Helps individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties and explores ways of coping with or solving their problems.

Counselling is a professional activity that involves the development of an interpersonal relationship between counsellor and client. The purpose of this relationship is to provide the client with guidance and advice allowing them to attain a deeper understanding of themselves and to make changes in their lives to cope with stress or personal issues. Counsellors are trained to relate to and treat clients who are distressed. They work with them to alleviate personal suffering and encourage development.

Counsellors see individual clients, occasionally groups, in confidence to explore difficulties, distress, dissatisfaction with life or loss of purpose. They give their clients the opportunity to work through their emotions by offering them time, attention and support within a confidential and trusting environment. They aim to enable their clients to talk freely, to improve their self-esteem, develop better relationships and discover more satisfactory ways of living.

Some counsellors work in specialised areas such as victim support, marriage guidance or bereavement. They may also choose to work in a specialised way for example by using cognitive behaviour therapy or psychodynamic counselling.

Work activities

  • Working with people suffering from a range of personal problem.
  • Developing a relationship with clients to explore the underlying causes of their conflicts and behavioural difficulties.
  • Listening and responding empathetically to clients in a confidential setting.
  • Helping clients to identify their current and underlying problems and enabling them to decide appropriate courses of action.
  • Undergoing personal therapy or de-briefing supervision and professional development.
  • Keeping up-to-date with treatments and theories.
  • Liaising and referring with relevant agencies.

Work conditions

Travel: travel during working day is rare or never.
Working hours: extended working day common in private practice as clients come before and/or after work.
Location: mainy in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: commonly possible as many work in private practice.

Typical employers

  • Health and social services
  • Crisis centres
  • Schools and universities
  • Youth organisations
  • Private practices.

Career development

This is still a developing field in Ireland. Many counsellors work in private practices, so career structures are not yet in place. Counselling is often taken up as a second career.


Rates of pay will vary considerably depending on the client base, employer, hours and nature of the job.

Entry requirements

In Ireland the counselling profession is currently not regulated under statutory instruments of law; instead standards are set through a process of self-regulation by professional associations which accredit counsellors.

Entry requirements for training courses in counselling vary. As counselling is often taken up as a second career, many counsellors hold degrees in a range of related and non related disciplines. Recognition of courses for the purposes of professional accreditation is determined by each professional body.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to non-graduates and graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Counselling
  • Psychology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social work
  • Medicine
  • Nursing.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is now normally expected for those who do not hold an accredited undergraduate degree. A broad based third level education followed by specialised professional training, available from a number of centres, is becoming the norm.

Specific entry requirements

It is normally a requirement that trainee counsellors have undertaken their own personal therapy.


In-depth training is required which is usually on a part-time basis and can take several years. Trainee counsellors normally meet with clients while under the supervision of an experienced practitioner-trainer. The theoretical orientation of courses differs. In addition, most professional bodies require that members undertake continuing professional development and supervision.

Tips for applications

Experience working with a client group who may have counselling needs or experience in personnel development and group work is advantageous.

Think about which model of counselling you want to study or specialise in as there are many different approaches. Complete a foundation or introductory course to counselling or read a general introductory book on counselling. Talk to a practising counsellor and check if the work involved would suit your skills, ability and personality

Ensure that your chosen course is accredited by a professional counselling body such as Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Skills and qualities

  • A warm and inviting nature.
  • An active listener, with good interpersonal skills and an ability to question, reflect and challenge attitudes and beliefs.
  • Ability to empathise and build a supportive relationship with clients.
  • A concern for the welfare of others.
  • Maturity, self awareness and an openness to self-development.
  • Excellent communication skills, with the ability to respond sensitively and astutely to the personal and professional lives of others.