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We, and other associations, set our own standards for training. Our recommended route can take up to three or four years, depending upon the courses you choose. As well as attending tuition, you’ll spend a lot of time on independent study, placements, supervision and, in some cases, personal therapy. This will make sure that you have the skills and experience to practise competently and safely.

You do not have to follow this route. There are no specific requirements for the qualifications or amount of training you need before you can practise, and there are many different courses available. But most employers look for practitioners with professional qualifications and membership of, or even accreditation by, a professional body like BACP. 

Three stage training

We recommend a three stage training structure.   

  • Stage 1: Introduction to Counselling 

An introductory course will help you gain basic counselling skills and give you an overview of what counselling/psychotherapist training involves before you commit fully.  These courses are usually run at Further Education (FE) colleges and adult education centres and last between eight to 12 weeks.  

  • Stage 2: Certificate in Counselling Skills 

This second stage will develop your counselling skills and give you a deeper understanding of counselling theories, ethics and self-awareness.  These courses also usually run at local FE colleges and adult education centres and are generally one year part-time.  

This level of training is also useful for those who do not plan to become counsellors but whose job involves advising or helping people. 

  • Stage 3: Diploma in Counselling or Psychotherapy 

Your core practitioner training should be at the minimum level of a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy, but could be a degree, masters or doctorate.

To meet the requirements for BACP membership, this course must be a minimum of one year full-time or two years’ part-time, be classroom-based and have at least 100 hours supervised placement as an integral part of the course. 

You don’t have to take all three stages, but courses have different entry requirements in terms of previous training or experience; for example, if you’ve been involved in counselling in a previous job, you may be able to start at Stage 2. If you’re unsure, contact a course provider at the appropriate stage and ask about their requirements.

If you are looking for training, there’s more information in Find a training course.


BACP membership

To find out more about joining BACP, and the help and support we can provide throughout your training, please see Membership. You can also find information on what you need to do to become a Registered Member or apply for Accreditation.