Master of Counselling
Duration: 2 years full-time/4 years part-time
Delivery: On campus
Credit points: 96 (16 units)
CRICOS CODE: 056057J
IELTS: 7.0 with no band less than 6.5
Course accreditation: PACFA, ACA
AQF: Level 9
Tuition fee: International students: $10,928 semester/$43,713 total tuition fee
The Master of Counselling, a program accredited by the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) and Australian Counselling Association (ACA), aims to develop essential clinical competencies, foster reflective awareness and provide a sound theoretical foundation for a career as a professional counsellor. The degree integrates contemporary counselling theory, research and practice, contextualised within a Christian world view and a mental health framework. It develops counsellors who understand the personal, cultural, relational, psychological, social and spiritual domains of human experience and functioning; who are professionally and ethically informed; who will be sensitive to the diversity and uniqueness of individuals, families, and communities; and who will value and promote the dignity, potential and wellbeing of all people.
Course includes assisting students with locating placements, 100 direct client contact hours and 25 hours of clinical supervision, along with free personal counselling. This combination meets the highest training standards as specified by PACFA 2020 Training Standards.
This course is suited for:
- • current counsellors seeking additional training at a post-graduate level;
- • Individuals with undergraduate qualifications (or equivalent) wanting to enter the counselling profession;
- • Other professionals seeking to diversify and extend their current skill set or change career direction.
The Master of Counselling degree prepares graduates for a range of counselling-related positions within the mental health sector. For example, graduates work in private practice and a variety of Christian, church-based and secular counselling services, centres and programs (such as schools; private, government and NGO agencies; and child and adolescent services). They work with varied age groups and target populations (children and adolescents, the homeless, troubled youth, adults with a range of mental health issues, the unemployed, the elderly); addressing a range of life issues including trauma, loss and grief, relationship and family issues, identity formation, spiritual concerns, illness and disability.
The Master of Counselling degree is a PACFA accredited course (PACFA – Psychotherapy & Counselling Federation of Australia) and an ACA accredited course (Australian Counselling Association). Historically graduates of the program have applied for membership with PACFA and The ACA subject to meeting their membership requirements. Students can also join the Christian Counsellors Association of Australia (CCAA). Concurrently graduates are able to apply for listing on the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (ARCAP), subject to meeting the ARCAP registration requirements.
What do our students say?
‘Somatic therapy or touch therapy is a unit that I’m really glad Excelsia offers. This is an intensive deep dive into body psychotherapy, understanding the body as being just as important as the mind in counselling. It was very experiential, there were lots of discoveries for many of the students who did that unit and a real sense of closeness. The process allowed people to access emotions through their body.’
‘In my two years of studying counselling at Excelsia I have learned a tremendous amount of interesting things about myself, people and the world. I have made new friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I have felt included and embraced just the way I am. The best things about the program are its diversity and small classes, which allow for a personal touch and a better perspective and interactive way of learning.’
Master of Counselling alumnus
Counselling Theories and Models
Counselling theories and models provide frameworks for conceptualising and interpreting clients’ histories, issues and experiences, and are used to guide approaches for different groups and inform approaches to working with clients. Students will examine both historical and contemporary theoretical frameworks, exploring the implications of different theoretical emphases on client care. They learn how to apply theory when working with specific clients with various life challenges, and to formulate case conceptualisations which underpin client care and client outcomes.
Approaches to Mental Health
Employing a biopsychosocial-spiritual framework and associated approaches, students learn about the aetiology, diagnostic presentation, assessment and evidence-based interventions for a range of mental health issues. They reflect on personal assumptions relating to mental illness, including the relationship between spirituality and mental illness, also considering how stress and vulnerability predispose some individuals to mental health episodes. Finally, they explore the role of social and family contexts in the onset of mental health disorders and their management.
Development and Diversity
Employing biopsychosocial and sociocultural lenses, students examine how humans grow and change across the lifespan, considering the contribution of developmental and sociocultural factors to normative outcomes. They examine major theories of human development, including the interface between the individual and their broader historical, sociocultural context. They consider how the spiritual domain affects development for those with a faith world view, and how different experiences of society and culture, including factors such as racism, bias and discrimination, oppression, power and privilege, and prejudice can adversely affect individual development and present as clinical issues. Finally, students develop an awareness of the importance of socially and culturally sensitive counselling practice.
Introduction to Counselling Skills
As a foundational unit, the aim of the Introduction to Counselling Skills unit is to develop foundational levels of counselling competence, supported by key skills required for effective clinical practice. For example, students will be introduced to core counselling concepts such as transference and counter-transference, which while originating in the psychodynamic psychotherapeutic domain, are now part of broader counselling discourse. In addition to acquiring the core counselling skills, students will learn how the core skills find expression in a range of counselling modalities.
Relational dynamics are at the heart of human engagement and communication; counsellors and clients are influenced and affected by significant relationships in their lives. Students learn about the importance of processing the adverse effects of relational experiences. This is informed by intrapersonal, interpersonal and relational theory, with an emphasis on interpersonal neurobiology, attachment and systemic theories. Students critically reflect on their personal relationship experiences, become conversant with their own affective regulation, reflective functioning and relational capacity, and develop an understanding of how and when their own, and their clients’ relational histories and current experiences may affect therapeutic outcomes.
Ethical Issues and Practice
In this unit students learn how to ethically and responsibly manage this position, becoming conversant with all relevant regulatory codes and Australian legislative requirements that govern the health sector. They explore ethical principles in professional decision-making processes, reflect on the benefits of professional association membership, and are encouraged to be aware of, and thoughtful about, how their personal moral stance and ethical framework informs and influences their professional practice.
Group Process: Theory and Practice
This unit is designed to introduce counsellors to the therapeutic setting and experience of group work. Students are introduced to the theories of group work. The unit also aims to provide students with fundamental clinical skills used in group work, along with an understanding of how to design, implement, facilitate and assess a group program.
Throughout the unit students will have the opportunity to integrate their experiences of belonging to a group and facilitation of a group through obtaining relevant knowledge.
Across the units, students will be encouraged to develop their own unique facilitation style and cultivate the relevant group work skills in a safe, nurturing and non-judgemental context.
Counselling practice is underpinned by a professional body of knowledge, predominantly drawn from counselling and healthcare research. This unit aims to equip students to become knowledgeable consumers of this body of research, and to become aware of key interpretative issues relevant to research more generally. In order to equip students in this way, this unit introduces students to a range of philosophical, theoretical and practical skills and understanding necessary to design, conduct and evaluate research in counselling and related fields. Further, to be able to critically evaluate the relevance of specific contemporary research findings for professional practice, counsellors need to be conversant with how knowledge is produced and is deemed to be acceptable by a professional community. Thus, acquiring an understanding of the core elements of the research process and research ethics enables counsellors to thoughtfully discern whether and how specific findings may inform their clinical decision-making and client care.
Trauma, Grief and Loss
Loss and change are a normal part of the human experience, encountered by all individuals at some point in their lives. Trauma may manifest if individuals experience loss and grief. This unit examines historical and contemporary approaches to understanding advanced trauma, loss and grief. It provides students with assessment and intervention skills to work effectively in these areas of counselling. Students apply theory to assess case studies and in role-plays. The topics of vicarious trauma and burnout, and the development of self-care plans are also examined. Appropriate consideration of clients’ cultural and spiritual heritages will also be explored.
This unit focuses on the ongoing formation of the ‘counsellor’ through a range of conversations and activities intended to foster increased self-awareness and reflection, with students invited to consider how to enhance the quality of their own professional practice and nurture their ongoing personal maturity. Underpinning this learning will be an emphasis of achieving personal integration, wellness and recovery for both client and counsellor (as required).
Specialised Counselling Skills
A wide range of contemporary counselling modalities emphasise assisting clients to overcome their difficulties by changing their thinking, behaviour, and emotional responses, with the therapist and the client working together to identify and solve problems currently confronting the client. With a strong conceptual and theoretical foundation many contemporary therapies are often treatments of choice for dealing with a range of serious mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
In Specialised Counselling Skills students will be introduced to two contemporary counselling modalities. Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of key modality-speciﬁc principles and processes. They will also develop a capacity to apply a range of counselling skills related to the speciﬁc two modalities being taught in a given semester. Knowledge and skills will be demonstrated within the classroom setting and through a range of assessment tasks.
Counselling Practicum I
Counselling Practicum I is the first of two practicum units, marking the transition from learning in the classroom setting to working as a counselling professional with clients, peers and supervisors in the general community. Students undertake their practicum in one of various community-based agency settings where they are exposed to all aspects of the work life of a professional counsellor. Students are required to demonstrate the integration and application of the professional body of knowledge and counselling skills acquired across the degree. Throughout the unit students will be required to maintain a range of counselling cases in line with the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation Australia (PACFA) Training Standards. Alongside their placement experiences, students attend a combination of individual and group supervision sessions with experienced practitioners.
Counselling Practicum II
Counselling Practicum II is the second of two units marking the ongoing transition from counselling student to professional counsellor. Throughout the unit students continue to see clients in their allocated agency setting. Students further develop their conceptual and clinical skills at a more advanced level, and are expected to demonstrate an increased sophistication, integration and maturation of their counselling knowledge and skills. Students are also expected to reflect on their professional identity, demonstrating continued professionalism in the workplace, as well as compliance with all ethical and legislative requirements relevant to practising as a professional counsellor.
Please choose three from the following units:
Counselling and Christianity
This unit introduces students to classical and current psychological and theological research related to counselling and counselling practice. In doing so, the unit enables and encourages students to reflect on and articulate ways in which Christian principles and clinical practice may be integrated in order to provide sensitive and comprehensive care to persons within Christian and other spiritually-oriented counselling environments.
Introduction to Counselling Children and Young People
This unit introduces attendees to the theoretical knowledge and clinical skills associated with counselling children and young people, including a range of individual, family, creative and group therapies, and learning how to appropriately select from among these therapies so as to optimise intervention strategies applied to individual clients. The unit is situated within a broader socio-ecological approach to counselling children and young people, emphasising the importance of social and cultural contexts central to client health and wellbeing (e.g. family, educational and community systems, etc.), and addressing how working with these systems is crucial for welfare, functioning and recovery of the individual child or young person. Utilising a strengths-based approach, the unit focuses on key issues such as developmental crises, disability, trauma, emotional and behavioural problems, and environmental issues. It examines how these conditions and circumstances may adversely affect clients’ physical, psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing and their educational attainments. Concurrently, the unit offers a mental health focus emphasising prevention, early intervention and crisis management of identified at-risk populations of children and young people.
Introduction to Family Systems and Couples
This unit examines the historical origins and contemporary applications of systemic work with families and couples therapy. It examines how the dynamics that operate between family members may contribute to symptoms experienced by vulnerable family members, particularly children and young people. Developmental and contextual factors are examined to take a trans-generational view of family functioning. Theoretical and practical applications of multiple models and theories of family and couples therapy are presented, which provide students with the opportunity to develop skills in being able to effectively assess and intervene with families and couples that present for counselling.
Introduction to Working with Addictions
Using a range of methods this unit provides a framework for counselling across a range of addictive behaviours, including addiction to alcohol and other drugs. The aim is to develop skills in assessment related to addictive behaviours and relevant counselling approaches when working with this population. The evidence for and against selected techniques is analysed. The principles of working with the voluntary and non-voluntary client is explored.
Introduction to Working Cross-Culturally
This unit provides an introduction to counselling skills with a focus on cross-cultural perspectives. Students have the opportunity to develop skills and strategies in working with diverse populations. Using a cross-cultural framework, students explore mental health stressors amongst multicultural populations and the role of the counsellor. Students examine their own cultural identity and apply cross-cultural counselling competencies across a range of workshop activities. In considering the client’s culture the counsellor-in-training must understand their own cultural values and how they shape individual biases and prejudices. An assessment of the student’s own biases is essential to helping people from other cultures. A case study and research essay will form the basis of the unit assessment.
Counselling research and counselling practice are intrinsically linked with, ideally, research findings informing day-to-day clinical decision-making in the therapeutic space. Further, developing an appreciation for and a capacity to contribute to the production of a discipline’s professional knowledge is one expression of the scientist-practitioner model that underpins many allied healthcare disciplines, including counselling. In this unit students focus on their individual research activity, covering areas such as data collection, data analysis and research write-up and presentation. In doing so, they will experience research in situ including the day-to-day challenges of managing a small research project. Students will be expected to synthesise theoretical and clinical literature, and their individual endeavours will culminate in the preparation and submission of an individual, 5,000-word research paper.
This Professional Project unit provides students an opportunity to pursue a unique research project, the result of which is a written or creative work of around 5,000 words (or equivalent). The project will be positioned within the counselling profession. Professional projects will be informed by relevant theory, literature and research, and will demonstrate the ethical and technical requirements of the discipline. Students may work independently or within a group, employing flexibility and sound judgement.
Special Topics in Counselling
This unit provides a framework for the investigation of additional counselling-related topics that may be included in the Master of Counselling curriculum, generally in the context of the contribution of a visiting scholar with particular expertise in a given area, or new or emerging counselling issues that can usefully and substantively be addressed in a course unit.
Academic staff for counselling
Head of School of Counselling
Dr Dion Khlentzos
Counselling Lecturer, Counsellor
Trish Yeung Petchell
Applicants may be admitted to the Master of Counselling if they have previously successfully completed a relevant:
- • Bachelor degree or
- • Bachelor Honours degree
‘Relevant’ means a degree that includes subjects such as psychology, social work and education where you studied human motivation and behaviour. “Non-relevant” means degrees that are science based (not including psychology), where you have not studied human motivation and behaviour.
Applicants with non-relevant degrees will be considered on the basis of their Work and Life Experience.
Applicants whose qualifying undergraduate studies were taken in a language other than English will be required to demonstrate English proficiency as per the table below:
7.0 with no band less than 6.5
65 with no score less than 58
Applicants without undergraduate qualifications can apply for admission via the work and life experience pathway which may consider other forms of study completed in the higher education and vocational sectors, volunteer activities, contribution to church life, professional development relevant to counselling.
For more information please visit the Future Students information page.
All applicants will need to meet the following requirements:
Interview: Successfully complete an admission interview (including a Readiness for Counselling and Psychotherapy Training Questionnaire).
Criminal history record: Provide a National Criminal History Record check at time of application obtainable from: nationalcrimecheck.com.au
Working with children check: Provide a Working with Children authorisation at time of application obtainable from: wwccheck.ccyp.nsw.gov.au/Applicants/Application
The Master of Counselling is available to overseas/international students, subject to satisfying the aforementioned admission criteria.
For more information visit the International Student page
If the applicant is successful they will be issued an offer letter and a written agreement. Students will need to respond to the offer within 6 weeks. This is done online and a confirmation will be emailed back to the applicant. At this point, applicants are welcome to apply for Credit or Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). If you are eligible for credit or RPL, you may be exempt from completing some units and you may be able to finish your degree in a shorter amount of time.
Please refer to the Credit and Recognition of Prior Learning Policy reference.
Download the Student Selection and Admission Policy and Procedure.
|Applicant background||2019 Semester 2|
|Number of students||Percentage of all students|
|(A) Past higher education study|
(includes a bridging or enabling course)
|(B) Past vocational education and training (VET) study||0||0%|
|(C) Work and life experience|
(Admitted on the basis of previous achievement not in the other three categories)
(D) Recent secondary education: