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A Career In Counselling Psychology: What Can You Expect?

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By variddhi.gupta
10 Mar'22  10 min read
A Career In Counselling Psychology: What Can You Expect?
Synopsis

The rise in mental health awareness has also led to a rise in misconceptions and misapprehensions about psychology, especially Counselling Psychology and what it means to be a Counselling Psychologist. In this article, we dispel a few myths about counselling psychology, what you get to study in counselling psychology courses and what it means to pursue a career in counselling psychology.

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A Career In Counselling Psychology: What Can You Expect?
Synopsis

The rise in mental health awareness has also led to a rise in misconceptions and misapprehensions about psychology, especially Counselling Psychology and what it means to be a Counselling Psychologist. In this article, we dispel a few myths about counselling psychology, what you get to study in counselling psychology courses and what it means to pursue a career in counselling psychology.

The term ‘counselling’ is gradually becoming a part of our everyday language, with people commonly using statements like “I counselled my friend after she could not clear her bank exams”, “I counselled the child after she did not behave properly in class.” Well, we don’t exactly know if this is something to be happy about. No doubt, the fact that people are slowly getting used to the term “counselling” and willing to make it a part of their everyday lives is comforting. But at the same time, the idea of it getting misrepresented as something that any common person can offer to another, which in a way equates it with ‘advice-giving’, can be a little unsettling. I, myself, held several misconceptions about the term until I opted for an undergraduate psychology course at Delhi University, and went on to pursue my master’s in counselling psychology.

So, What Exactly Is Counselling Psychology?

As individuals and social beings, there are usually multiple important elements to our lives, such as relationships, academics, work, co-curriculars, and so on. Counselling psychology aims to facilitate better functioning of individuals in the various aspects of their everyday lives, so as to bring about a sense of fulfilment and empowerment. Just to help you differentiate better, two of the other popular branches of psychology, namely clinical psychology and organisational psychology, deal specifically with mental pathology and workplace distress respectively.

The American Psychological Association (APA) gives the following definition of counselling psychology - “Counselling psychology addresses the emotional, social, work, school and physical health concerns people may have at different stages in their lives, focusing on typical life stresses and more severe issues with which people may struggle as individuals and as a part of families, groups and organisations.

So, now that you know the definition of counselling psychology, what are some of the qualities and skills you should ideally possess if you are considering a career in counselling psychology? Let us discuss!

Personhood Of A Counselling Psychologist

No one is born a counselling psychologist. However, some qualities and skills, if you innately possess as a person, can up the chances of counselling psychology being the right fit of career choice for you. The fact that I have always been extremely sensitive to problems that people go through in their everyday lives, especially career dilemmas that students go through, helped me figure out that I wanted to pursue a career in counselling psychology. Similarly, resilience, empathy, the ability to listen to people, communicate in silence, patience, a sense of humour, the ability to put your foot down and detest wrongdoings, and an innate drive to contribute to making the world a happier place are some qualities and skills that may help make better counselling psychologists.

Now that you have some idea about what counselling psychology is and what may help you become a good counselling psychologist, let us go on to talk about what all you would study as a student of the subject.

What Do You Study As A Student Of Counselling Psychology?

When evaluating what subject to choose for their higher studies, one important question that aspirants often ponder about is what exactly they would study if they choose a particular subject. So, to answer this, think and enumerate, what are different minor and major aspects of your life that hold some value to your functioning?

Most likely, your answers would include points like emotions, relationships, career, physical health, academics, human biology, overall well being, and the like. These are all the various facets that counselling psychology focuses upon. This subject talks about each and every possible element that directly, or indirectly, has an influence on human functioning.

Some of the subjects commonly included in specialised counselling psychology courses are counselling skills, lifespan development, abnormal psychology, statistics, organisational behaviour, etc. While these are some of the core subjects which are a part of more or less every specialised counselling psychology course, different universities often offer different optional subjects such as career counselling, marital counselling, psycho-oncology, and so on. Students may choose out of these optional papers depending on their interests and goals.

Having understood this a bit, the next question that might be lurking in your mind is likely to be where can you see yourself professionally, a few years down the line, after having completed your degree in counselling psychology? Let us try and answer this!

Career Avenues A Counselling Psychology Graduate Can Look At

Well, the industry today is, thankfully, flexible and dynamic enough to not restrict you to the one career avenue you choose initially, and rather allows you to permeate to, and explore different avenues as and when you feel the need to do so. However, speaking a little conventionally, counselling psychologists often begin their career journeys in the following avenues:-

Schools

All schools these days are mandated to hire at least one counsellor, if not more, to ensure the academic, and socio-emotional well being of children. Many schools these days have teams of counsellors to take emotional care of students. School counsellors often become the go-to person for children, and believe you me, it can be an immensely satisfying sight to see a child who came with a sad face to your cabin go back with a smile on their face.

Talking of remuneration, schools may pay anywhere around Rs. 30-40k per month starting salary to counsellors, however, it may vary depending on how rigidly the school adheres to norms like the 7th pay commission, and other related factors.

Mental Health Organisations/NGOs

With us witnessing a gradual, yet fortunate rise in mental health awareness, a number of mental health clinics are opening up across the country which hires psychologists with varied specialisations, in order to be able to cater to clients facing a diverse range of issues. They can be one of the avenues where counselling psychologists may choose to work. Starting salaries may vary with the scale that the organisation is operating at, but to give you an approximate idea, they could be anywhere between Rs. 25 to 40k per month. NGOs, especially those which are not established on a big scale, might not be very generous in the starting salaries they may offer.

Corporates

Corporates often hire counselling psychologists to facilitate the emotional and mental well being of employees. The contemporary work culture may sometimes get overwhelming, and employees may seek an outlet. Then, new employees who join the organisation need to be trained and helped to get acclimatised to the environment. This is where the role of psychologists comes in. Starting salaries could be anywhere around Rs. 35 to 45k, although it would differ from organisation to organisation.

Research And Academics

Definition of counselling, Counselling psychologist, Psychology coursesCounselling Psychology Students

Like most other fields, you may enter research and academia after completing your specialisation in counselling psychology. Aspirants often choose to attempt the UGC- NET/JRF exams for applying for the post of a lecturer in colleges/universities. Some may even do a B.Ed and choose to teach psychology in a school.

Other Avenues

So, as I previously mentioned, the industry is supple enough to let you try your hand at various avenues, rather than confining you to the traditional options. I remember, one of my classmates from my master’s batch chose to join a finishing school as a personality development trainer, while one of them joined an education company working to develop a socio-emotional learning curriculum for schools. Another one chose to work with a clinical psychologist in a hospital setting. A few even chose to begin writing content for various web platforms!

Since human beings are everywhere, so is psychology. So, although we have classified the career avenues in silos to give you a concrete idea of what a career in counselling psychology may look like in India, it is actually difficult to limit the options within a few bullet points. What you need to do to find the best career avenue for you is to open your eyes, enhance awareness, pick an area that seems interesting enough to try a hand at, and approach it. You never know which arrow might hit the target, trying never does any harm.

My Learnings From My Journey Till Now As A Counselling Psychologist

Being a counselling psychologist myself, this article would be incomplete if I don’t share with you, budding psychologists, what have been my most important learnings in the few years of my professional journey so far.

Open Fields In Psychology

India is still at a niche stage when it comes to the education and practice of psychology. So, while many other countries of the world are flourishing in the practice of different branches of psychology, such as sports psychology, consumer psychology, advertising psychology, spiritual psychology, parapsychology, creative arts therapies, and so on, there still seems to be a dearth of specialised psychology courses in these various fields in India. Nevertheless, the point here is that if you wish to pursue a career in a field that is still far from conventional psychology in India, one way is to pursue a master’s in clinical psychology or counselling psychology, which are, in a way, open fields, and eventually permeate to the specific field of your choice, through work experience, internships, and short term psychology courses or certifications.

To help you relate better, let me share an example of a batchmate of mine from my undergrad. She was a terrific athlete, as well as keenly interested in psychology, and was keen on becoming a sports psychologist, which was till then a field that we had never even heard of! Subsequent to her undergrad, she chose to do her master's in counselling psychology, hunted for sports organisations that she could intern with, did one internship after another to practically understand the field, and today, she heads the sports psychology department at the apex national sports body of India! What it took her was a limitless pursuit of her passion.

There are several other examples like her that you may find.

Do Not Ever Believe That You Do Not Need To Learn Anymore!

If you wish to grow professionally as well as personally, do not ever let yourself feel that you do not need to learn beyond a point. Life is, without a doubt, in itself a great teacher. But for now, keeping that aside, psychology is a ‘practice’, like other fields such as medicine and law, so the moment you feel you do not need to learn beyond a point is the moment you choose to stop growing. Everyday the internet bursts with new research and discoveries of newer branches within psychology. Read, pursue additional short term psychology courses, follow senior and famous people from your field on social media, and do much more. Always, I repeat, always keep room for your intellectual awareness to keep expanding. That is how you avoid getting stuck at a saturation point, and feel happy and fulfilled.

You Chase Learning, Money Chases You!

While it may be difficult in a cut-throat competitive world like ours, try not to chase money in the initial few years of your career. Rather, chase new experiences, meet new people, explore new avenues, in short, chase learning. Once you become used to chasing learning, money will most likely begin chasing you.

So, if you love people, feel a sense of satisfaction in helping others, and also know how to ‘not’ take yourself and the world too seriously all the time, gear up, the journey to becoming a counselling psychologist is most definitely going to be a fun ride!

Variddhi Gupta is Career Counsellor with Careers360. She is a counselling psychologist, with extensive experience in hands-on career counselling of high school students.

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