor are both focused on helping people overcome their concerns and issues to achieve mental and emotional well-being. However, both roles have varying responsibilities and different education requirements.

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

Different approaches

A counsellor works with their clients to create tools that deal with immediate emotional and mental concerns. Such concerns may include losing a job, bereavement or dealing with relationship issues. In comparison, a counselling psychologist applies scientific approaches to establish behavioural patterns, and develop treatment programmes to help people better cope with their concerns.

Difference responsibilities and treatment periods

Counselling is suitable for clients who are more self aware and sensitive to their emotions and thought processes, and need a helping hand to deal with a recent difficulty or life-altering experience. On the other hand, counselling psychologists apply psychotherapy techniques that explore a person's past, life-changing experiences, traumas and any relevant factors to help their clients gain greater self-awareness prior to making changes towards self-improvement.

Due to the nature of the cases taken on by a counsellor, the treatment process tends to be on a shorter term basis such as six months whereas a counselling psychologist may take on more serious cases such as sexual assault and abuse, domestic violence and major life transitions, which require longer treatment periods.

Related: Psychologist vs. Therapist (With Differences and Skills)

Different education requirements

A licensed counsellor is required to have a postgraduate diploma, at least 600 hours of postgraduate clinical hours and be registered with Singapore Association for Counselling. The minimum education requirement for a counselling psychologist is a Master degree including certain hours of supervised practical experience. While it's voluntary for a psychologist to be registered, it's encouraged for various reasons including professional recognition.

Related: All About Psychology Jobs and Common Careers

Requirements for a counselling psychologist

A career in counselling psychology requires a minimum qualification of a master degree and certain hours of supervised practical experience. Upon having the relevant qualifications, you may want to register with the Singapore Psychology Society for more opportunities on professional work, career development and industry updates.

Additionally, a counselling psychologist requires a high level of training and self-awareness. You'd be more suited for the role if you have the following personality traits and competencies:

  • An open mind and empathy

  • Patience and good listening skills

  • High emotional quotient (EQ)

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Complex problem-solving and analytical skills

  • Establishment of boundaries

  • Capacity of working under pressure

  • Time management skills

How many years does it take to be a counselling psychologist?

There are diploma courses on counselling psychology that range from six months to a couple of years. This certification could help you to advance to a professional qualification and attain authentic counselling experience. Further to that, you may need four to six years to become a counselling psychologist. This usually includes two to four years of study to attain a Bachelor in Psychology and another two years invested for your Masters in Psychology plus supervised training.

Where to study counselling psychology?

There are many colleges and universities that offer programmes in counselling. Here are some counselling psychology courses to explore:

  • Master of Guidance and Counselling (MGC) by James Cook University: This programme provides advanced academic and practical training in the professional discipline of counselling. It was recognised as an initial counsellor training course by the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC).

  • Master of Arts (Applied Psychology) by National Institute of Education (NIE): This programme is designed to provide theoretical knowledge, research insights and practical skills to interested individuals to train as specialists in the field of Educational Psychology or Counselling Psychology.

  • Master of Counselling by Monash University: This is a skill-based programme that offers authentic counselling experience and is accredited by the Singapore Association of Counsellors (SAC), Australian Counselling Association (ACA) and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA).

Related: How To Become an Educational Psychologist in 6 Steps

Are counselling psychologists in demand?

Demand for mental wellness services such as counselling psychology is expected to increase to address challenges like high work stress, aging concerns and increasing youth depression. In the past three years, the number of psychologists in the public sector increased by 7%. To meet increasing demand for psychologists, the Ministry of Health and National Council of Social Service have been raising awareness of the psychology profession and providing a range of training and development support.

Average salary and career progression in counselling psychology

The average salary for a psychologist is $4,398 per month. Counselling psychologists are employed in a variety of settings and cater to very different clients. Some provide counselling services in the military, government agencies, schools and universities while others take on the role of researchers. Here are some potential career paths and progression in counselling psychology:

1. Direct practice

You may work in an independent practice to provide counselling, assessment and consultation services to individuals, couples, families, organisations and community groups. Other potential workplaces include private clinics, hospitals, community mental health centres, family service centres, schools, business and industrial settings and rehabilitation agencies.

2. Research

Also known as experimental psychologists, research psychologists study a broad range of human and animal behaviours including sensation, attention, memory, cognition and emotion. They conduct and publish research, often spending years on a specific research question. Potential employment opportunities are available in both the private sector, the government, or in an institution of higher learning.

3. Management

As you progress in your career, you may take on the role of a leader to guide a team of counselling psychologists. This management role requires specific hours of practice, vast experience and notable achievements. As a senior psychologist, manager or director, you may be required to chart the strategic direction of the organisation, plan, develop and implement best practices.

4. Education

With sufficient experience in counselling psychology and management, you may take on the role of a principal psychology educator who leads, develops and implements educational programmes in psychology. This role works with professionals to develop training curricula, programmes and delivery methods. This could be in private businesses, government agencies, higher education institutions or voluntary welfare organisations.

Related: Finding a Job

Where do counselling psychologists work?

Here's a list of potential workplaces good for counselling psychologists:

  • Assessment and Educational Services in Social Service Agencies

  • Clinics

  • Community Health Centres

  • Day Activity Centres

  • Day Care Centres

  • Early Intervention Centres

  • Family Service Centres

  • Halfway Houses

  • Nursing Homes

  • Retirement Homes

  • Senior Community Centres

  • Special Student Care Centres

  • Special Education Schools

  • Voluntary Children's Homes

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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