Counselling Courses in London – What One to Take?

Trying to decide what counselling course in London is for you can be seriously overwhelming.

First, there is the decision between training to be a counsellor or a psychotherapist (for more on the differences in the UK, read our article on ‘Counselling vs Psychotherapy‘).

Then there is the sheer number of courses.  There are many schools on offer, with more springing up every few years (and others closing).

What are the main schools to consider for a foundation counselling course in London? And what do they offer once you are done with the foundation year?  

Counselling Courses in London

*Below you will find just London counselling course programs. If you are also interested in psychotherapy programs, sign up to our blog now for an alert when we post the next piece in this series on psychotherapy courses in London. 

CITY LIT

City Lit is known for their longstanding person-centred counselling program. City Lit is by Holborn and very central, although the classrooms themselves can be dated.

The competition for the level 3 foundation year is high, and involves a written application followed by both a group interview and individual interview.

You also have to have finished an introduction to counselling certificate either at City Lit or elsewhere.

Their foundation years involve both theory, group work, and also experiential groups, where the larger group divides into two and spends time each week talking about their personal progress. While attending therapy yourself in the first/ foundation year of the program is optional, it is a prerequisite from second year onwards.

  • foundation: person-centred
  • format: 30 weeks, once a week with some weekends
  • price: lower
  • future study with City Lit: person centred or integrative counselling diploma
  • accreditation: no, but follows BACP framework.

MARY WARD CENTRE

By: David

Mary Ward centre offers their integrative counselling course in pleasant, centrally located buildings (note that not all counselling courses run in their main building which is a pretty old house).

They don’t take many students a year, and it’s reasonably competitive, although they still do interviews for spots as late as July.

They do expect you to have an introduction to counselling certificate already from their school or another one.

Their level 3 foundation course looks at person centred, psychodynamic and CBT approaches. But it could be said there is a psychodynamic leaning.

  • foundation: integrative
  • format: weekly
  • price: average
  • future study at Mary Ward: level 4-6 integrative counselling diplomas
  • accreditation: BACP.

UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON

UEL don’t really  do an intro certificate or foundation year, they rather combine this into their longer programs.

For example, they offer a 3-year counselling program that is actually a BSc bachelor’s degree, or a 2-year Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy that prepares you for a MA. Both courses are integrative with the BSc for example covering person-centred counselling, psychodynamic counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and existential counselling.

  • foundation: integrative
  • format: once a week (BSc) or twice a week and a few weekends (diploma)
  • price range : average considering it’s a degree
  • future study at UEL – BSc Counselling, PGDip Counselling and Psychotherapy, MA Counselling and Psychotherapy, MSc Integrative
  • accredited – BACP.

BIRBECK UNIVERITY

Birbeck university lumps together their intro course with a foundation year, making it a 2-year certificate program. The first year, Introduction to Counselling, can be taken either once a week for 30 weeks, or once a weekend monthly for seven months, but the second year requires weekly attendance.

It is an integrative approach, covering person-centred, psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural counselling. But if you do stay on at Birbeck for your road to being a therapist, the focus then shifts firmly to psychodynamic.

  • foundation: integrative
  • format: once or two evenings per week plus some weekends
  • price range : average considering it’s a degree
  • future study at Birbeck: psychodynamic counselling BA, psychodynamic MSc
  • accreditation: BACP and BCP accredited.

GOLDSMITHS UNIVERSITY

Goldsmiths offers a ‘graduate certificate’ in humanistic and psychodynamic counselling. You don’t have to have an Intro to Counselling certificate to apply.

The entry to the foundation year is by written application then short group interview, with no one-to-one interviews.  The courses are held in one of the more pleasant older buildings of Goldsmith’s rambling modern campus.

Note that this foundation year does not involve an experiential group but simply lectures and some group work. You also are not obligated to attend therapy sessions in the foundation course. So while it makes you eligible to continue an MA at Goldsmiths, it might not make you eligible to then transfer to another school for your MA.

  • foundation: integrative
  • format: 26 weeks, once a week, no weekends
  • price range : lower
  • future study at Goldsmiths: MA in Counselling
  • accreditation: no.

THE MINSTER CENTRE

The Minster Centre is famous for being the most ‘intense’ program that becomes a ‘lifestyle’. They openly aim to be the most rigorous school available, and are firmly on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

While they really are  a psychotherapy school, they are mentioned here as their program has two ‘strands’, meaning you can finish in less time with a counselling diploma should you decide not to pursue to the very end with a counselling and psychotherapy MA.

Their foundation year involves both theory, group work, and experiential groups, and you must personally attend therapy weekly. They invite interested participants to an open night, after which you send a written application and pay to have an interview.

You are expected to have already done an intro to counselling certificate or their intro week, or, if you have suitable experience, such as being a volunteer listener, they might accept that.

Run out of a private building in west London, the foundation year is also offered in an intensive format, meaning that you can attend over a series of weekends instead of once weekly (might be more suitable for people who aren’t London-based, or who travel often, for example).

  • foundation: integrative
  • format: weekly, or an intensive format where you go one weekend a month
  • price range : high
  • future study at Minster Centre: counselling diploma or counselling and psychotherapy MA
  • accreditation: BACP.

METANOIA

Run out of an old house in West London, Metanoia is highly regarded.

While they are seen as a psychotherapy school, they actually offer several counselling strands. These all start with a foundation certificate in counselling skills. It is integrative, but chooses to look at the schools of therapeutic thought that their MAs cover, namely Gestalt, Humanistic, Integrative, Person-Centred, and Transactional Analysis.

There are benefits to this foundation year. For example, there is actually no written work on the course, but you do have to do a presentation at the end. And there is an option to take the entire course just on weekends.

But while the foundation certificate is setup to prepare you for further study at Metanoia, in might not meet requirements to then transfer to a diploma program at another school, and appears to fall somewhere between in introduction certificate and a typical foundation year. On the other hand, some of Metanoia’s programs can be applied to without a foundation certificate if you have relevant experience.

  • foundation: integrative
  • format: weekly, or over weekends
  • price range : low for foundation, high for further study
  • future study at Metanoia: a large array of MAs in both counselling and psychotherapy
  • accreditation: BACP.

HIGHGATE COUNSELLING CENTRE

This is a small, firmly psychodynamic school in an handsome old house in North London, and the course has been running for a long time. If Maslow, Erickson, and Freud are your thing, then this might be the foundation year for you.

Their foundation year is fairly thorough. You must keep a personal journal, do one written assignment, and the course includes a personal development group.

  • foundation: psychodynamic
  • format: weekly in the evening
  • price range : low
  • future study at HCC: diploma in psychodynamic counselling
  • accreditation: BACP.

But I found a school that isn’t on this list…

This list is by no means exhaustive! There are others, and they might be right for you. Things to look at include:

  • how long the school has been running
  • if the course or at least the following diploma courses offered are accredited by the BACP or other registering body
  • if it makes you eligible for the diploma or MA you then hope to pursue
  • if it suits your schedule and wallet
  • if it is the therapeutic school of thought you like.

The best advice is to attend the opening houses. They tend to have not only the teachers present but sometimes a graduate or current student you can ask questions of. Not only that, you can see the premise itself, which you will be spending considerable time in if you stay at one school for the length of your counselling studies.

If a school doesn’t have an open house and it’s a college or university, you can often request a campus tour, or you can call and ask to speak to the course administrator. Don’t be shy – it is, after all, your future you are investing in.

Went to a school on this list and want to tell others about it? Or want to share another counselling school in London you interviewed at? Share with our readers in the comment box below.

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