Careers advice

The need to knows for applying for counselling jobs in NZ

What do employers look for?

The importance of mental health is something that the world has seemingly only recently woken up to. Today, we’re starting to realise that looking after our minds is just as important as looking after our bodies.

As such, counsellors play a vital role by helping people work through the personal and emotional problems that they’re having. This means that working as a counsellor is a fulfilling career choice, where you’ll make a real difference to the lives of those around you.

But what qualities and qualifications do you need to be a counsellor in NZ? By reading this article, we hope you’ll come out feeling equipped to get applying to the many NZ counselling jobs currently on site.

What qualifications do you need to be a counsellor in NZ?

While psychologists are required to have at least a Master’s level degree in psychology, you don't necessarily need to have a qualification to call yourself a counsellor in New Zealand.

However, if you want to become a member of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC), as of 2019, you need to have a minimum of an undergraduate level qualification in counselling.

Being registered with NZAC, which is also known as Counselling Aotearoa, has career benefits, as this body has high training standards and regular professional development. It is also seen as a trusted body and, therefore, one that patients are likely to have faith in.

What qualities do you need to be a counsellor?

When you’re dealing with sensitive issues on a daily basis, it should come as no surprise that you’ll need to develop a very specific set of soft skills in order to be an effective counsellor.

Among the most important are:

1. Empathy

Of course, you won’t have had direct experience with all of the issues that patients will come to you with. However, you’ll need to be able to see things the way that they do, and understand why they’re feeling this way. In other words, you’ll need to be empathetic.

This will mean, sometimes, trying to put yourself in the shoes of someone who you may not always agree with. This will be necessary to fully understand the emotional or personal situation they’re facing.

Empathy is a key quality of an effective counseling.

2. Acceptance

Going hand in hand with empathy is being accepting and non-judgmental. It can take a lot of courage for some people to seek professional help for the problems they’re experiencing, so you need to make them feel comfortable that they’re in an environment where they can share and get things off their chest.

Again, this may mean listening to people who have done, or believe things, that don’t fit with your views of right and wrong. However, it’s your job to remain professional at all times.

3. Communication

Remember, effective communication is a two-way street that involves both listening and speaking. Being a good listener is an incredibly important attribute of a good counsellor, but you’ll also need to communicate well yourself so that you can use your training to provide patients with actionable solutions that will hopefully help them move forwards.

4. Patience

A big part of counselling is working through problems together. Given the complexity and difficulty of the many issues you’ll be confronted with, this process is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint.

As well as the time you’ll need to invest in properly understanding the whole picture of what the patient is telling you, you’ll also need to be patient in helping them find solutions that will work for them, and then attempting to put these strategies into action.

5. Respect for confidentiality

This one should go without saying, but you’ll be expected to keep everything your patients tell you in the strictest confidence. In addition, you’ll need to keep up-to-date with any changes to any changes to the laws and ethics surrounding counselling work in New Zealand.

You'll need to keep everything you're told in your sessions in confidence.

6. Research skills

One of the rewarding, yet testing, aspects of being a counsellor is that you’ll be interacting with all sorts of different people who are facing all sorts of different challenges in life.

No matter how great your formal training was, you won’t be prepared for every scenario you come across. This means that being able to research, and even tap into peer network knowledge, in order to ensure you’re giving the best possible support, is a crucial skill to have.

This can be particularly important when helping patients who come from different cultural backgrounds to you. Understanding the cultural context to the challenges they have can often be very important in informing the approach you take, as well as ensuring that the patient feels at ease while talking to you.

7. Flexibility

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to human lives or emotions. This means that, even after years in the profession, you’ll need to be able to tailor your approach to the person sitting in front of you.

This is another reason why keeping up-to-date with the latest research, as well as continuing your professional and personal development are massively important to being a successful counsellor.

8. Self care

While counselling is a fulfilling career, and a vital service for those who need it, there’s no doubt that it has the potential to take a toll on your own mental health.

Not only is it important for your own wellbeing to look after yourself, if you don’t, you’ll also be less able to offer effective support to your patients.