Vancouver Community College makes it relatively easy for prospective students to determine if they’re well suited for a career in counselling.
A 12-week introductory course called Basic Counselling Skills is offered to anyone interested in the field, providing insights into client-centred counselling and offering foundational skills for most models of counselling and practice under the supervision of someone experienced in the field.
According to program coordinator Matt Stevenson, this course is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to enroll in a counselling certificate program. It’s offered on a part-time basis during days and evenings starting in April, September, and January.
“We market it as an opportunity for anyone who wants to do any sort of personal development or anyone who is working in a people-facing role,” he told the Straight by phone. “We feel that it’s very beneficial for anyone who wants to upgrade their communications skills.”
In September, VCC will launch its revised counselling-skills foundational certificate. It incorporates core aspects of certificate programs in addiction counselling and community counselling, which are being wound down.
“One of our mandates is to evaluate programs on a regular basis and update them as necessary,” Stevenson explained.
He said that the decision to bring them together came in response to discussions with people in the industry, who felt that it was important for graduates to be familiar with both components, in part because substance use and addiction are very prevalent.
The counselling-skills foundational certificate is offered on a part-time and full-time basis at VCC’s downtown location at 250 West Pender Street. Courses are offered in the evenings.
Depending on how quickly students want to finish, they can take between one and four courses per week, Stevenson said. “The full-time option enables students to complete our program in one year to get them in the field right away.”
Stevenson said that all the instructors are practising counsellors who are up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. And he noted that they bring real-life examples from their practice into the classroom.
VCC has made certain that the new program includes courses ensuring that students become familiar with traditional and contemporary Indigenous practices, as well as diversity, different cultures, and inclusion. Stevenson also said that VCC is looking at developing an advanced certificate with a focus on addiction. The average age of VCC counselling students is about 40.
“They have this desire, ultimately, to help people,” Stevenson said. “That’s what brings people into our program.”
He said some mature students were previously involved in manual labour but are looking for a new career that won’t take such a toll on their body as they get older. He said the school is aware that making the transition back to school after many years in the workforce can be challenging—and it tries to ensure that this takes place smoothly.
Some students are eligible for full funding through Work B.C., provided they meet its requirements for completion of the program within a certain time frame.
“It’s a great option for those students that qualify,” Stevenson stated.
VCC Continuing Studies also offers professional-development courses in counselling for professionals working in a wide range of fields, including youth work, settlement services, social work, and health care.
“We’ve had nurses who work with clients facing substance-use challenges,” Stevenson revealed. “They have contacted us in the past to see if they could take those select courses from our program to get that knowledge so that they can better serve their clients in their professional life.”
He added that some of these courses are prerequisites for those who are planning to enroll in a university master’s program in counselling psychology.More