Counselling Associations

All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.

Australian Counselling Association (ACA)

Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA)

Christian Counsellors Association (CCA)

Australian Community Counselling Association (ACCA)

Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes

Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP)

Western Sydney University

University of South Queensland

Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres

Background & Context

Counselling began in Australia in 1948 when the National Marriage Guidance Council (NMGC) was created to help resolve relationship issues that stemmed from World War 2 (Schofield, 2013a). The creation of the NMGC helped pave the way for the Australian Association of Relationship Counsellors in the 1960’s (Schofield, 2013a). Following that, Australia saw the emergence of other counselling associations. Schofield (2013b) further explains that from the 1970s onward, general counselling associations were being established in each state “with the New South Wales Counsellors Association being the first in 1972” (Schofield, 2013b, p. 235). Almost all the Australian states had their own associations, which came with their own training programs and professional standards, but there were concerns regarding the discrepancies in the professional identity of counsellors between all the associations and in 1998 the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) was established as the main representative body for Australia’s counselling associations (Schofield, 2013a, 2013b). However, not all national or state associations have decided to affiliate with PACFA, instead preferring to maintain their independence, such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA; Schofield, 2013a). 

The first counselling training program was conducted in 1975 at La Trobe University. According to Schofield (2013a), there are 143 counselling training providers, including universities, private providers. and professional associations. Currently, PACFA has accredited a number of counselling courses from 27 universities as well.

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:

Australian counsellors can be licensed under either the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) or Australian Counselling Association (ACA). Both associations share the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (ARCA) where all licensed members are listed. Australia’s Medicare program does provide benefits for psychology and counselling services if the mental health professional is registered with the Australian government, with them paying part of, or full cost, depending on the service.

Practice Settings

It is not clear exactly how many counsellors are practicing in Australia, but the existing counsellors practice in settings including:

  • Schools & Universities
  • Community & Faith-based Counselling Centres
  • Family Service Centres
  • Hospitals and Mental Health Facilities
  • Private Practices
  • Non-profit & Non-governmental Organizations

Challenges & Trends

As Australia is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, there has been interest to develop community counselling strategies that would be inclusive to deal with the after effects of natural disasters such as fires, droughts, and floods (Young, 2011 as cited in Schofield, 2013a). The 2020 bushfires pushed a rise in mental health responses for those affected by its aftermath from providing trauma counsellors for children to providing ten free counselling sessions for individuals, families, and emergency service workers who were affected. 

A recent study by Davis-McCabe et al. (2019), on the challenges of being a counsellor in Australia, highlighted multiple issues such as the discrepancies between counselling identities, “inequalities in rebate schemes between clinical and counselling psychologists” (David-McCabe et al., 2019, p. 521), and power imbalances due to biases toward clinical psychology. According to the counsellors in the study, the Better Access initiative established by the Australian government to strengthen access and capacity of the mental health system, has actually continued to spread information with bias towards pushing potential consumers towards clinical psychologists, holding them as the best choice when treating mental health issues over other types of mental health professionals (Davis-McCabe et al., 2019). The study indicates “The Medicare top-tier allows clinical psychologists to provide ‘psychological therapy,’ while the second-tier only allows counselling psychologists to offer ‘focused psychological strategies’” (Davis-McCabe et al., 2019, p. 522). This statement was viewed negatively as the split clearly showed the ingrained biases held towards clinical psychologists versus counsellors. 

Additional Information & References

For a deeper exploration of the counselling profession in the country, interested readers are recommended to read the following journal & website articles:

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