I feel that I must express clearly firstly, I am not bitter or upset about my own personal choices but I advise people to tread very carefully before taking on the financial commitment of training in this field. A lot has changed over the last ten years.
A lot of people have asked me for advice over the years about getting into counselling, it can be a very noble and human thing to do. Often previous patients/clients can bring their own approach to how they would have liked to been helped or sometimes impart some wisdom about their own unique stressors they experienced.
A few years ago I used to give a lot of advice to people in the UK on how to proceed with this professionally and get the right qualifications and experience to gain a real future in counselling.
Now, years later, I advise them not to proceed with that career pathway.
Counsellor, Not Addictions Counsellor.
I advise people to become a counsellor, not an addictions counsellor. You might be a bit puzzled by this but allow me to clarify. Getting a degree is incredibly expensive, a bachelors degree costs in the region of around 28,000 pounds at the time of writing this. The wages paid in the UK for most positions in addiction are below the national average wage, and a staggering ten – to – twenty thousand pounds less than most trained positions!
Since austerity measures in the UK, most government funded positions in addiction treatment sector have either evaporated entirely or been seriously cut back.
My choices were right for me
At one point I was the most talked about addictions therapist in UK, I was in countless newspapers, radio shows and talked about on National Television for my work with The Libertines. I’ve worked all over the world on the back of my qualifications and skills. However, I can count on my hand the number of people whom I know professionally who’ve had that experience.
When first studied my first diploma in Counseling it was Eight hundred pounds, I only paid four hundred pounds as my employer paid for half of it. When I went on to study addiction at Leeds University the course was Three thousand pounds per year. These were affordable choices, I paid for them out of my own pocket and did not receive any student loans for my counselling and addiction training.
When I was working in London in 2010-2012 I was receiving an annual salary of thirty thousand pounds. I was aged 27-29, this was good money for a single man with no family and living in a house share.
As of now, a lot of London jobs, especially charities and third sector jobs, are really underpaid. Their funding from government has been severely cut with austerity measures.
All the right reasons, but never again
I came into this field for all the right reasons, I was not only able to help a lot of people but I also found that I understood myself a lot better through my work. Life isn’t always about making money, if that’s your goal, counselling is not a good place for that. However, I don’t want to take on a life of poverty either, I do now have a family.
Fortunately I do not owe any debts on my studies, I paid for them as I went along. I’d probably never choose to become an addictions counsellor under the current climate of the world and most especially in the UK where they are no longer valued.
If you are interested in this field of work I’d say work more in general counselling/pastoral/clinical. Seriously ask yourself is it worth paying thirty thousand pounds or more to earn less than national average wages a year?
Of course I write this all coming from the perspective of working in the UK, I’m sure the situation is quite different around the world.
In the US if you’re a licensed counsellor the average wages are a lot higher, but it does take a lot more financial commitment to become licensed, however their education system is a lot weaker in comparison to all universities in the United Kingdom, so swings and round-a bouts.