If you are interested in becoming a counselor, your first port of call should be to gain the right education and qualifications. While a master’s course will teach you the basic key skills needed to succeed, there are lots of crucial tips that you need to be aware of before becoming qualified, helping you to flourish in your role. Having a caring nature and being able to communicate effectively with whoever walks through the door is what will set you apart. If you aren’t sure whether this career path is right for you, here are 6 essential skills that you need to possess to become a good counselor.
Have a Genuine Interest in Others
A key component of a counselor is to have a genuine interest in others. If you don’t have a caring personality, it’s likely you won’t put your full efforts into the role. Before you head into work each day, you need to have the drive, passion, understanding, and energy to sit with clients through their best and worst moments. If you aren’t fully present to hear your clients’ stories, you won’t be providing a good service to those in need.
To succeed as a counselor, knowing how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is important. If you can’t relate and emphasize with your clients, it’s likely that you won’t go very far as a therapist. Throughout a counselling course, you will learn how to act, feel, and think well, teaching you the importance of self-reflection. Being able to see situations from other points of view can help make sure you deliver the correct guidance and support.
Ability to Listen
Although it’s seen as an obvious tip, being able to listen on multiple levels is what will help you succeed should you want to become a counselor. Not only will you need to listen to what’s being said, you will need to analyze how it’s said, why it’s being said, as well as the context and meanings behind that particular client’s thoughts. It’s crucial that you think of the content, delivery, and context.
Listening between the lines is another key trait that a counselor needs when addressing clients. Most importantly, a counselor should hold no preconceived ideas or judgement. From the moment a client walks through the door, they want to be able to trust you and feel comfortable, so while certain issues may be difficult and complicated to listen to, you need to remain professional throughout and provide the right support and guidance.
Accessibility & Authenticity
For counselors to gain a client’s trust, they always need to be accessible. Clients need to know that someone is there for them throughout their difficult times, and being empathetic, genuine, and knowing how to communicate in the correct way can help clients feel at ease with you from the get-go. The last thing you want to do is come across as insincere, otherwise clients will lose their faith and trust in what you say, which may result in a barrier being formed.
Sense of Humor
If you are interested in becoming a counselor, you need to be prepared to sit through many uncomfortable and difficult stories from your clients. Some may be incredibly traumatic to deal with, so it’s important that you retain a sense of humor which can help break the ice – however, timing is crucial when it comes to this sort of thing. In some cases, you may find that putting a smile on your client’s face can completely change their mood for the better.
Forward Way of Thinking
Every client will be different, so it’s important that you have an open mind for whoever walks through your door. Regardless of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, having a forward way of thinking is what will help you flourish as a counselor.
Becoming a Counselor
If you feel you have the necessary skills to become a counselor, pursuing your master’s should be your next step in your professional journey. This blog from St. Bonaventure University lists a few of the mental health counselor duties which can give you more of an insight into what it’s like to work as a clinical mental health counselor with veterans, those with substance abuse, as well as youths.
Every counselor needs to have a genuine passion and interest in helping others succeed in life. If you don’t have the drive and patience for others, you may wish to go down another career route. A good counselor should also have excellent communication and listening skills to help clients feel heard and valued.