My First Step to Becoming a CBT Therapist – The Counselling Skills and Ethics Course


By Nick Jones – CBT / REBT Therapist

These days, I am a fully qualified and accredited CBT / REBT therapist, with coming up for three years’ experience of helping clients. I’m still just beginning my professional career, with much more to learn, but here I am…

But before I began my training with the College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies to get here, I had no experience whatsoever of counselling, therapy, psychology, or anything in those fields. I hadn’t even been for therapy myself (although I’m sure there were plenty of times when it would have helped).

What was my first step? My first taste of what was to come? It was the Counselling Skills and Ethics course, which I attended over two weekends. This is the course that sets you up with the basic skills you need to operate as a therapist. Completing it not only helps you become more affective at working with clients, for the completely inexperienced its completion is a prerequisite for moving on to CCBT’s Diploma in CBT / REBT.

If you’re completely new to therapy and counselling, as I was, you may well have no idea of what’s involved, and what tactics you need to deploy to effectively listen, build relationships and ultimately help someone who has come to you. Is it really sitting in a leather armchair asking someone ‘how does that makes you feel’? (OMG NO, we were to learn!)

When I turned up for my first day, just a little bit nervous, I’ll admit, my fellow students had a mix of CBT and counselling experience, with several students like myself having no psychology or clinical skills at all (my background is in digital and social media marketing). Some had had training in the past and wanted a refresher, and others had experience in tangential mental health fields but wanted to make the move to becoming a therapist themselves.

What the course covered

Over the two weekends, we were shown the basics of working as a CBT / REBT counsellor. Whilst we did not go into great detail about the REBT model (that comes later on the Diploma course), we were introduced to the concept of emotional responsibility (and to ask ‘how do you feel about that’ instead!), the basic structure of a counselling session, the three-stage counselling model, and perhaps most importantly to a complete beginner like me, the art and science of active listening.

Whilst the content covering sessions and counselling models is vital and fascinating, learning how to listen, reflect and summarise when working with a client, and the subtle ways you can encourage interaction and strengthen the all-important therapeutic alliance was a revelation. From body language to the use of silences, open questions to paraphrasing what’s just been said, these people-focused skills were practiced in several role-plays over the two weekends.

If like me role-play isn’t something you’ve done much of before, expect some cringing and corpsing to begin with but you soon get into the swing of things. By the time the course is over, you’ll be method acting like James Dean and be much more confident about eliciting the right information from a client.

These active listening skills are also something you can immediately take away and start using in your everyday life, whether managing conversations at work more effectively or being a better listener and communicator for you family and loved ones.

As well as the above skills around structuring and managing sessions and working with clients, the course also covers many of the ethical questions you may face when dealing with people’s most personal issues.

These range from the foundation concept of confidentiality and what that means in practice to discussions around more complex ethical dilemmas and how you, as a counsellor, should respond. These resulted in some lively debates where your knowledge is tested, and preconceptions challenged.

Upon completion, you are awarded a certificate and are then in possession of the basic skills you need to progress to the Diploma. But more importantly, you’ll have confidence in your own abilities to interact and work with others effectively and compassionately.

Although the things you learn on the Counselling Skills and Ethics course could be described as ‘basic’, or ‘entry level’, perhaps a more realistic description would be ‘foundational’. Throughout the rest of my training, all the way up to the Advanced Diploma in Integrative CBT / REBT, and now into my professional practice, the skills, methods and ideas I learnt over those two weekends have stayed with me and guided me through every session I’ve had with a client since. I would not be where I am today without them!

If you’d like to find out more about the Counselling Skills & Ethics course with CCBT, you can email the team at admin@cbttherapies.org.uk or check the next course here.

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