The transition from postgraduate counselling student to working counsellor: A qualitative investigation

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Chris Lamb



With the demand for mental health services in Australia continuing to grow, it is imperative that tertiary trained counsellors continue to enter the profession; yet little is known about the factors that contribute to a successful entry. This qualitative, phenomenological study investigated the transition from postgraduate counselling student to working counsellor by exploring the lived experience of those who have made this transition within the last five years. By focusing on the transitional experience itself, the study aimed to provide useful information for stakeholders holding key roles in such transitions—specifically students, academic institutions, professional bodies, and employers of counsellors within Australia. While results suggest that many factors affected the transitional experience, students’ practicum placement played a disproportionately large role in determining their early career path. Other important factors included the background of the individual, their experiences while studying, and the professional support in place once they had started working. This study also identified that students’ expectations of what it might be like to work as a counsellor in private practice were not always aligned with lived experience. It is hoped that knowledge about what has been valuable to recently transitioned early career counsellors will be of ongoing benefit to all stakeholders.


Keywords: counsellor, therapist, counselling, postgraduate student, new counsellor, career transition, supervision, practicum placement


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Chris Lamb