The short answer is yes. And no!
Because the online world is largely unregulated, anyone can offer to teach you anything. But can they get you real world accreditation, and are they teaching you the things you need to know? In short, if you want a recognised and respected online counselling training course, it will be part of a well-respected and established program that exists in the real world as well. Otherwise, how will you know you’re not getting taken for a ride?
Once you have found a reputable course that is available online you may need to consider if this is the best way for you to learn. The simple fact is that counselling is about meeting people with problems and helping them. If you have learned to communicate only through a screen or a video, you may have missed enormously important elements of the reality of helping another human being through interpersonal communication.
With this in mind, a professional counselling course will insist on some elements of the training being carried out in a personal, even intimate, environment. This is how a counsellor will work with clients, and it’s vital that they are comfortable in this environment. However, it is also a reality that online, flexible teaching systems, are essential for people who find the fully in-person experience challenging, such as if you are studying counselling part time whilst parenting, or working, or both.
Can you train part-time to be a counsellor?
A well-designed program will allow for flexible learning where it is possible, while providing for those elements of the learning that must be delivered in person and face-to-face. It’s also vital to note that PACFA – a leading organisation that accredits counsellors in Australia – demands that students have received an amount of in-person, face-to-face teaching and experience before they can be given accreditation.
It’s worth mentioning here that many organisations now offer tele-health services, with counselling provided online or via telephone. The counselling landscape is changing constantly so, as the counsellor delivering these services, it is extremely important that you know what you are doing in the more intimate, face to face environment, so that you can effectively adapt to this evolving reality.
Can you become a therapist without a degree?
Think of it like this. A pilot knows about the physics of flight. But they don’t actually think about it deeply when landing your plane, they just know it and can do it.
Studying only by distance may leave you with an enormous gap in your understanding of people, even if you only ever talk to them on the phone. Online learning can certainly be a valuable component of your learning, but counselling is a people-focussed discipline, and learning to learn and interact in person is a powerful and extremely satisfying component of becoming a professional counsellor.
But what if you don’t already have a degree? While the professional counsellor will need to finish a postgraduate master’s degree to achieve the necessary accreditation to practice credibly, a professional course will also offer an undergraduate entry if you’ve yet to begin the journey to becoming a qualified, professional counsellor.