How to Become a Grief Counsellor in Australia
A grief counsellor has the challenging task of helping people deal with major changes related to loss. Most often, this loss implies the death of a loved one. That being said, it can also be any other life-altering experience, such as a divorce or break up, loss of a home or a job, or an end to a friendship. Working with people every day is always difficult, but this is brought to an entirely new level when it comes to grief counselling. However, helping someone get through the most difficult period of their life and providing meaningful guidance to them is one of the most empowering feelings in the world.
Every person deals with loss differently, as they have developed various types of coping mechanisms. These mechanisms are shaped by our experiences. There are no two people in the world who employ the same ones. Grief counsellors have the job of figuring out which healing path best works for each individual. As a result, they start understanding the strong emotional responses therapy entices in the patients. At the end of the day, dealing with grief head-on is the best thing to do in the long-run. For the most part, this is precisely what grief counsellors advise on and help with.
Have you ever wanted to directly help people? Are you understanding of other people's emotions? Do you see yourself helping people deal with pain? If you've answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you've come to the right place. Here are the steps you need to take to become a grief counsellor.
Step 1: Get a Bachelor in Psychology, Social Work or Counselling
To become a grief counsellor, you need to start by studying the human body and mind. That means you will be spending a lot of time hitting the books. Start your path by enrolling in an undergraduate study course in a related field. This could be psychology, child psychology, social work or counselling itself. Here, you'll spend some time unravelling the basic and figuring out all we currently know about the mind and emotions of people. It's a challenging field, but will get you on the right track for becoming someone people turn to in times of difficulty.
Step 2: Get a Masters Degree in a Related Field
While getting a Bachelor's degree is a great start, it is not enough to start your career as a grief counsellor. In order to become fully qualified for the job, you will need to spend some time specialising in the field. As it is common for undergraduate studies to cover a broad field of information, working towards a Master degree will help you get the specialisation you need. Not only will you learn more, but you will also feel better prepared to help patients. You could even go the extra mile and complete a PhD. If one thing's sure, it's that your patients will thank you for it.
Step 3: Look into Bereavement Support Courses
The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement provides some courses that can help get you on the right track to becoming a grief counsellor. These are meant for those who would rather not pursue a Master's degree. However, these courses won't be able to completely substitute for a Master's degree. That being said, they will get you moving in the right direction after your Bachelor. Basically, the courses are meant to explore aspects of grief and loss, guiding you on the best practices of helping others. Think about getting a Certificate IV in Bereavement Support or a Graduate Certificate in Bereavement Counselling and Intervention.
Step 4: Get Some Experience or Start Your Own Practice
Unfortunately, grief is a common occurrence. As death and loss are an inevitable part of life, millions deal with them every day. Once you've completed your training, try setting up your own practice or starting a grief support group. This could be a good way to get some experience. Additionally, your patients will benefit from an eagerness of a newly-formed counsellor, so it's really a win-win situation.
Step 5: Become a Registered Counsellor
In order for patients to be able to easily find you, you can register with the Australian Counselling Association. It provides an overview of qualified professionals, which patients often use to select their new counsellor. There are different levels of membership, depending on your experience level. The first level is for newbies in the field, who have just completed training. To be eligible to register as a level-2 member, you will need to have completed 1000 hours of counselling in a 2-year period. Similarly, to be a level-3 counsellor you need 3000 hours of counselling experience over a 5-year period.
What Does a Grief Counsellor Do?
To put it simply, a grief counsellor helps people overcome loss and cope with grief. They work with patients who have experienced loss of a loved one or another major life event, like a breakup, divorce, loss of a pet, etc. It's also not uncommon for counsellors to specialise in helping people cope with a specific type of event. So, you could become a counsellor for those dealing with aftermaths of war, death of a loved one due to cancer or something else entirely.
Grief Counsellors will find the right approach to help people. They work at creating a safe environment, where patients can share their feelings and help them find the right coping mechanisms for what they've been through.
- Creating a safe environment for patients
- Establishing relationships of trust with patients
- Developing individualised coping techniques
- Generating individualised recovery plans
- Helping people overcome grief
- Active listening
- Guiding patients in their recovery journey
- Helping patients understand their emotional responses
- Keeping records
Skills for Success
In order to really thrive as a grief counsellor, you will need to be extremely understanding and empathetic. Grief counsellors should be able to put themselves into the patient's shoes to some degree, so as to understand where they've been. This is the only way to properly develop mechanisms to help them overcome what's happened to them. Additionally, they need to be supportive and must be active listeners. A good grief counsellor is patient and has a way with words.
- Active listening
- Passion for helping others
- Coaching and counselling
- Communication skills
- Supportive approach
- Strategic planning