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Counsellors work with a variety of individuals, couples and groups and assist them in better understanding themselves in order to produce workable solutions to emotional, mental and lifestyle problems. While their specific duties vary significantly depending on their specialty they may include:
- conduct individual counselling
- act as facilitators for group sessions
- act as conflict resolution mediators
- work in health management teams with other professionals such as doctors, psychologists or social workers
Counsellors may specialise in working with a particular groups or service areas:
Drug and Alcohol Counsellor
Drug and Alcohol Counsellors provide assistance to people with drug and alcohol dependency problems in the form of support, identification of behaviours related to their dependency, goal setting and developing coping strategies to achieve goals. This may involve individual and group counselling sessions. They may also be involved in community education.
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and Family Therapists utilise family systems theory assist clients to modify their behaviours and improve communication and understanding among family members to improve family functioning. They may work with individuals, families, couples, and groups. They may also be involved in outreach services and provide courses on interpersonal relationships.
Mental Health Counsellor
Mental Health Counsellors work with individuals, families, and groups to address and treat mental and emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, suicidal impulses, stress, trauma, low self-esteem, and grief.
School Counsellors assist students with academic, career, personal, and social development by working with students to identify their interests and abilities and develop realistic career and personal goals. These processes may involve interviews and counselling sessions, aptitude tests and career education programs. They may provide intensive assistance to students with academic or behavioural problems.
Rehabilitation Counsellors help people deal with the personal, social, and vocational effects of physical or emotional disabilities, including disabilities resulting from accidents or illnesses. Rehabilitation counsellors typically interact with the client, family members and other professionals such as medical practitioners, psychologists, therapists, employers and employment agencies. Individualised rehabilitation programs may involve advocacy and strategies to develop job skills, obtain employment and participate in community activities.
Vocational Counsellors provide career counselling and assist clients with career decisions. They explore and evaluate the person's education, training and previous work experience, interests, skills, and personality traits. They may arrange for aptitude and achievement tests to help the client make career decisions. They also work with individuals to develop their job-search skills and assist clients in locating and applying for jobs. In addition, career counsellors provide support to people experiencing job loss, job stress, or other career transition issues.
Mediators act as a neutral third party to assist people involved in disputes to communicate with each other and achieve a mutually acceptable outcome.
Counsellors must have an interest and concern for human wellbeing and require excellent interpersonal and oral communication skills, empathy, discretion and tact in order to establish rapport and effective working relationships with clients. They should be mature and responsible, understand confidentiality requirements, have strong analytical and problem solving skills, and well developed written communication skills for report writing.
A career in Counselling requires VET qualifications or a degree in Psychology, Social Work or other related disciplines. Some jobs may also require additional qualifications such as a Certificate IV in AOD (alcohol and other drug) studies. Relevant paid or unpaid work experience is often required and is highly valued by employers. Graduates may be eligible for membership of the Australian Counselling Association providing they undertake sufficient ACA approved Ongoing Professional Development and Professional Supervision annually.
Principal Employment Sectors and Industry
Counsellors work in a variety of industries depending on their specialty. They are employed by public and private health providers, educational institutions, government departments, local councils and community service providers, or can be self-employed.