According to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), the role of the Registered Counsellor is to make psychological services accessible to the diverse South African population and to provide short-term psychological and preventative interventions that focus on support and promote the enhancement of wellbeing in community contexts.
Registered Counsellors are psychological professionals who perform psychological screening, basic assessment and technically limited psychological interventions with individuals and groups, aiming at enhancing personal functioning in a variety of contexts including education, work, sport, non-governmental organizations, non-profit organisations and community.
A Registered Counsellor provides short-term, supportive counselling, psychoeducation and psychological assessments, e.g. intellectual or scholastic abilities, aptitude, interests, career placement, personality profiling. Typically, Registered Counsellors will be trained in Person Centred Therapy (PCT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and/or Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).
The term Registered Counsellor is a protected term and may not be used by anyone without the appropriate training and qualifications. Registered Counsellors must undergo professional training and supervision before being given the opportunity to write a national board exam. Once registered with the HPCSA, Registered Counsellors must continue to develop their professional and ethical competency through obtaining Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points as part of their commitment to the field of mental healthcare.
Registered Counsellors registered with the HPCSA will receive a professional registration number beginning with the code PRC. If you are uncertain if your counsellor is indeed a registered mental health professional, you can search their registration on the HPCSA iRegister.
Scope of Practice:
The Scope of Practice for a Registered Counsellor (which is different to Psychologists), is set out by the HPCSA as follows:
- Psychological Intervention
Registered Counsellors enhance the personal functioning of children, adults, families and communities. They perform a range of supportive and compensatory psychological interventions with these individuals and groups.
- Psychological Assessment
Registered Counsellors may practice general screening assessments requiring the interpretation of psychological functions including; intellectual, scholastic abilities, aptitude, and interests.
- Project Implementation and Management
Registered Counsellors can implement and manage formalized, structured short-term intervention at the primary curative/preventative level across the full scope of psychology. This intervention requires the application of concrete and predetermined decision-making rules.
- Policy & Standards Implementation
Registered Counsellors are able to assist with policy formulation based on various aspects of psychological theory and research. They can also participate in the designing, management and evaluation of psychologically based programmes in diverse settings and organizations including; healthcare, education, labour, and correctional services.
- Professional Practice & Referral
Registered Counsellors can identify symptoms or reasons for referrals to professionals within the healthcare system. Building professional networks with other mental health professionals such as Psychologists, Psychometrists, and even Doctors is important in referring clients appropriately.
Registered Counsellors can conduct and report on research projects and implement findings in policy and practice. Being part of larger research projects is a means to exploring the unique environment in South Africa, finding empirical answers to problems faced throughout the country.
Registered Counsellors can act as a consultant at the primary curative/preventative level across the full scope of psychology. Registered Counsellors do not diagnose or treat pathology but in such a case will refer a client to the appropriate registered health care professional.
Registered Counsellors may work in private practice settings as their HPCSA registration allows for independent practice. While working in private practice, the Registered Counsellor must have an additional practice registration with the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF). The BHF issue a practice number and guide the fee structures that may be implemented. Additionally, as Registered Counsellors have professional and practice registrations, they are able to claim from medical aids or assist their clients in claiming from medical aids.
Studying to be a Registered Counsellor:
Students and graduates that wish to pursue a career as a Registered Counsellor need to consider the following professional and academic pathways.
- Bachelor of Psychology (BPsych)
The BPsych is a 4 year professional programme that leads to registration as a Registered Counsellor. Over the period of 4 years, students will complete the same academic learning as would be included in an undergraduate and honours qualification. In addition to this, BPsych students will also complete a 720 hour supervised practicum at an accredited internship site. It is this practicum that allows students the opportunity to develop the professional therapeutic and ethical competencies that will allow them to legally work with another individuals mental health.
- Bachelor of Psychology (BPsych) Equivalent
The BPsych Equivalent is a professional capping programme that will allow a psychology graduate with an undergraduate or honours qualification to receive the professional training and supervision required for HPCSA registration. The BPsych Equivalent in the Registered Counsellor stream is an 18 month professional programme that includes both academic and professional training. Included within this professional training is the 720 hour supervised practicum at an accredited site. There are two BPsych Equivalent streams (Registered Counsellor and Psychometrist), and it is important not to confuse the two.
PLEASE NOTE: there is no way in which to separate the practicum from the BPsych or BPsych Equivalent qualification. Psychology honours graduates may not complete only the 720 hour practicum. The professional and academic training at this level is married together and may not be split up. The focus during this professional training is on the ethical and practical use of therapeutics during psychological intervention. Honours graduates will need to complete a full BPsych Equivalent in order to receive their professional registration with the HCPSA.
During the 720 hour supervised practicum, Registered Counsellors in training must hold an HPCSA registration as a Student Registered Counsellor. The only way to obtain this HPCSA student registration is by applying with proof of BPsych Equivalent registration at an accredited university. This is done as to hold the student accountable and responsible for their actions when working with clients. Students that do not follow the ethical guidelines as indicated by the HPCSA may face disciplinary instruction that may have legal ramifications.
Where to Study:
To find out more about where you can study a BPsych or BPsych Equivalent and become a Registered Counsellor, click this link.
Hear from a Registered Counsellor:
If you would like to learn more about being a Registered Counsellor and want to hear from one currently working in the field of education and mental health, please consider listening to our podcast episode on the subject below;
Listen to our Registered Counsellor Podcast episode by clicking HERE. The Cognition & Co Podcast is available on all major Podcast streaming apps.