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Foundations of counselling and psychotherapy


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Samia Premjee
  • Assessment: a 1500-word self-reflective essay (30%) and 2000-word theory essay (70%), plus 70% attendance requirement

Module description

This module introduces the three essential elements needed to train as a professional counsellor or psychotherapist: theoretical knowledge, skills practice and self-development.

Your understanding of the foundational principles of counselling and psychotherapy will be consolidated and extended. Topics covered include ethics, boundaries and the frame, and the core conditions for a counselling relationship. We go on to introduce core psychoanalytic ideas, such as the unconscious and dynamic models of the mind, that underpin the psychodynamic approach to practice.

In the second part of the module you study psychosocial developmental stages from a psychodynamic perspective and learn how difficulties at particular stages can impact on the growing self and manifest in the therapeutic relationship. You will be encouraged to relate your learning to your own life and work.

The development of self-awareness is continuous throughout the module and emotional responses to the learning can be brought to the weekly reflective group to be thought about further.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Therapeutic relationship: essential elements of practice
    • Reviewing role of a counsellor and what it means to listen/help in a counselling way
    • Ethical principles underpinning counselling/use of counselling skills; boundaries and the therapeutic frame
    • Core conditions (Rogers)
    • Attachment theory
    • The analytic frame for reliability, consistency
    • Research on neuroscience and attachment
    • Freud’s models of mind, the unconscious
  • Developmental stages: perspectives from psychosocial and psychodynamic theory and neuroscience
    • Infancy, trust and dependency
    • Authority, autonomy
    • Cooperation and competition
    • Latency
    • The family - systemic approaches to psychic disturbance: adolescence/young adulthood; adulthood/middle age; old age/death
  • The psychosocial context of mental health and illness: inner and outer worlds
  • Neoliberalism

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • identify foundational principles of counselling and psychotherapy
  • describe key frameworks and models of psychodynamic counselling and psychotherapy practice and link the frameworks to practice
  • evaluate and compare different frameworks
  • critically evaluate some key research findings on the effectiveness of the psychodynamic model
  • identify the key issues that can arise at each stage of development through the life cycle
  • use a range of counselling skills in helping interactions
  • use counselling skills to reflect with a client on developmental issues arising in the counselling relationship
  • reflect on your own processes in interactions using counselling skills and consider how these may relate to your personal life experiences.