Snapshot of accredited counselling courses in Australia

by Nathan Beel 2024

While preparing for a journal manuscript related to counsellor education, I counted the number of counselling training that enables entry into the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA). I found a total of 98 courses with professional accreditation, with 83 recognised by the ACA and 37 recognised by PACFA. Counselling training has proliferated from 1974, where only one named counselling course (a diploma) was recorded (Franklin et al., 1994). Now there are six diplomas, two advanced diplomas, 22 bachelors, 27 graduate diplomas, and 41 masters recognised by at least one counselling peak body. These are delivered across 48 training providers. Counselling education has had incredible growth over the last 50 years.

If interested in viewing the spreadsheet, click on the link below:

Spreadsheet listing of accredited counselling courses data collected 25 May 2024


Franklin, J., Gibson, D., & Merkel-Stoll, J. (1994). Market demand for counsellors and other professionals: 1984-1990. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 4, 39-49.

Preparing for the interview for a counselling position Part 2 of 2

Nathan Beel and Florence Ee, 2018

Interview panels are typically looking to answer two questions. Do you have capacity and is there a likelihood you will succeed in the position they are recruiting for, and are you the best candidate compared with the other applicants? Both of these must be met for you to be successful. To get to the interview, there is a high likelihood they believe you have the potential to succeed. They may be uncertain about whether you are the best applicant and this is where you have an opportunity to influence their perceptions. In the previous instalment on preparing for the interview, we covered eight areas of focus, included impression management, motivation, skills, and practice frameworks. This instalment will describe another eight areas to consider in preparing for interviews for counselling related positions.

Relating with colleagues and conflict management: An important part of agency work is the ability to work well within a team and manage conflict well. On the panels I (Nathan) have been part of, every interviewee has said they work well with others and manage conflict well. It is predictable. The panel is less interested in reassurances and more interested in hearing actual examples the interviewee can provide. Come prepared to discuss a difficulty you had with somebody (without revealing others’ identities) that you managed well, why you managed it the way you did, and what the outcome was. Typically, examples should demonstrate sensitive assertiveness, rather than passive or aggressive responses. It may also be helpful to talk about what you have learned about yourself and others from the experience.

Strengths: The panel may ask for an applicant to describe their strengths. The answers to this will be compared against the position’s needs and/or the organisation’s needs to check for fit. It may be useful to provide examples of how these strengths benefited your clients, colleagues, or organisation in previous situations.

Openness to learning and weaknesses: The panel may ask you about your weaknesses and what you have done to manage or improve on the weakness. This question checks for organisational / performance risks, and answers or non-answers can raise questions about lack of insight, evasiveness, lack of boundaries, low self-esteem or other issues. Other answers such as “My weakness is I am so committed to my job” can sound insincere. Only provide a weakness that relates to the position requirements, state the weakness concisely, and then state what you are doing (or willing to do) to address it.

The panel may ask for a time when you were given negative feedback and how you responded to this. Effective counsellors should be open to feedback and actively seek it out, so evidence of openness to feedback can be viewed positively by counselling employers. Choose a story where you responded well. For instance, a story where you actively sought the feedback to improve, thanked the person for the feedback, considered the feedback critically, identified what parts you could accept, and identified actions to help improve the situation or performance.

Managing risk or complex situations: The panel may ask about a difficult situation you responded to, or may provide you with a hypothetical situation and ask how you might respond to such a situation. These situations may relate to specific knowledge about a particular risk factor (such as domestic violence risk), an ability to consider contextual factors in the situation (such as other’s safety), relevant legislation, mindfulness of one’s roles and other potential roles (such as clinical supervisor, line manager), mindfulness of potential organisational policies that might guide such decisions, and ethical principles that may relate. One example might be, “Suppose an 8-year-old child disclosed to you that her parent was abusing her and asked you not to tell anyone. What would you do and why?”
In such a case, a person might describe how they might respond to this child and manage the rest of the session, what policies the organisation might have on reporting, what ethical and legal considerations need to be considered, who might be consulted, who and how to report if this was the option or requirement, etc. Whether you make a determination that the panel agrees with or not (if it is a more complex situation), your depth of reasoning and awareness of relevant principles is likely what they will evaluate your answer on. Your answer will show your professional thinking process. You can prepare for these types of questions by reflecting on ethical case studies in counselling (or in the specialist area of the position you are applying for) in an online search, reviewing your code of ethics, and by discussing these with your clinical supervisor.

Stress management: Counselling is a burnout career if self-care and stress is neglected. Panel members who ask this question generally want to hear what the person does or has done in the past previous roles to manage stress and self-care. Inability to manage one’s own stress becomes an organisational risk. Being able to articulate clear and healthy strategies that work for you shows a commitment to maintaining good mental health.
Other skills and duties: Counselling positions often involve other duties such as preparing and presenting talks, researching, writing articles, and networking with other professionals. Be prepared to discuss notable examples from your own history in some of these areas irrespective of whether the experience relates to a counselling role. Many of these skills are easily transferrable from other professions (including parenting skills).

Values: Panel members and organisations will typically have a range of values, sometimes that are not stated clearly in the application kit. They may have a strong value towards client centredness underpinning client engagement. Some may emphasise the importance of using evidence-based treatments. In a logistical direction, they may have a value of your being available outside of hours. Many of the values will be evident in the application kit, the organisation website, and the questions they ask in the interview. You will need to determine whether the visible values are congruent with your own values. Your own values will be reflected in your answers and even if different, the organisation might be interested in you irrespectively.

Questions you may have: At the end of interviews, panels might ask what questions you might have. Not asking any questions at the end can be interpreted as the person not having sufficient motivation towards the role, being passive, or being unable to process information with sufficient depth. If you have given the position some thought and reviewed their website, you will probably have questions. Asking judicious questions can signal to the panel a thoughtfulness about the role, the position, and the organisation. Common questions might be about the wage, the notification date for position outcome, the start date, and questions about the wage or other benefits if unclear. You might also ask questions about the role itself, such as what staff find most rewarding and most challenging about the role. Remember, you are also checking out whether the position is a good fit for you, too.

The interview process is where the panel will view a sample of your behaviour, knowledge, and skills, and will assess it against the needs of the role, their values, and against other candidates. Considering some of the areas mentioned in this article may help strengthen and enable you to target your preparation so that your interview leaves a more positive impression in the minds of the panel. Don’t be discouraged if you do not get the job. It is not unusual for people to apply for several jobs before they are successful. Remember that there may be many applicants and only one will get the job. That you were shortlisted shows the panel believed you earned a closer look. Try to get feedback from the employer about your strengths and weaknesses in your application. This is a subtle way of asking why you did not get the job. Learn from the experience and aim to be better at the next interview. Irrespective of if you succeed in the gaining the position, the interview itself will provide you with experience in being interviewed for counselling related positions.

Preparing for the interview for a counselling position, Part 1 of 2.

Nathan Beel and Florence Ee, 2018. Previously published in Qld Counsellors Association blog.

Recently I (Nathan) was asked by a recent counselling graduate for some tips for her upcoming interview. Rather than simply emailing the tips that might have some benefit for one person, this prompted me to consider a blog post that could provide wider benefit. I mentioned the idea to Florence, who started sending in ideas from her experience. With our combined experience on both sides of the interview process across several organisations and counselling related roles, we thought our observations may be useful. While the interview process will vary from panel to panel and organisation to organisation, below are some generic observations that applicants can consider when preparing for an interview.

Evidence, not reassurances: Many interview panels will base the interview on the job selection criteria. They may be less interested in verbal reassurances that one can meet the criteria, and more interested in historical examples of when one has met the criteria (or shows capability to meet something similar). Make sure you have clear and concise examples available that highlight how you met each criteria available to describe on request. If you don’t have examples that meet the criteria exactly, choose examples that relate to the skill in some way, even if from a non-related context. It can demonstrate to the panel that you have the potential to perform the same skill, perhaps with some tweaking, in the work context they are interested in.

Impression management: While positions are criteria-based and require objective ratings to compare applicants, there are subjective elements that will influence the panel’s ratings. Applicants need to leave an impression that is positive about who they are and what they value. Arrive close to the starting time. Not too early and certainly not late. Your grooming and clothes you wear to the interview send signals about how important the interview is to you, whether you are casual or serious, and your level of professionalism.

Demonstrate your interpersonal skills and qualities in the interview itself: Another thing that makes an impression is how you interact with the panel. While they may appear scary and, sometimes, emotionally hard to read and overly serious, they are people who want to make a good decision about who they will employ. When answering, remember you are talking with people. You are interviewing for a position that relies on your ability to relate to people in a way that helps set them at ease. You are giving them a sample of how you build and maintain rapport with others by doing this with them. Interviewers will expect interviewees may demonstrate nervous behaviours and, with this nervousness, can come self-consciousness. Find ways to connect at the human level and make comments that demonstrate empathy for their role. For instance, consider saying, “I appreciate the questions you’ve asked, as I can see it’s important for you to get the right person for the position and for the clients.” Thank them after the interview for their time meeting with you and for the opportunity for the interview. As an interviewer, I’m asking myself: Would I be comfortable working with this person’s interpersonal style being demonstrated? Would I be comfortable entrusting our service’s clients to them?

Monitor your own behaviour in the interview and aim to be relaxed as possible. I (Florence) find grounding strategies helpful before an interview – deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and using your five senses. Aim to give sufficiently detailed answers while keeping answers appropriately concise, stay on track, and when finished, check with the panel if you have answered their question. Take a moment to answer your question. I (Florence) find it helpful to sometimes write the questions down. If you give long rambling answers, this could raise questions in the interviewer’s mind about whether this is how you normally communicate and could indicate a lack of empathy for the listeners. Likewise, too short an answer or an inability to stay focussed on answering the question they posed may raise other concerns about you.

Most counselling roles require knowledge that is deemed relevant to the role. Some knowledge will be essential, while other knowledge will be accepted to develop and extend once employed. The job description and selection criteria should indicate what knowledge may be important to prepare for. The depth of knowledge you have will be evident in your answers to the questions, particularly as they will compare what you say against their own knowledge and the answers from other interviewees. Admit if you don’t know something rather than attempting to bluff the panel. Do some research on the role that you have applied for, read what is available on the organisation’s website or ask friends / colleagues from the counselling association about the job you are applying for.

Motivation for the role: There may be a question about why you applied for the position. Many interviewers want someone who will be passionate about the position, client group, and/or organisation. Referring to the financial benefits as a major benefit of the role can send a message that this is all that is important to the applicant. Another mistake would complain about one’s previous position. I remember one interviewee who spent 5 minutes describing her burnout from her previous position and how unsupportive her previous employer was. As much as we felt for this person, we considered her an unacceptable risk, recognising we were hearing one side of a story.

While agencies can be quite toxic at times within the human services, employers are careful about the potential risk of work cover claims, of employees who may generate stress and blame within organisations, and sends a signal of the willingness of the former employee to diminish the reputation of her workplaces when dissatisfied. Compared to other applicants, the panel will want a person passionate towards the role, willing to learn and receive feedback, the organisation’s values, and objectives, and to have minimal risk and baggage with them.

Skills: Some interviews may assume your qualifications and experience means that you will have the necessary skills. Others may ask you to describe what you might do in hypothetical situations, or skills you might have used in the past. Some interviewers may ask you to demonstrate your skills in the interview itself in a simulated counselling interview. Regardless of how they assess your skills, the main thing is that they want to know if you can deliver the service they are employing you for.

If the panel asks you to demonstrate skills, consider what they may look for. Often it is simply about your ability to form a relationship with the client, particularly if they are asking for a brief five-minute simulated session. Demonstrate your counselling micro skills instead of problem-solving, ask open questions, empathise with your client, and if there’s an opportunity to summarise the session, demonstrate this in the role-play. Many counsellors can be prepared for these through their educational experience of counselling in front of their lecturers and producing counselling videos for assessment. Nonetheless, it can still trigger anxiety performing in front of a panel in a job interview context.

Practice frameworks: Some positions will not require the counselling applicant to align with a particular modality, while others may. It is not unusual for panels to ask what framework you work from and why. Citing a microskills textbook author or stating that one is Rogerian or Person Centred is common and can raise questions in the panel about whether one has gone beyond initial training in their development. Another common answer is that one uses an integrated approach. Be prepared to answer what you might integrate, otherwise it can be viewed as not following any model and flying by the seat of one’s pants. Be prepared to describe any modalities you have studied and influenced your practice and why you chose these. While the panel may not be particularly interested in the selection of models that influence you, they may be interested in whether your knowledge is basic and shallow, or alternatively, well considered. You might also ask the panel what practice frameworks the organisation prefers or adopts, and if appropriate, ask why the organisation adopts it. This will both show a willingness to engage with the organisation’s own preferred treatment framework and also enable you to consider whether this is a framework you would want to learn and practice.

This first instalment has listed eight areas to consider when planning for an interview, including topics such as impression management, motivation, skills, and practice frameworks. The next and final instalment will list another eight areas that may assist you in preparing for the counselling position interview.

Firm on expertise, soft on identity: How counsellors can be excluded from educating counselling students for their own profession

By Nathan Beel PhD

Written 2020. Please note PACFA’s training standards are regularly updated so view this paper as talking to a historical point in time.


Biases within higher education may restrict opportunities for counsellors to teach counselling. While the counselling profession has provided training and accreditation standards that deliver common educational requirements for shaping counselling trainees, they may not do enough to ensure qualified counsellors are sufficiently represented as counselling educators. It is possible that some counselling students are graduating without being taught by any qualified counsellors. This article argues that counsellor education is more than transmitting counselling skills and knowledge, but importantly, develops a professional identity and connection with the counselling profession and its values. The profession’s accreditation guidelines implicitly treat qualified counsellors as optional for staffing counselling courses and enables higher education providers to prioritise employing staff from occupations deemed similar. I argue that the counselling profession must ensure it more clearly supports the hiring of registered and qualified counsellors as academics teaching and coordinating accredited counselling courses and meaningfully safeguards the inculcation of the profession’s values in counsellor training. Otherwise, the future of the counselling profession itself may be shaped in alignment with the values of other professions, as members of ‘equivalent’ professions’ gatekeep and mould those entering the counselling profession.


Counsellors[1] in Australia have experienced discriminatory practices throughout the profession’s short history. Counsellors are all too familiar with adverts seeking to hire counsellors, only to find that they are ineligible to apply because they are not a psychologist or social worker. This ironically has extended into university student counselling services where counselling degrees are offered (O’Hara & O’Hara, 2015). While recognition of the profession of counselling has been improving over time, professional discrimination may still be occurring. An implicit devaluing of qualified counsellors[2] as underqualified for teaching their own students may happen in some training courses designed to prepare future counsellors for the profession and is enabled by over-inclusiveness in PACFA (and ACA) course accreditation guidelines.

A minority in teaching counselling

In 2018, a colleague and I reviewed the websites of eight counsellor training provider courses in Australia as part of an internal benchmarking exercise. We found that most staff who taught counselling subjects by these providers were not registered counsellors within the counselling profession, but were mostly psychologists, followed by social workers and teaching staff not visibly registered with any profession. A year later, I searched the staffing profiles of four universities who offered accredited training programs and this time checked registration status from professional registries (e.g., Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (ARCAP), Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), etc.). Two had no Counsellor Educators (i.e., qualified members of the counselling profession who teach into counselling courses), and the remaining two had a maximum of one continuing Counsellor Educator in the teaching teams. Of these four universities, Counsellor Educators were either the minority or entirely absent from the teaching teams. Again, most who taught counselling were psychologists. While the sample is too small to generalise, it raised questions for me about how it is possible that counsellors could be underrepresented or absent within the counselling discipline.

If the samples echo a more widespread lack of Counsellor Educators in higher education, it may partly reflect the relative recency of counselling’s emergence as a profession in Australia. The momentum for professionalising and consolidating counselling began with the establishment of PACFA in 1998 (Schofield, 2015) making it a very young profession in comparison to psychology (1944) (APS, 2020) and social work (1946) (Miller, 2016). Since this time, counselling training programs have proliferated both in private institutions and public universities, but I have not seen evidence of this demand translate into a significant number of applications by counsellors for counselling lecturer positions. The demand for counselling education appears to be much higher than the supply of suitably qualified and experienced Counselling Educators.

The counselling profession may not yet have a sufficient supply of Counselling Educators and thus may continue to rely on Educators of Counselling (i.e., educators from other professions who teach counselling) to fill the gaps. Even so, there are barriers in the education market that favour Educators of Counselling over Counselling Educators. Counsellor Educators are competing against a larger pool of similar professionals who typically have more extensive research and teaching backgrounds, hold doctorates, have more substantial research track records, are members of higher status professions, and can teach across disciplines in professionally accredited programs. Besides this, they often have extensive practice experience. In the interviews for Counselling Lecturer positions I have been involved with over the past 12 years, similar professionals outperform Counsellor Educators on most of the criteria. While counsellor applicants might outperform on possessing relevant membership, they lag behind with the level of qualifications, and experience in teaching, research, and even therapy practice experience. It is not an equal playing field for Counselling Educators, and unfortunately, those trained and qualified as counsellors may be on the losing side even in their own discipline area.

In the table below, I demonstrate the differential trends I have seen in applicants for counselling lecturer positions. If this reflects a broader trend, it is understandable if counsellors miss out on such appointments.

Educational attainmentMasters qualifiedPhD qualified
Research experienceVery limited (if any) publicationsMore publications
Number of applicantsEstimated average 10-20%Estimated average 80-90%
Clinical experienceYesYes
Clinical supervisionCan supervise only counselling studentsCan supervise counselling and psychology students
Teaching experienceOften limited to professional development or internal trainingOften experienced in teaching in higher education
Administrative functionsMay not have high confidence administrativelyOften excel in administration
Team skills and communicationOften highly skilled and have warm and friendly interview presenceOften have a more professional persona and communication approach
Diversity of expertiseTherapy, supervision, and some management experience. Experience in private practice, education and human services organisations.Therapy, supervision, psychological testing, research supervision. Experience in private practice, human services, health, and education settings.

There are additional factors that influence how committed a tertiary institution may be in hiring Counsellor Educators. These include whether counselling is in a department with an ‘overlapping’ profession or not, how much the Head of Department supports the counselling discipline’s boundaries in teaching and hiring decisions, the professional composition of the staffing profile of the department, including its leadership[3]; and how much the organisation or department is focussed on strengthening its research profile.

My perception is that over time, Counselling Educators in continuing positions are numerically shrinking rather than growing. If this perception is accurate, I propose three key reasons. The first is that universities are generally showing less tolerance for hiring people without doctorates. The second is that when the counselling discipline is co-located with other similar higher status professions with more prescriptive accreditation requirements, staff appointments will be biased towards the dominant profession’s staffing profile. The imbalance of the staffing profile may reinforce perceptions of counselling’s sub-ordinance within the staffing structure (and to the student body) and diminish the counsellor influence in their own domain. The third reason is that the counselling profession’s existing accreditation requirements have enabled a type of interprofessional colonising of counsellor education by remaining relatively neutral and thus failing to compensate for an unequal playing field.

The contribution of counsellor training standards

In my view, PACFA’s training standards provide insufficient incentive to hire qualified counsellors or to address this potential inequity. PACFA’s training standards allow the selection of staff based on program needs with respect to staff experience or qualifications. For those overseeing the programs, they “… must be psychotherapists/counsellors or professionals from a related discipline… who are eligible for clinical or full membership of the professional body relevant to their qualification” (emphasis added) (PACFA, 2018b, p. 5). Of eight criteria for course coordinators in PACFA’s Training Standards, none address identity or knowledge of the counselling profession.

PACFA has second document called the Course Accreditation and Application Guidelines 2018 (PACFA, 2018a). This document requires core staff to hold “relevant degrees… preferably from PACFA accredited programs… or…a closely related field” (p.8). It additionally requires core staff to “identify with the counselling or psychotherapy profession through memberships and involvement in appropriate professional organisations (i.e. PACFA or PACFA Member Association)” (PACFA, 2018a, p. 8).

While PACFA’s wording in parts signals a preference for Counsellor Educators, the wording fails to safeguard against counsellors being excluded from counselling discipline staffing profiles. PACFA does not require teachers of counselling to have any affiliation, knowledge about, or experience with the counselling profession. Also, by treating alternative professionals as equivalent, the training standards imply that the hiring of Qualified Counsellors is ‘optional’. Staffing managers higher up in faculties may have little understanding or empathy for safeguarding distinctions between professions. Why should they hire lesser qualified ‘optionals’ instead of more qualified, experienced, versatile and research productive ‘equivalents’? The profession’s current suitability criteria, undoubtedly unintentionally, enables the exclusion of Counsellor Educators.

Compare this with alternative professions with evidence of more substantial protectiveness and regard for their own members’ professional identity, allegiance, expertise and relevance in the educational processes. The profession of Social Work mandates that a minimum of 50% of lecturers have social work qualifications (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2012). The profession of psychology requires qualified psychologists to teach psychology with an onus on the provider to justify alternative appointments (Australian Psychology Accreditation Council, 2019). These guidelines do not prevent receiving training contributions from suitably qualified professionals but influence training providers to prioritise the respective professionals in hiring. Both these professions have a stronger professional identity and higher professional status than counselling and ensure their members are prioritised in teaching appointments.

Interrogating equivalence

The second implication in the PACFA’s 2018 training standards wording is the assumption of equivalence. The counselling profession has historically struggled to form a clear collective identity that differentiates itself from other professions (Alves & Gazzola, 2011). Yet the formation of a counsellor and their professional identity is important both at a broader profession level and an individual level. One of the essential roles of Counsellor Educators and Educators of Counselling is to help counselling students develop a strong sense of counsellor identity, delineate its distinctiveness from other professions, and understand its core philosophical values. Doing so will help students gain a connection with, and pride and optimism about their profession (Woo et al., 2014). As part of developing their professional identity, “…students [should] develop a set of attitudes, perspectives, and personal commitment to the standards, ideals, and identity of the counseling profession” (Choate et al., 2005, p. 384). PACFA’s accreditation guidelines reinforce the importance of the developing professional identity, stating “All staff… will be clearly committed to preparing professional counsellors and psychotherapists and promoting the development of the student’s professional identity” (PACFA, 2018a, p. 8).

Education into membership of professions requires acculturation into the profession’s identity (Tan et al., 2017), and students’ values and attitudes are shaped by role models who they equate with their chosen profession (Day et al., 2005). Can educators who have been trained, socialised, and hold primary allegiance to different professions, paradigms and identities adequately prepare students to enter the counselling profession and infuse its values? Can educators who have no membership or participation in the counselling profession sufficiently understand the profession they are preparing students for?  While those outside the counselling profession can contribute valuable expertise from which to teach theories, skills, ethics, and research, they are likely to unconsciously (or consciously) and pervasively reflect their own professional identities and associated values. Denying students’ ongoing access to counsellor role models through their training is likely to add to the challenge of developing a clear professional identity (Woo et al., 2014). The international peak body, the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) recognised the importance of staff alignment, and now requires all core counsellor teaching staff to demonstrate identification, via membership and ongoing commitment to the counselling profession and discipline as minimum requirements (CACREP, 2019).  

The questioning of equivalence is not intended to devalue the contributions and expertise interdisciplinary staff make into counselling programs, but to underscore the importance of utilising qualified Counsellor Educators in transmitting the values and traditions of the counselling profession. The critical numerical balance and the leadership roles in counsellor programs should favour members of the profession the students are being prepared for. Educators of Counselling not only train, but may arguably (and understandably) influence students towards their own professional values; just as they were appropriately influenced by the discourses of the profession they maintain an allegiance with. Exposure to Educators of Counselling is not problematic if it simply reflects a healthy exposure to interprofessional diversity of which counselling students should be exposed to. However if, for argument’s sake, psychologists make up the majority of those socialising counselling students without an adequate understanding of inter-professional differences in values, traditions, training approaches, and professional allegiance; could this ultimately lead to the dilution, replacing, and ‘psychologising’ of core counselling values over time within the profession itself?

The isolating of counsellor educators

Another issue that can emerge with a disproportionate weighting of Educators of Counselling is that Counselling Educators can be professionally isolated and be a minority in the staff teaching counselling courses. While Counsellor Educators may have strong collegiality with peers from other professions, if they are the only one, or one of a minority number, professional isolation and a reservation about speaking freely within their context may occur. If there is democratic decision-making in counsellor course decisions, the minority number of Counsellor Educators may be outvoted by the Educators of Counselling who may have little understanding or commitment to the counselling profession’s values and culture. There is a potential that the Counsellor Educator defaults to a role of monitor, guardian, discipline advocate, and staff educator about principles associated more closely with the counselling profession. They also occupy a position of being approached by students asking why most of their lecturers are not counsellors but belong to alternative professions. For institutions whereby counselling is taught alongside other disciplines, new continuing staff can be employed to meet the needs of the higher status and/or more restrictive disciplines, and counselling gaps filled with available existing staff (given that they can be taught by an ‘equivalent’ clinician) rather than staff specifically employed to contribute to the counselling course/s. Job applicants may also apply for Counselling Lecturer roles as a less competitive entry point from which to progress sideways back to their own discipline when the opportunity arises, while potential Counsellor Educators may be turned off applying for positions in universities where they see counsellor underrepresentation in the staffing profile. All these factors can affect the morale of Counsellor Educators as they find themselves minorities in their own discipline.

The influence of training standards

The current training guidelines currently enable those outside the profession to determine the professional makeup of those who train counsellors. In addition, non-members of the counselling profession also select and prepare students for entry into the counselling profession. In my opinion, the existing standards show insufficient concern for safeguarding the counselling profession’s disciplinary boundaries and identity when it comes to training. The counselling profession needs to ensure they are advocating first and foremost for the profession, its quality, its reputation, and the interests of its members; and training standards should adequately reflect this in all areas, including staffing. Universities are becoming more accustomed to practice-based professions like counselling (such as nursing, paramedicine, etc.) that produce relatively low numbers of academics from their graduates. Universities will hire and mentor staff without doctorates and research if required by professional training standards to hire from within a specified profession.

The authority to prioritise staff appointments of less experienced academics in the presence of stronger competition often does not come from the Course Leaders overseeing the programs but the professional training accreditation requirements. Course Leaders presently have no authoritative grounds within accreditation requirements to insist on advertising exclusively for, or for prioritising Counselling Educator appointments. Their recommendations to hire Counsellor Educators can be dismissed by Heads of Departments or faculties, who insist on the more qualified equivalents. While accreditation standards are what Course Leaders rely on to ensure the institution maintains appropriate quality in counsellor education, when it comes to staffing, these same standards undermine their efforts to prioritise hiring Counsellor Educators. If the profession’s guidelines do not prioritise Counsellor Educators, why should universities prioritise hiring them?

Until the guidelines are amended, Counselling Educators are likely to be limited mainly to sessional teaching appointments, particularly if Heads of Departments want to rationalise teaching staff to teach across complementary disciplines. Likewise, counselling applicants who do not possess PhDs, lack experience with teaching in higher education settings, cannot teach and supervise across disciplines and do not hold track records of research; or are not prepared to juggle the demands of a part-time practice with being a full-time academic, may also be disadvantaged.


It is understandable that the counselling profession would not set too stringent staffing requirements for such a young profession. Doing so would starve itself of academics (and potentially accredited courses) who can keep a steady pipeline of counsellors entering the profession from the higher education sector. However, at some point, a change of strategy is needed lest the existing standards contribute to starving the profession of its own identity and its own practitioners becoming excluded from teaching counselling in higher education. The concerns about the varying costs of too heavily relying on Educators of Counselling and the restricted opportunities for Qualified Counsellors to become academics, raise questions about what can be done to increase Counsellor Educator presence and influence in the teaching of counselling Courses. Available options should be considered in light of the profession’s priorities, the available supply of Counsellor Educators, the risks of institutions abandoning accreditation, and other less obvious and foreseeable impacts that such changes might bring. The choice, timing and strength of interventions also need to be considered.

There are several options available in relation to the issues posed in this paper. The first might be for PACFA’s research committee to commission a study of the professional staffing profile of PACFA-accredited Australia counselling courses. This would provide data from which to identify if a problem of significance does exist. A second might be that PACFA’s training standards more clearly prioritise the hiring of Counsellor Educators. For core staff, this might be by requiring institutions provide evidence of a commitment to meeting minimum quotas of Counsellor Educators. This would shift Counsellor Educators from being optional to being closer to an inherent requirement for staffing profiles. An alternative to quotas might be to ask new and renewal accreditation applicants to demonstrate how the course ensures students are appropriately socialised into the counselling profession. How does it ensure students have access to counsellors as role models throughout their studies? How does it ensure its staff are sufficiently familiar with the counselling profession and its values so they can align their teaching accordingly? How does it ensure the course leadership have sufficient understanding, commitment[4], and connection with the counselling profession whereby decisions are congruent with what is valued by the profession? For those with a strong staffing profile of Counsellor Educators, these will be more easily demonstrated. For others who do not meet some of these, they might be required to include a strategic plan to address shortcomings along with their accreditation application.

Academic staff and leaders can also play a part in stimulating the pipeline of future Counsellor Educators. At the higher education institution I work, the leadership team ensured that the research project in our Master of Counselling was substantive enough to enable entry into our PhD programs. We encourage students to think about a career in higher education and highlight the scarcity (and importance) of PhD holding Counsellor Educators, whilst also promoting research and academic careers as achievable and rewarding. Staff encourage individual students who demonstrate suitability, to consider PhDs and other opportunities for engagement with scholarly activity. With academic pathway students, we explain the need to develop as an experienced practitioner over time. We encourage the students to be on the doctoral journey simultaneously as developing experience as therapists.


This paper raised concerns that there is some evidence to suggest Counsellor Educators may be sidelined in favour of recruiting educators from other professions. It calls for increased strategic support for prioritising the hiring of Counsellor Educators (including psychotherapists), both for the interests of the profession’s members they represent, and also the interests of maintaining the profession’s distinctiveness and identity throughout the training offered to counselling students. It noted potential strategies that could prioritise Counsellor Educators in the hiring decisions for teaching staff, and of building the supply of future Counsellor Educators.


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Mascari, J. B., & Webber, J. (2013). CACREP Accreditation: A Solution to License Portability and Counselor Identity Problems. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 91(1), 15-25.

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PACFA. (2018a). Course accreditation and application guidelines 2018. Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.

PACFA. (2018b). PACFA training standards. Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.

Schofield, M. J. (2015). Counseling in Australia. In T. H. Hohenshil, N. E. Amundson, & S. G. Niles (Eds.), Counseling around the world: An international handbook (pp. 335-347). American Counseling Association.

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Woo, H., Henfield, M. S., & Choi, N. (2014). Developing a unified professional identity in counseling: A review of the literature. Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy, 1(1), 1-15.

A special thanks to the PACFA members who kindly provided valuable feedback and suggestions on drafts. Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and not representative of his professional affiliations.

[1] While this article specifically references counsellors, it applies to psychotherapists where relevant.

[2] The term qualified counsellor is used to identify those who have training and experience that make them eligible for ARCAP (Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) registration. The term Registered Counsellor refers to those listed on ARCAP.

[3] In August 2019 I read a position description for a Counselling Head in a private college that provides PACFA and ACA accredited degrees. The first criteria stated: “Registration as a psychologist in Australia required”. The provider did not offer psychology degrees so having this requirement appeared unjustifiably professionally discriminatory to those in the counselling profession. The outgoing Counselling Head was a psychologist.

[4] Currently there are eight guidelines for Course Coordinators overseeing counselling courses (PACFA, 2018b). In these, there are no requirements of any knowledge of, or connection with the counselling profession. The professional identity, commitment, and knowledge appears irrelevant.

Increasing Your Chances of Employment as a Counsellor Part 3 of 3

By Nathan Beel, 2018 reprinted from QCA blog and PACFA’s Psychotherapy and Counselling Today.

In the second part of this three-part series, I discussed five strategies for increasing one’s chance of counselling employment. These included possess a minimum of degree level or higher, gain volunteer experience in counselling, be a member of a counselling association, become known within the profession, and develop a positive professional reputation. This final part of the series will address an additional four strategies that I believe will help enhance your chances of employment as a counsellor.

Ensure your CV is professional: Your curriculum vitae (CV) is often one of the first evidence for panels of what type of professional you are. It should be error free. Errors, particularly basic or repeated errors, send signals of lack of attention, diligence, or writing ability. It should be targeted at the job you are applying for. Customise it to the potential readers. What will you include? What will you exclude (that doesn’t add value to the application)? How will you express it? You might consider gaining help from a professional in resume writing. Your CV gives the potential employer a window into who you are, what skills and potential you have, and your communication abilities.

Ask for critical feedback: Sometimes our blind spots can undermine how others perceive us or weaken our applications. When I prepare articles, I send drafts to people I trust will tell me where the mistakes are and give me hints on how to improve. I will have done this with this article, and I guarantee there will be corrections that will spare me the embarrassment of putting my name publicly to a document with errors I missed. Get someone to critically review your CV and cover letter to help enhance it. Ask someone to take you through a practice interview and then give you critical (and supportive) feedback to help you learn how to do better. Supportive feedback makes us feel good and critical feedback is the path to enhanced awareness and improvement. Intentionally ask for feedback, particularly from someone you think has strengths in the area you are seeking feedback in.

Prepare for the position: Study the company website, research about the target client group, target issue, and recommended therapy approaches for the target group, and research anything else that will help you gain a sense of what might be required in the role. While you may not be an expert and should not pretend to be if you are not, it shows the interview panel that you are committed to preparing for the position. If you don’t get the job, you still will have benefited by learning new information about a referral source and information about a target issue you may not have understood much about previously. Conversely, if you under-prepare, it signals the interview panel about a lack of care about the role and/or lack of willingness to demonstrate diligence that might be required for the role. It is generally evident which applicants have spent time preparing for the interview.

Cultivate professional character: The earlier tips are useful to enhance your chances of gaining employment. However, there are some more fundamental areas that form the substance of your professionalism that will probably be seen over time and contribute to the formation of your reputation. Cultivate the substance of a reputable professional. Seek to learn and grow as a counsellor. Aim to practice ethical decision-making consistently. Seek to excel in your studies and counselling practice. Seek assistance in the areas of your life which might be problematic. Continue learning. Read counselling books regularly even after you finish university. Actively seek to learn rather than merely meeting PD requirements. Practice what you preach. These may not be noticeable in first impressions, but over time, people will recognise them and give you regard accordingly. This is where your broader reputation will come from and will provide inspiration to younger members of the profession to follow the virtues you operate by. Your qualities will become a gift to others.

I hope these ideas will be helpful for both the younger members of the profession and to those currently seeking work. In my own experience, I have gained one job because a previous colleague of mine recommended my name to an employer friend of his seeking staff. My reputation with my colleague must have been sufficient that he had the confidence to commend me years later. I’ve gained jobs in which I applied, knowing I didn’t meet all the criteria. From what I have learned in two decades in the field from both sides of the hiring table, is that gaining work as a counsellor often requires strategic planning and development at multiple levels to give oneself the edge in a competitive process. Those who prepare best throughout their counselling journey and, more specifically, for specialised positions are likely to demonstrate greater value and attractiveness to future employers than those who haven’t paid attention to strategic preparation.

These blogs have highlighted one person’s perspectives. No doubt there is much expertise on this topic within the counselling profession. I’d encourage members to share their own ideas and tips in the comments below about how to increase one’s chances of successfully gaining counselling-related employment.

Are you studying counselling or a qualified counsellor and wanting professional mentoring? See here for more information.

Increasing Your Chances of Employment as a Counsellor Part 2 of 3

Young smiling woman getting support on psychotherapy session

By Nathan Beel 2018, reprinted from QCA blog.

In the first part of this series, I discussed the competitive nature of advertised counselling applications. We have established that employers are looking for who they perceive to be the best applicant out of their pool of applicants. Your role then is to give yourself as many chances as possible to be the best applicant. Below are five strategies that may help increase the perceived value of what you might offer an employer:

Qualification: These days, more employers are looking for a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in counselling or a related discipline. Given that bachelor degrees are more common now than previous years, a bachelor’s degree or higher will generally provide an edge over a holder of a certificate or diploma.

Experience: Accredited counselling degrees nearly all have a placement component in them. However, if you and two of your fellow graduates are going for the same position, it is better to have additional experience. I recommend people consider volunteering at Lifeline, Drug Arm, or similar service that provides ongoing experience and close supervision. Quality volunteer experience plus a degree often gives a significant edge over a degree alone. In addition, there may be pathways in the volunteer organisations for becoming a volunteer supervisor, allowing additional skills and experience to be accrued.

Demonstrate commitment to the profession: When I would look at counsellor or counselling educator applicant CV, I always look for mention of membership in a counselling association. When I see a CV that indicates membership in a counselling association, it sends me a signal this person is committed to their professional identity and growth. When I see CVs without mention of membership, it raises questions in my mind. Is the depth of this person’s interest in counselling only limited to the possibility of gaining employment? Membership maintenance requires commitment to an ethical code, maintaining professional development, maintaining clinical supervision and contributing financially to the profession.  When I’m involved in hiring, I’m looking for evidence of commitment beyond the pay packet and promises made in the interview itself.

Get known: Counsellors are often introverted. We don’t put ourselves out there but prefer more intimate relating with our clients behind closed doors. However, our profession is a relational profession. I recommend people aim to become known. When people become familiar with who you are and the value you represent as a person, this may influence them if they are on your interview panel. Counselling is a fairly small profession, so it is fairly easy to get known by other counsellors. Attend professional development events and get to know other counsellors. Contribute to the association newsletter and blogs. Join an association subcommittee. Seek opportunities to provide professional development in an area you have knowledge and expertise in. Set up a LinkedIn account to put your CV for the world to see. When meeting people, give them your business card and later invite connection with LinkedIn. You might also consider setting up your own special business Facebook page or website as another ‘shopfront’ for your brand. The more people who become familiar with who you are and learn to trust you, the more likelihood that someone on your interview panel may know you and your ‘brand’ and may trust you over other candidates whom they do not know.

Develop a positive reputation: Your interactions with others in person and online, and your online footprint, will contribute to developing your reputation. Likewise, if you are studying, will your interaction with fellow students and behaviour in classes send signals of someone committed to the journey of becoming a counsellor? What type of person do they see? Do they see someone who they would want to refer clients to? Your reputation begins in university and people are unlikely to forget the behavioural impressions you leave with them. If people Google or Bing you, will the results send a signal of professionalism and other qualities associated with counselling? Determine what type of counsellor you want to be viewed as and ensure that is what you communicate in person and online. Employers and clients will look you up online or may ask questions of people who know you. A good reputation takes years to build and can be lost quickly. Aim to build it and protect it.

This segment has offered five ways of enhancing the chances of success in gaining counselling employment. In the next installment, I will list a further four strategies that I believe will enhance your chance of employment as a counsellor.

Increasing Your Chances of Employment as a Counsellor Part 1 of 3

Nathan Beel 2018, reprinted from QCA blog.

Reality hit me hard when I graduated with my first counselling degree. I was 23 years old and confident that obtaining my degree meant that I would become employed as a counsellor in the first weeks of looking for work. I diligently applied for successive positions and on occasions when I received replies, they politely declined and indicated that I needed more experience. I learned the hard way that degrees in counselling were not a guaranteed ticket to employment.

I returned to study for a graduate diploma in counselling with a 200 hr internship for experience and was fortunate to pick up a counselling job soon afterwards. After two decades in various counselling related roles, including being on panels interviewing for counsellors, my understanding of counselling employment has grown, and I can see how naïve my presumptions were in the early days.

A key assumption I operate on now is that counselling employment is a competitive supply and demand market. Employers aim for the most attractive candidate who applies. This attractiveness is based on the perceived value the applicant can bring to the role. Value is subjective depending on the position and the hirer, and the field of applicants.

What applicants often do not see is who they are competing against. This is an important factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. Missing out on a job does not mean that one was deemed inadequate or under-qualified. It may mean that there was another applicant with more diverse or specialised experience and training who gained the position. However it is measured, the applicant who gains the job is deemed by the panel to offer the role the most potential value compared to the other candidates. The challenge for the job seeker is to help shape the panel’s perception that s/he is the most valuable applicant.

Some counselling job seekers will miss out on positions because they disqualify themselves from applying. They may believe they are slightly underqualified for a position, that the position is difficult for them, or that others going for the position will be more qualified and experienced. However, if these job seekers do not apply, they might miss out on gaining the job that they may have otherwise gained. If they were to put their application in, they might be the most attractive candidate compared to the other candidates. I recommend against self-selecting out of applying when there may be some criteria that are not met or when the position description may appear intimidating. I have gained several positions which I perceived were above my capabilities and experience, but which if I had not have applied, I would have missed out on gaining the employment and discovering that I could do the role despite my self-doubts. While job seekers have increased chances of gaining work when they meet all the job criteria, their chances reduce to zero if they self-select out from applying at all.

In this instalment, I have highlighted that advertised counselling positions are competitive by nature and that organisations are seeking the most potentially valuable person from among a number of applicants. Missing out on a position does not imply that one is professionally deficient or unemployable as a counsellor but may simply reflect high-quality competition. I also recommended job seekers to go for positions that one may not meet all the criteria or where the position description tasks appear too difficult, as the job seeker may still be the viewed as the most potentially valuable person for the role compared to the other applicants. In the next instalment, I will discuss five specific strategies for increasing one’s perceived potential value of applying for jobs.

Do counsellors become more effective over time?

By Nathan Beel (reprinted from QCA)

The counselling profession prizes clinical experience. For counsellors to advance from intern through to clinical member, there is an expectation that they will accrue hundreds of hours of counselling practice over years. Exposure over time to a broader range of clients and their issues, training, professional development, and clinical supervision, is likely to lead counsellors to acquire expanded learning at multiple levels. But does this accruing of experience, knowledge, and skill translate into improved outcomes over time? Or, put another way, will the senior members in the profession be getting better results than they did when they first began their counselling practice?

Goldberg and colleagues (2016) set out to measure therapist performance over time in a longitudinal study. They reviewed the outcome data from 170 therapists from a university counselling service over a period between .44 to 17.93 years (av 4.73). Therapists covered a continuum of career status, from trainee students through to experienced licensed professionals.

The results of the study were surprising. Therapists, as a group, did not improve with experience, whether the experience be measured in time or cases.  In fact, overall, there was a very slight decline of outcomes with experience. Breaking it down further, 60% of therapists declined slightly while the remaining 40% improved slightly over time. The bulk of therapists experienced very little improvement or deterioration in their outcomes over time.

How might we interpret these results?

General effectiveness: first, we need to remember that counselling is generally very effective (Smith & Glass, 1977). Finding that counsellor performance generally does not change over time does not suggest clients are not benefitting from treatment. Most clients will benefit from most counsellors.

Staple profession requirements: The results raise questions about the impact on outcomes of professional development and clinical supervision. Both of these areas have little research support on their contribution to improving outcomes. If counsellors are receiving regular supervision and professional development but are not improving in outcomes, we need to understand why. Do these activities simply help us maintain our existing levels of effectiveness? Are benefits of clinical supervision not generalizable across our clients? Or are these activities primarily for other benefits, such as increasing therapist practice knowledge, self-awareness, and resilience?

Over-estimates: Over time, counsellors collectively may not improve in their effectiveness, but they tend to increase in confidence and professional self-belief. Research has demonstrated that therapists over-estimate their effectiveness and typically suffer from self-assessment bias (Walfish, McAlister, O’Donnell, & Lambert, 2012). However, there is some evidence that counsellors who display more professional self-doubt tend to get better outcomes than those who have more professional self-confidence (Nissen-Lie et al., 2017). The interpretation of why this might be the case is that those who lack professional confidence are likely to spend more time devoted to considering their work in comparison to those who engage in less critical professional reflection.

So how can counsellors continue improving their effectiveness?  This area of psychotherapy expertise research is still very young. Current suggestions include ensuring appropriate reliable formal outcome feedback is collected. Therapists are typically over-optimistic in their perceptions of client improvement and fail to recognise failing cases (Hannan et al., 2005), hence objective measurement is important. The second is utilising the feedback and translating it into deliberate practice (Goodyear, Wampold, Tracey, & Lichtenberg, 2017), and then checking to see if this deliberate practice converts into improved outcomes.

Counsellors cannot rely on experience, supervision, professional development as pathways to improve their client effectiveness. Current recommendations suggest counsellors need systematic outcome feedback combined with deliberate practice if they seek to continue to improve.

Click here for a YouTube version of this article.


Goldberg, S. B., Rousmaniere, T., Miller, S. D., Whipple, J., Nielsen, S. L., Hoyt, W. T., & Wampold, B. E. (2016). Do psychotherapists improve with time and experience? A longitudinal analysis of outcomes in a clinical setting. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 1-11.

Goodyear, R. K., Wampold, B. E., Tracey, T. J. G., & Lichtenberg, J. W. (2017). Psychotherapy expertise should mean superior outcomes and demonstrable improvement over time. The Counseling Psychologist, 45(1), 54-65. doi:10.1177/0011000016652691

Hannan, C., Lambert, M. J., Harmon, C., Nielsen, S. L., Smart, D. W., Shimokawa, K., & Sutton, S. W. (2005). A lab test and algorithms for identifying clients at risk for treatment failure. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(2), 155-163.

Nissen-Lie, H. A., Rønnestad, M. H., Høglend, P. A., Havik, O. E., Solbakken, O. A., Stiles, T. C., & Monsen, J. T. (2017). Love yourself as a person, doubt yourself as a therapist? Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 24(1), 48-60. doi:10.1002/cpp.1977

Smith, M. L., & Glass, G. V. (1977). Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcome studies. American Psychologist, 32(9), 752-760. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.32.9.752

Walfish, S., McAlister, B., O’Donnell, P., & Lambert, M. J. (2012). An investigation of self-assessment bias in mental health providers. Psychological Reports, 110(2), 639-644. doi:10.2466/02.07.17.PR0.110.2.639-644