Training to be a counsellor or psychotherapist are two of the most rewarding professions there are.
Traditionally, training was a rigorous journey which focused on the trainee’s self and spiritual development as much as it did academic and professional development. It provided the trainee with the solid inner ground that is necessary to work in this field.
In recent years, and in alignment with expected counsellor and psychotherapist employment growth, training organisations have popped up all over the place offering counselling and psychotherapy courses of varying awards (Certificate, Diploma, Bachelor, Master or Ph.D), duration (from a few months up to 8 years) and methods of learning (in person, online or blended).
With some training organisations using aggressive marketing campaigns, aiming for bums on seats and dangling carrots of shorter course duration and the capacity to earn $$$ – this sparked a passionate discussion in one of my online psychotherapy forums about what good training is and what potential therapists should look for in a training.
In this blog, I interviewed experienced therapists of varying disciplines from Australia and abroad, who provide counselling and/or psychotherapy services. Most of the therapists here have worked in both agencies and in private practice. They share their experience of their training and provide some of their top tips about what to look for when choosing a psychotherapy or counselling course.
Relationship Counsellor | Psychotherapist | Supervisor
My somatic psychotherapy training had such a profound impact on me and my future life direction, I rave about it passionately whenever I get the chance!
It made me a much more self-aware person, softer, more compassionate much more gentle and kind towards others and myself, a much better mother and a more loving and available partner.
But… it was one of the toughest things I have ever undertaken – much harder than my Master’s Degree!!! About as tough as being a good enough / at times (attempting) great mum!
My training was spread over three years with a requirement to complete a minimum of 25 hours personal therapy in each year of the program. Most students remained in therapy for the whole three years of the program which enabled us to really walk in the shoes of our future clients. As “wounded healers” we also got to work through our own issues. Consequently, we could be much more effective at helping others with their problems without getting tangled up in our own histories within the sessions. The other big bonus was seeing an experienced therapist in action.
This very intimate, relationship based experiential program was combined with rigorous academic training. We had to read from cover to cover complex texts on the different theories of trauma and what works in helping others. To truly embed the learning inside ourselves we then had to present in front of the class what we had learnt. Over and over we had to teach what we were trying to learn to consolidate the learning. This experiential learning approach resulted in the theories becoming a part of me as a person.
The training participants also had to engage in three years of intensive group therapy. It rocked. We got to see up close and personal the myriad of issues clients / students present with and how different experienced therapists handled and helped each person with their issues.
The course changed my life! I came out the other end inspired, feeling well grounded in a wide range of psychological theories and really confident with a lot of good tools in my tool kit for how to work effectively with people in emotional pain.
I have an ongoing sense of gratitude about the course because I realize now how well it has prepared me for working as a therapist in private practice.
My recommendation would be to find a training which includes as many of the above elements as possible.
Counsellor | Psychotherapist
What I loved most about my training (Gestalt Training Institute WA) was that it was predominantly experiential.
I spent four years in a group environment, observing and participating in actual therapy sessions, with live supervision. These experiences were invaluable in terms of my professional and personal growth, knowledge, skill and self-awareness. In addition, I was required to have ongoing personal therapy and clinical supervision. It would be fair to say this training changed my life.
When considering which counselling or psychotherapy training you would like to do, I recommend:
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist | Dreamworker | Transpersonal Therapist
I started grad school at a wonderful university, whose philosophy & political involvement I agreed with. The classes were great, but were all theory (which I’m pretty good at learning on my own) and no experiential work, and the classes were traditional psych.
I found a school with a Transpersonal MA program (which is where my heart sings), and all of my teachers were licensed therapists. We got hands-on experience in a variety of modalities, and heard directly from practitioners what being a therapist was like. Classes were small, so teachers knew us and were able to really help our learning.
I got to study Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork with Strephon Kaplan-Williams, Somatic Dreamwork with John Conger, and Cross-Cultural Symbolism with Angeles Arrien, as well as learn all the regular info in a traditional grad counseling program. At that point in time, the Transpersonal approach was new, so we had to be enrolled in the dual degree program, where we also got an MA in Clinical Psych—best of both worlds!
Gestalt Therapist | Relationship Counsellor
In my postgraduate degree in counselling and psychotherapy we participated in group therapy for four years where we all worked on our own personal issues and interpersonal relationships. This was an amazing experience that helped me learn so much about myself and the way I relate to others.
After I did my postgraduate degree in counselling and psychotherapy, I then did a four year degree in Gestalt therapy which was highly experiential. There was a big emphasis on continuing to work on our interpersonal relationships and doing our own therapy with a Gestalt therapist. This was absolutely invaluable in my journey to become a qualified therapist.
My top tips for choosing a counselling or psychotherapy training are:
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Therapist
I had the amazing opportunity training at the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Utah.
I received such great training there! They had local experts in a variety of approaches and specialties come each month to talk about what they do and they gave us a course in each of their specialties.
I learned how to incorporate my feminism into therapy and how to practice Feminist Multicultural Therapy. When I was trained, the Women’s Resource Center was the only place in the U.S. which trained therapists in Feminist Multicultural Therapy – it’s more than just being a feminist! I use my training every day. It shaped who I am as a person and as a therapist.
When choosing your training, go for one which is in alignment with your passion and your values.
Psychotherapist | Counsellor | Couple Therapist
What I loved as a graduate from my Advanced Relational Psychotherapy training with Transactional Analysis foundation at The Australian Centre for Integrative Studies (Sydney) was the amount of group process we did on a regular basis. This training was made up of 4 year basic training in live groups on campus (plus 4 year post-training and supervision). I believe the amount of group process activities we did was key in teaching me to sit in silence in the presence of another’s pain. It taught me the self-discipline of not always needing to fill spaces with words or solutions and the power of just being there.
I recommend the following when looking for a training body or college:
Integrative Arts Psychotherapist
I chose Integrative Arts Psychotherapy because the combination of arts and psychotherapy was (and still is) so compelling and fascinating to me. I loved the idea of using images, stories, and arts-based techniques in psychotherapy. It is therefore important you go by your level of excitement and interest in the course and psychological discipline.
You will want to feel a deep-down authentic confidence that your training was solid and thorough, giving you a good grounding in both theory and practice. I know too many counsellors who feel apologetic and shaky because they feel that in their training they ‘missed out’ in some important way, and it can really affect their work with clients and their trust in themselves.
So how can you tell that a training program will be thorough? Here are some things to ask about:
*[my article on why therapists should have therapy is here]
Psychotherapist | Daring Way Facilitator
In my experience good psychotherapy training needs to be experiential with solid theoretical basis. To become an effective therapist one has to work through their own triggers or as I call them: sticky points.
When choosing training, the following should be taken into consideration:
Soul-Centred Psychotherapist | Therapeutic Counsellor | Eating Psychology Specialist | Transformational Life- Coach
I trained in a Diploma of Therapeutic Counselling and Master’s in depth psychotherapy at the Institute of Psychosynthesis and Middlesex University in the UK. I was so passionate about psychosynthesis as a modality – I returned to the UK from Australia specifically to study under teachers who were trained by Roberto Assagioli; neuroscientist, influential thought leader in transpersonal psychology and the founder of psychosynthesis.
In total, the training took me eight years! In addition to theory and academic work, it included 500 client hours, group clinical supervision, 50 case presentations, 40 hours a year of personal 1-1 psychotherapy with a psychosynthesis psychotherapist, monthly group forum and 6 days a year of right relations group psychotherapy experience. We also spent one week a year at summer school in Dorset where spiritual practice and ritual were practised. The focus in Psychosynthesis training is to experience the journey of the soul, not just to learn theory. It means that we walk the journey our clients will be walking with us throughout their therapy.
My top tips for good psychotherapy or counselling training are as follows:
This blog is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Therapeutic Counsellor, Eating Psychology and Transformational Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!