Key information

  1. Reference: ST1192
  2. Date updated: 24/05/2024
  3. Level: 4
  4. Route: Health and science
  5. Regulated occupation: No
Print occupational standard

Details of the occupational standard

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in various sectors including mental health, healthcare, education, and social services. Counsellors work in a wide range of settings including GP surgeries, hospitals, universities, community centres, rehabilitation facilities, prison services, business, and non-profit organisations. In the mental health sector, employers can range from small community clinics to large hospitals or counselling centres. Counsellors who meet professional association membership requirements require practitioner training at Level 4 minimum, which includes practical experience through supervised clinical work.

The broad purpose of the occupation is to provide a supportive therapeutic relationship to individuals experiencing emotional, mental, or psychological challenges. Counsellors aim to improve the overall wellbeing of their clients. They do this by helping them navigate through difficult emotions, develop coping strategies, and make positive changes in their lives. Counsellors employ a wide range of therapeutic approaches and techniques to help clients address issues. Issues can be common mental health problems, relationship difficulties, trauma, addiction, grief, stress management, and personal development. They provide a safe and confidential space for clients to express their concerns, explore their emotions, and find ways to make a positive change. Counselling sessions may be conducted one-on-one, in groups, or with families, depending on the specific needs of the client. Key duties of a counsellor involve conducting assessments, working therapeutically with clients and maintain accurate records. The work environment may involve responding to risk factors, such as dealing with clients in crisis or situations involving trauma. Counsellors may deal with issues relating to the duty of care regarding safeguarding children, young people, and vulnerable adults. Online and phone counselling also require specific considerations, including the need for secure communication platforms and the ability to establish rapport without face-to-face interaction. Counsellors may need to travel to various locations for meetings or sessions.

In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with colleagues within their own organisation. Externally, they may establish professional relationships with referral sources. An agency counsellor will report to a line manager who oversees their work, provides guidance, and evaluates their performance. Counsellors also engage in regular clinical supervision which is a professional service designed to support their ethical and safe practice.

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of themselves and their clients. They do this by effectively managing caseloads and adhering to relevant regulations, ethical guidelines, and professional standards. They usually work autonomously and receive supervision or consultation from more senior professionals. They may be responsible for providing additional therapeutic materials.

This standard is derived from the Scope of Practice and Education (ScOPEd) framework for column A therapists.

The SCoPEd framework is a ground-breaking shared standards framework, developed by six Professional Standards Authority accredited bodies, including BACP, which represent approximately 75,000 counsellors and psychotherapists.

Typical job titles include:

College counsellor Counselling and wellbeing advisor Digital counsellor Remote counsellor Therapist Trauma therapist University counsellor and wellbeing co-ordinator Wellbeing counsellor

Occupation duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 1 Adhere to the legal and ethical requirements of a counsellor and the employers code of conduct, including values and standards.



Duty 2 Accurately record and handle client records and personal data in line with local and national policies.

K2 K3 K7

S2 S4 S7

Duty 3 Manage a caseload of clients ethically and safely.

K1 K5 K6

S1 S3 S6

Duty 4 Use self-reflection and evaluation during clinical supervision to assess and improve the effectiveness of the counselling relationship.

K1 K5 K24

S28 S31

Duty 5 Use a range of assessment methods to understand the client’s needs within the context of the services available.

K5 K6 K9 K14 K20

S5 S6 S7 S8 S12 S13 S21 S24 S31 S33

Duty 6 Select and use counselling interventions to support overall wellbeing that supports with physical and psychological health through a variety of mediums such as in-person, online or phone.

K4 K18 K19

S4 S17 S19 S20 S25 S34 S35


Duty 7 Apply awareness of the diverse backgrounds of both clients and counsellors to enhance the accessibility, efficacy, and quality of the therapeutic work.

K8 K10

S10 S11

B2 B4

Duty 8 Establish and develop relationships with clients which place their needs and goals at the heart of the therapeutic process.

K5 K7 K16

S5 S9

Duty 9 Apply self-awareness to gain insight into personal emotions, biases, and influences, effectively integrating this understanding into the counselling practice for enhanced client outcomes.

K14 K15 K16 K17

S20 S21 S26

Duty 10 Use an evidence-based counselling modality to work with clients with common life problems and common mental health and other psychological problems.

K12 K14 K16 K21 K22 K23

S15 S16 S18 S21 S22 S23 S26 S27

Duty 11 Conduct evaluations to recognise mental health conditions, assess potential risks and identify safeguarding concerns, making suitable referrals when necessary.

K13 K20

S14 S32

Duty 12 Communicate with and signpost to other agencies; employment, specialist and other advice services.

K2 K3 K7

S2 S3 S9 S30

Duty 13 Support clients to gain understanding on the use of frequently prescribed medications for mental health conditions.



Duty 14 Participate in the enhancement of counselling practices by actively pursuing continuous professional development and staying up to date with evidence-based research findings.


S28 S29

B3 B5



K1: Professional and legal frameworks, legislation and safeguarding policies relevant to own role to practise safely and ethically within the law. Back to Duty

K2: Principles of team-working across multi-disciplinary teams. Back to Duty

K3: Principles of confidentiality and privacy of clients from unauthorised access or disclosure. Back to Duty

K4: Types of frameworks that can be used for meetings within therapy settings. Back to Duty

K5: Processes for establishing a contract with the client using initial assessment and evaluation of risk factors whilst recognising the clients' expectations and therapeutic needs within own professional limitations. Back to Duty

K6: Risks and benefits of all forms of technologically mediated therapy, communication and practical and ethical demands of client suitability. Back to Duty

K7: Different verbal and non-verbal communication methods and how to provide and receive information which may be complex, sensitive and or contentious. Back to Duty

K8: Legislation and organisational policies relating to equity and diversity, and how to consider the diversity of own and clients' identities, views and experiences. Back to Duty

K9: Principles of professional and personal boundaries in online relationships with clients. Back to Duty

K10: The impact of types of third party presence on a therapy session. Back to Duty

K11: Types of common mental health problems and symptoms of psychological distress, the role of psychiatric drugs and issues relating to dependence and withdrawal. Back to Duty

K12: The inter-relatedness of psychological and physical illnesses. Back to Duty

K13: Processes for containing clients in crisis through trauma, suicidal or self-harming behaviours. Back to Duty

K14: The purpose, nature and process of therapy and the therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

K15: Importance of the role and purpose, issues of power, and relational patterns within the therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

K16: The importance of trust, client autonomy and working with emotional content are essential elements of a therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

K17: Processes of unspoken agendas within the therapeutic relationship and session. Back to Duty

K18: How technologically mediated therapy can have an effect a lowering of inhibition in either the client and or the counsellor and the impact this has on the therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

K19: Types of difficulties or ruptures in the therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

K20: The impact of planned and unplanned breaks and endings and how to make professional arrangements for them. Back to Duty

K21: Rationale, philosophy and key features underpinning therapeutic practice. Back to Duty

K22: Skills and interventions that are consistent with underlying theoretical knowledge. Back to Duty

K23: Processes for change within a core, coherent theoretical framework. Back to Duty

K24: Audit and evaluation tools for reviewing own counselling work. Back to Duty

K25: Types of research relevant to own role. Back to Duty


S1: Comply with professional, legal and ethical frameworks relevant to own role to practise safely and ethically within the law. Back to Duty

S2: Work collaboratively with teams and individuals. Back to Duty

S3: Communicate with clients, colleagues and other professionals when providing and receiving information which may be complex, sensitive and or contentious. Back to Duty

S4: Maintain client confidentiality and privacy and conduct therapy meetings using secure frameworks for both therapist and clients. Back to Duty

S5: Collaborate with the client to agree a shared understanding of the purpose, nature and process of therapy and the therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

S6: Maintain and review a contract with the client providing regular opportunities for the client to review and feedback their experience of therapy. Back to Duty

S7: Establishing agreements on the therapeutic work which attends to the needs of the client, the skills of the counsellor and the time available. Back to Duty

S8: Consider the client’s suitability for technologically mediated therapy, taking account of risks and benefits, using appropriate responses to manage the practical and ethical demands of all forms of technologically mediated therapy and communication. Back to Duty

S9: Use communication skills when reflecting on and responding to the client’s verbal and nonverbal communication as part of the therapeutic process. Back to Duty

S10: Consider the diversity of own and clients' identities, views and experiences when working therapeutically with them. Back to Duty

S11: Carries out ethical decision-making with regards to aspects of diversity and its impact upon the relationship and therapeutic process. Back to Duty

S12: Apply professional and personal boundaries in online relationships with clients. Back to Duty

S13: Practice working safely with a third party present in the therapy sessions. Back to Duty

S14: Work with common mental health problems and symptoms of psychological distress during assessment and throughout therapy, including the implications of psychiatric drugs, dependence and withdrawal for clients in therapy. Back to Duty

S15: Work collaboratively with clients with trauma, suicidal behaviours and or self-harming behaviours. Back to Duty

S16: Use a therapeutic modality to work safely with clients. Back to Duty

S17: Establish, sustain and develop therapeutic relationships with clients to engender trust and authentic connection. Back to Duty

S18: Work with power dynamics within the therapeutic relationship and manage the client’s expectations and understanding of therapy and the relationship with the counsellor. Back to Duty

S19: Work with the client to support and enhance their autonomy. Back to Duty

S20: Listen to the client’s emotions to respond therapeutically to the emotional content of sessions. Back to Duty

S21: Use awareness of client’s implicit needs and motivations during therapeutic processes. Back to Duty

S22: Regulate the impact that associated inhibition has on the online or phone therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

S23: Respond to difficulties or ruptures in the therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

S24: Communicate about planned or unplanned breaks and endings to ensure client safety and support in case of emergencies. Back to Duty

S25: Use appropriate therapeutic interventions and or responses. Back to Duty

S26: Use skills and techniques to help the client to become aware of recurring patterns in their relationships to facilitate therapeutic change and review the process of change from a core, coherent theoretical therapeutic perspective. Back to Duty

S27: Use skills and interventions that are informed by theoretical knowledge for the benefit of the clients, inviting the clients to use cognitive skills and techniques to work towards therapeutic goals. Back to Duty

S28: Apply relevant research evidence to own practice. Back to Duty

S29: Apply an ethical framework to resolve conflicts and ethical dilemmas, examining ethical dilemmas through consultation with supervisor and or other professionals. Back to Duty

S30: Communicate with clients and other professionals to manage the process of referral during assessment and throughout therapy. Back to Duty

S31: Conduct risk assessments for client and public safety which adhere to safeguarding laws and communicate with clients and relevant parties when working in ongoing risk situations. Back to Duty

S32: Manage crisis situations for client by providing information about self-care strategies and making arrangements for future meetings or contact. Back to Duty

S33: Establish and maintain professional boundaries with clients. Back to Duty

S34: Respond to the client’s agenda, focus, therapeutic needs and pace. Back to Duty

S35: Foster and maintain a safe and therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty


B1: Show adaptability, reliability, competence, resilience and responsibility when responding to client needs, to support a strong therapeutic relationship. Back to Duty

B2: Show respect, empathy and self-awareness when communicating with clients, using constructive feedback to improve the therapeutic process. Back to Duty

B3: Have courage to seek advice, address concerns, work within own limits of competence and evidence-based best practices, to maintain boundaries. Back to Duty

B4: Treat people with dignity, respecting diversity, culture, values, beliefs, privacy and preferences. Back to Duty

B5: Be self-aware and self-reflective to develop own practice, maintain self-care and wellbeing and engage in continuous professional development. Back to Duty

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