An academic counselling course, which aims to assist students to understand a range of counselling theories and approaches.
Our postgraduate Counselling Studies and Therapeutic Communication course is for you if you are interested in counselling, or want to develop and hone your existing professional skills. It offers theoretical knowledge and an academic foundation in counselling for a variety of helping skills in professional contexts. Please note, this academic course is not a counseling training course and thus will not make you a registered counsellor.
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About this course
In this section
A central strength of the course is the teaching team, consisting of academics with both practice and research experience in the fields of counselling and counselling psychology. Staff members ensure that the content of the course is continually updated based on innovations in practice and research.
The course provides:
- Structured Continuing Professional Development opportunities for individuals who use counselling skills in a range of practice contexts.
- Flexibility through optional study to allow students to pursue specialist areas of interest.
- A good balance of theoretical and skills training relevant to student need.
- A well balanced grounding in the theoretical and practical study of communication in the applied counselling context.
- A solid grounding in research methods and skills that will enable students to carry out independent research.
- An understanding of key contextual areas relevant to students’ work experience and the ability to evaluate their own professional practice.
- Some modules are available in block teaching format.
- The Pg Diploma is a Professional in Practice approved programme for the NI Specialist Award in Social Work.
- The MSc meets three requirements for the Professional in Practice NI Leadership & Strategic Award in Social Work.
- Awarded the advanced training status from the National Counselling Society (NCS).
The course on its own does not qualify you to practice as a counsellor. However, the course provides approximately 200 taught hours of training that may be used to contribute to accreditation with professional bodies (please contact relevant professional body directly for guidance on accreditation policy).
Students can complete modules as part of a CPD pathway, PG Certificate, PG Diploma or Masters programme.
This programme is available both full-time and part-time
Morning, afternoon and evening classes.
- September 2019
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.
Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:
- the relevant generic national Qualification Descriptor
- the applicable Subject Benchmark Statement
- the requirements of any professional, regulatory, statutory and accrediting bodies.
Attendance and Independent Study
As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until close to the start date and may be subject to some change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days and periods of attendance will be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.
Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.
The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.
Postgraduate Master’s courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.
Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.
Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be a combination of examination and coursework but may also be only one of these methods. Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Normally, a module will have 4 learning outcomes, and no more than 2 items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.
Calculation of the Final Award
The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6, (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).
Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Master’s degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.
All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Master’s degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.
The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.
Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (18%) or Lecturers (57%).
We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.
The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.
Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.
Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.
Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
In this section
The Counselling and Therapeutic Framework
The module examines the Egan problem management model of counselling in depth and develops competence in practical skills. It examines the fundamental nature of counselling practice and explores key ethical and professional issues. The historical and cultural background to contemporary practice is considered and skills in ethical decision making developed.
Humanistic Counselling Perspectives
This core module offers an in-depth exploration of the Humanistic approach; it's origins, development, key concepts and popular expression in the Person-Centred Approach (PCA) to counselling. Viewed as a radical movement, the course presents the PCA as a coherent counselling model, which may form the basis of an integrated way of working effectively with people. Through deeper understanding of the work of key theorists, students consider a response to common critiques of the Person-Centered Approach, appreciate the importance of relationship, develop critical reflective ability and hone existing interpersonal and communication skills. Such knowledge of self and impact on Others will be useful those whose work relies on effective inter-personal communication.
This module will introduce students to psychodynamic approaches to counselling. In order to look at how psychodynamic therapists work, the module will explore the therapeutic concepts they use within the context in which they are formulated and developed: clinical psychoanalysis. The module will explore a number of key psychoanalytic concepts, and will use case materials from clinical writings and examples drawn from the arts and culture to link theory to practice.
Human Growth and Transition
This module draws upon a range of developmental and transitional psychological theory and seeks to relate it to personal learning and the counselling process. Theoretical learning and practical applications will be facilitated through a combination of lectures, student-led seminars and presentations focusing on personal experience.
Introduction to Counselling
This module will introduce students to the field of counselling, how it has developed as a profession and its components, including clinical assessment and case formulation. The module will focus on three approaches to counselling: person-centred therapy, psychodynamic therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Students will read a range of clinical writings in the field of counselling, and discuss a number of case studies to link theory to practice.
This module aims to provide information that will enable students to make appropriate and considered research decisions. It is designed to develop students' understanding of the nature of research, key research traditions, the research process and the range of methods available to the researcher, including qualitative and quantitative approaches. It also aims to help students acquire a critical understanding of the issues and methods in the generation and analysis of data and in the communication and evaluation of research findings.
Cancer Counselling and Communication
This module is optional
This module provides students the opportunity to improve their counselling skills for working with patients with cancer and their families. A range of theoretical perspectives across the domains of context, theory and practice are introduced. A variety of teaching strategies is employed including lectures, seminar discussion and workshops. The module is assessed through presentation and write-up a personal case study and application of an Integrated Humanistic model to a case study.
Fundamentals of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Theory and Practice
This module is optional
This module is designed to develop a basic knowledge of the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of cognitive-behavioural approaches to counselling. The functional analysis process and treatment options are evaluated in relation to current research and future developments in clinical practice identified and evaluated. Teaching methods include lectures and student led seminars. Formal lectures will provide students with an overview of theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the model and practice sessions will enable students to develop basic CBT skills relevant to the practice of counselling for mild to moderate presentations. Comparative models of counseling will be assessed in relation to the theoretical and empirical basis of CBT in order to develop critical thinking skills and promote reflective practice. Asssessment is by coursework which incorporates individual research and analysis of current issues.
This module is optional
This module aims to provide a conceptual understanding of psychological trauma, significally focusing on early trauma. The module also aims to equip students wity evidence base therapeutic techniques in working with clients manifesting sighns of trauma.
Working with Children and Young People
This module is optional
This module provides students the opportunity to improve their counselling skills for working with adolescents and young people. A range of theoretical perspectives across the domains of context, theory and practice are introduced. A variety of teaching strategies are employed including lectures, seminar discussion and workshops. The module is assessed through presentation and write up of a real life case study
Introduction to Counselling for Depression
This module is optional
This module provides students with an introduction to CfD. It will enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of its evidence base, the development of the model based on person centred and experiential counselling approaches and the specific skills and techniques that are characteristic to this way of working with clients presenting with mild to moderate depression.
The Communication dissertation aims to enable students to design and carry out an independent piece of research. It is intended that this will strengthen their ability to interpret and apply research data to a work environment. The research will focus in depth on one area of communication.
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
In this section
Requirements for admission as detailed below:
(i) Hold an honours or non-honours degree or equivalent or demonstrate ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior experiential learning;
(ii) Be currently employed in or have recent experience (within the last five years) of employment either professionally or voluntarily in a role involving the use of counselling skills;
(iii) Attend for interview to show evidence of having the personal qualities necessary to undertake counselling training.
The closing date for applications is normally 31st July, with interviews for potential applicants scheduled in May and August. Late applications may be considered until 31st August (with applicant interviews in early September). However, where possible applicants should apply before the July deadline.
English Language Requirements
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5.
Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Careers & opportunities
In this section
- What areas of work are previous students now engaged in?
Previous students have developed their work activities in Counselling and associated areas. Additionally, past students have used the programme themes to support their existing work in areas including community work, youth work, education, and health care.
- Will completion of the course qualify me as a counsellor?
The course would not enable you to practice as a qualified counsellor. However, the course can contribute towards accreditation with professional bodies.
- What steps would I need to take to become a fully registered counsellor?
Professional bodies such as National Counselling Society (NCS) and British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) can provide details on the eligibility criteria for counsellor accreditation. Please contact these professional bodies directly for further information.
National Counselling Society (NCS) https://www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) https://www.bacp.co.uk
- Would the course provide me with the necessary training and accreditation to become a qualified counselling psychologist?
No, there are specific qualifications required to become a qualified counselling psychologist, for example you would need to have an undergraduate degree in Psychology. (Please see the BPS website for further details: www.bps.org.uk).
Work placement / study abroad
Although there is no placement on this course, there are opportunities within some modules to work on projects in collaboration with public, private or voluntary organisations and potential employers. In addition, there are opportunities each year with the International Department to apply for short-term various international exchange opportunities.
Fees and funding
In this section
Additional mandatory costs
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- Although reasonable steps are taken to provide the programmes and services described, the University cannot guarantee the provision of any course or facility and the University may make variations to the contents or methods of delivery of courses, discontinue, merge or combine courses and introduce new courses if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key staff, changes in legislation or government policy including changes, if any, resulting from the UK departing the European Union, withdrawal or reduction of funding or other circumstances beyond the University’s reasonable control.
- If the University discontinues any courses, it will use its best endeavours to provide a suitable alternative course. In addition, courses may change during the course of study and in such circumstances the University will normally undertake a consultation process prior to any such changes being introduced and seek to ensure that no student is unreasonably prejudiced as a consequence of any such change.
- The University does not accept responsibility (other than through the negligence of the University, its staff or agents), for the consequences of any modification or cancellation of any course, or part of a course, offered by the University but will take into consideration the effects on individual students and seek to minimise the impact of such effects where reasonably practicable.
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Deciding to study the MSc in Counselling and Therapeutic Communication was one of the best decisions I could have made for my career. Initially I wasn’t sure if I could fit it into my life, trying to balance work and study can be difficult but the course director was both supportive and flexible in helping make that decision and throughout the course. My academic background is in psychology and I have been working in the youth work sector for seven years. I always found myself in the position where people want to talk about personal concerns and this was my primary motivation for doing the course. I wanted to learn how to develop my natural abilities into more tangible skills and learn practical counselling skills which can be used across an array of situations. This course allowed me to do that and I also got to learn more about counselling as a profession and the different routes and training that are needed to become a professional counsellor.
I discovered and learned a lot about myself and completing this course has given me a tremendous sense of personal achievement. The labs were a great opportunity to practice the theory we were learning throughout the weeks and allowed you to reflect on yourself and learn from others. One of the most enjoyable parts of the course was getting to research what you are interested in. I conducted research around young men and mental health and was able to use develop and implement a programme at work for young men. This was something I didn’t anticipate but has been one of the best outcomes of doing this course.
For the moment I am happy working in youth work but becoming a professional counsellor in the future is something I would really like to do. This course acts as a great springboard to becoming a counsellor. Entering the counselling profession is personal commitment as it takes much training and time, what this course allows you to do is to explore the subject, learn new skills and help you decide what direction you want to follow.
Louise Lynch MSc Counselling and Therapeutic Communication, now completing PhD within the School of Communication and Media in the area relating to Counselling.