How do I become a Counsellor or Psychotherapist?

Attending the GCS Foundation course is the first step towards becoming a counsellor, psychotherapist or counselling psychologist.

Once you have successfully completed the Foundation course you will be much clearer as to your suitability and readiness for this vocation. You will also be clearer about the direction you wish to take, which approach or profession you are drawn to, and which recognised professional training programme best suits your needs.

A foundation course is required for entry to recognised professional training programmes and is generally considered to involve a minimum of 100 hours. Colleges offering professional training courses are looking for a Foundation course that involves a high level of personal development work, especially through groupwork, as well as theoretical input that helps you understand the subject. They want to know that you have experienced, coped with and grown from groupwork, as recognised professional training involves group therapy. Whether you complete the GCS Foundation or another one elsewhere make sure the course involves a minimum of 100 hours.

Click here for Statutory regulation information

Who are the established reputable organisations in the field of counselling and psychotherapy?

The IACP (Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) was established in 1981, and is the independent and main body representing Counselling & Psychotherapy in Ireland. IACP
seeks to promote and develop the profession by evolving standards for practice and training. Its Codes of Ethics and Practice are regarded as the essential guidelines for responsible practitioners. It has charity status and is highly regarded.

ICP stands for the Irish Council for Psychotherapy. This is the umbrella organisation for a no. of psychotherapy approaches in ireland. Along with the IACP it is involved in the statutory regulation process with the government.
IAHIP stands for Irish Association for Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy and is one branch of the ICP and has an accreditation scheme for professional counsellors.
IAAAC is the Irish Association of Alcohol and Addiction Counsellors.

What is an Accredited Counsellor or Psychotherapist?

After training a therapist works towards accreditation (equivalent to registration or licensure in USA). If someone is accredited they can add membership after their name i.e. MIACP or MIAHIP (fully accredited member). Accredited means the therapist has been scrutinised by the professional body and qualifications checked that they have had appropriate training [fully qualified], are experienced (350-600+ hours of client work under supervision), abide by a code of ethics and have regular supervision and continuing professional development.  For a listing of accredited therapists contact one of the professional bodies in Ireland listed above  

Theoretical approaches to Counselling & Psychotherapy 

Gestalt: focused on full here and now awareness, encouraging self support and self responsibility

Existential: philosophical approach with no inherent techniques or skills. Focuses on how the person is choosing to live their life. Encourages self responsibility and review of personal perspectives, beliefs, wants, values, attitudes and needs.  

Cognitive behavioural: helps person to develop more self supportive thought patterns and behaviours through fairly directive and psycho educational approach

Person centred: based on the therapist being empathic, genuine and accepting. The client is viewed as the expert on themselves

Psychodynamic: psychoanalytical, making links between present behaviour and past experiences

Psychodrama: encourages live reenactment of traumatic experiences and desired outcomes.

Bodywork: therapist focuses on the clients body directly in order to facilitate frozen experiences and emotions therein

Making contact with a therapist

You may get in touch with a counsellor or psychotherapist through your G.P., a, through a recommendation or through the therapist directory of a counselling, psychotherapy or psychology organisation. You are paying for a service so check around and don't feel obliged to continue with someone who you do not feel comfortable with. A good therapist should receive you with respect, warmth, non judgemental acceptance and an open mind. Don't put up with a therapist who does not adhere to personal boundaries. For example: a therapist who takes phone calls, or is frequently distracted is not abiding by the boundaries of the therapy. It is inappropriate and unethical for the therapist to form any other relationship with you. Do talk to the therapist about anything you are not happy about in the therapy. In your initial enquires don't hesitate to email, text or ask the therapist important questions for you. "have you training and experience in helping people with my problem?"; Who are you accredited with? What are your qualifications? Where did you complete your training? Most of this information is usually available on the website listings cited below. Unless they are in training they should either be working towards accreditation with one of the organizations below or be accredited. Only choose therapists that are listed in a reputable organisations directory. Below are the websites of accredited therapists from reputable professional bodies in Ireland:

ICP Irish Council for Psychotherapy
IAHIP Irish Association for Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy  (associated with ICP)
IACP Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy
PSI Psychological Society of Ireland (counselling psychologists)

Accredited means:
The therapist is fully qualified
Has a minimum of 450 hours (IACP) post graduate experience of working as a therapist
Abides by a code of ethics and practice
Has regular supervision (min. monthly)
[N.B. Associate members of organisations are not accredited. Anyone can be an associate member!]


A personal view on what is required for an effective counselling and psychotherapy relationship

People that visit therapists (clients) are unique individuals with unique problems, circumstance and strengths. Accordingly, in offering the client the best 'treatment' response as a psychotherapist the challenge for the practitioner is to be able to offer an individualised approach based on the unique individual needs of the client. That last sentence is important. The therapist should not limit the client by working from a fixed singular approach which tries to fit the client into it! rather than the therapists adapting and forming a 'fit' with the clients way of operating in the world. A common mistake in inexperienced therapists and others is to offer the client an approach based on the therapists own belief system or belief system introjected from their training (often offering only one theoretical approach), rather than focusing on what is best for the client based on research, training and experience in a no of models and what grounded personal experience (work and life) has taught the therapist. Thus the therapists ideally draws on a no of approaches depending on what is most likely to help the client. By this I do not mean eclectic (pick and mix!) rather meaning integration of approaches studied and experienced by the therapist. Thus an approach not based on only belief and preference rather on substantial training, experience, reading, personal development work, reflection, discussion, openness to, etc. Therapists also need to focus on the whole person being prepared to not only help the client through the 'talking cure' but also focusing, on the clients physical self - their body, movement etc. The therapist needs to have had sufficient training and experience to be able to do this, of course. In a broader sense effective therapy involves a balance of support and confrontation (confronting the client with what is outside their awareness but influencing  their problem situation) with the level of each dependent on the individual needs of the client. Through my supervisory work it is clear that the greatest challenge for many trainee and inexperienced therapists is to be open, direct and honest with clients and themselves. A challenge many also rise to meet in the process of supervision. In conclusion, therapists, to be effective, need to be flexible, creative, innovative and fluid in their approach and belief systems