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A day in the life of a marriage counsellor

By Fi Darby

If you are already in a caring profession or take a keen interest in how relationships work then a career in relationship and marriage counselling might be good for you. Relationship or marriage counselling involves helping people to find their way through tricky relationship issues

When couples have on-going relationship difficulties, it is the marriage counsellor’s job to help them find clarity and solutions. Many couples find that the guidance sessions offered by relationship and marriage counsellors helps them to solve problems and stay together.

Relationship counselling in Australia

A relationship breakup is a difficult thing to go through and can have a significant effect on families. The latest statistics for Australia (2017) show a 5% increase in divorces. Marriage counselling can make a big difference to couples and is often a key factor when couples decide to stay together

This is a career that can really help other people, improve mental wellbeing and make a positive contribution to society. As with many jobs in the community services sector, this career could be your opportunity to give something back to your community.

Working as a relationship and marriage counsellor

mature couple talking through issues

Relationship counsellors provide an encouraging environment in which couples can discuss and find solutions to relationship issues. They help people to understand problems and adjust their perspectives. They also help couples to find ways of making helpful changes. Because all relationships are different, this is a job with great variety. On a day-to-day basis, a marriage and relationship counsellor might themselves:
  • Providing a relaxing and supportive environment for couples
  • Asking questions to facilitate discussion
  • Mediating disagreements
  • Suggesting helpful relationship techniques
  • Working with other healthcare providers
  • Evaluating and recording progress
Although the rewards are great, being a relationship and marriage counsellor can sometimes be challenging. You will sometimes have to work with reluctant clients and within an imperfect system. People in listening professions often have to deal with difficult and emotional situations. For this reason, it is important for all counsellors to look after their own mental wellbeing.

The skills required for relationship and marriage counselling

All relationship and marriage counsellors need to be empathetic and able to understand other people’s issues. However, this type of counselling isn’t just about empathy. Most relationship and marriage counsellors start with a set of key personality traits and develop a range of skills through their training.  These include:
  • Adaptable communication skills
  • Advanced listening skills
  • Patience in tricky situations
  • An interest in other people
  • A professional approach
  • A non-judgemental attitude
  • The ability to reflect
It is important to choose a career that suits your personality. If you already have some of the skills listed above, a career in relationship and marriage counselling might be the right one for you.

A career in relationship and marriage counselling

marriage counsellor greeting couple

Relationship and marriage counselling is one of Australia’s smaller occupations but jobs in this role are increasing. A rise of 18% in the number of relationship and marriage counselling jobs is predicted between 2018 and 2023. Most (83%) of relationship and marriage counsellors are female and their average age is 51. Victoria and New South Wales are this role’s top areas for employment.

Relationship and marriage counsellors with the right qualifications and experience can work in private practice but many work initially in community health centres, family support settings and private agencies. The average salary for a relationship and marriage counsellor in Australia is $68,000.

Registering as a marriage counsellor in Australia

Counselling in Australia is a self-regulating profession. This means that unlike some health practitioners (for example dentists and pharmacists), counsellors do not register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). However registration is important because it helps the public find trustworthy and professional therapists. For this reason, marriage counsellors in Australia register with one of the relevant national professional associations:
  • Australian Counselling Association (ACA)
  • Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA)
Once you have gained the necessary training and experience you will be able to register with one of the above and your name will appear on the Australian Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists (ARCAP). Prospective clients will use the ARCAP’s search facilities to check your registration.

Registered relationship and marriage counsellors require qualifications and experience

Before you can become a privately practicing relationship and marriage counsellor, you will need to register with the ARCAP. In order to do this, you will require the relevant nationally recognised qualifications and professional experience.

Upskilled’s CHC51015 - Diploma of Counselling is a great step on the pathway to becoming a relationship and marriage counsellor. This 12-month online course is suitable for those with some experience but not necessarily qualifications in a helping role. 

During the course, you will gain the practical counselling experience you need whilst working as a trainee counsellor in a simulated workplace. This is a broad-based counselling qualification, which can lead to further specialised qualifications as a relationship and marriage counsellor. Examples of units include:
  • Work legally and ethically
  • Apply specialist interpersonal and counselling interview skills
  • Apply learning theories in counselling
  • Support people to improve relationships
Once you have completed this qualification, you will need to undertake further specialised training in relationship counselling, often at Bachelor or Postgraduate level. One route is to obtain Level 1 registration on the ARCAP register via the Australian Counselling Association, which requires:
  1. ACA accredited course of study at Diploma Level (this includes online study)
  2. 25 points of ACA approved on-going professional development per annum
  3. 10 hours professional supervision per annum
There are three levels of registration on this register, each requiring further study and clinical experience.

Find out more about this rewarding and interesting career

Choosing a career as a relationship and marriage counsellor can give you opportunities to learn new skills, gain nationally recognised qualifications and make a positive contribution to society. Online learning is a great way to take your first steps into studying and the CHC51015 - Diploma of Counselling can help you start building a rewarding career in counselling. Get in touch with one of Upskilled’s education consultants to find out more today.
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