Certificate in Introductory Counselling Skills (Online)

  • NFQ Level 6
  • Credits 60*
  • Course Code SG_PCOUN_E06
  • Award Certificate
  • Duration 2 years (part time)

Course Summary

Students on the Certificate in Introductory Counselling Skills develop knowledge and practical skills in counselling, mental health, and personal development.

This training helps them to perform more effectively as helpers in a variety of caring and pastoral roles and it prepares them to pursue further training in counselling and psychotherapy.

It is suitable for people working in many diverse front-facing, support, or interpersonal contexts. Examples include administration, childcare, community work, construction, creative arts, education, frontline roles, healthcare, hospitality, management, media, nursing, pastoral roles, health and beauty industry, caring work, and sport.

The programme meets the learning needs of workers and volunteers in these fields, in a flexible and accessible manner. It enhances the provision of care by developing practitioner skills and knowledge in counselling and mental health, and by deepening practitioner self-awareness and reflectiveness.

The programme is delivered through a blend of face-to-face and online learning classes and activities, which suits part-time participants.

The ethos of the Course Team is Humanistic. We value each learner’s life experience, and we provide opportunities that will enable students to develop their potential, in a climate of acceptance, and openness. Our lectures are informed by scientific research in psychology and counselling, and our practical workshops offer experiential learning, creative practices, digital technologies, simulations, and experiential exercises. Using innovative, interactive, and engaging activities we acknowledge, respect, and support diversity in learning and personal development.


This Certificate in Introductory Counselling Skills is not a professional qualification in Counselling and graduates are not qualified to practice as professional counsellors.

For those who wish to progress in this field, ATU Sligo has a cooperation agreement in place with the Institute of Integrative Counselling & Psychotherapy  (IICP). Specifically, graduates of the Certificate in Introductory Counselling Skills at ATU Sligo are eligible to apply for a place in 2nd year of the IICP Honours Degree under Recognition of Prior Learning, subject to the successful completion of ATU Sligo full award and a successful interview with IICP.


For enquiries please contact Course Director Tamsin Cavaliero 

E :Tamsin.Cavaliero@atu.ie



Key Course Information

Our course is part time and runs for 4 semesters over 2 years. These semesters run from September to December and from February to May of each year. It is delivered through Blended Learning meaning that some of the teaching happens online and some of it happens face to face. So, you would get to meet your lecturers on campus about once every month for workshops and you would take part in online classes in between sessions in Sligo. 

During each semester there are 12 evenings of online lectures. These currently take place on Wednesdays between 6pm and 9pm, and this includes a break. We cover 2 modules each evening. The lectures are delivered live and are also recorded so that students can choose to view them at a time that suits them best. There are also 6 workshop days on campus per semester. These are in 3 blocks of 2 days (Friday and Saturday) approximately once a month. Outside of scheduled classes students typically spend 2 to 3 hours each week studying and completing assignments. 

You will study 8 modules in total, covering practical counselling skills, psychology, counselling theory, and personal development including Mindfulness. In addition, all students need to undertake some personal therapy as a course requirement. This is arranged externally by the learner and at their own expense.

There are no exams and assignments include projects, reflective writing, skills demonstrations, essays, and a digital portfolio.

You will have access to a dedicated online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Moodle where you will find resources such as lecture notes, schedules, videos, reading material, recordings of lectures, and a class chat forum. You may also wish to buy some textbooks, or these can be borrowed from the Yeats Library or sourced second hand at affordable prices. Your lecturers will also provide you with lots of web-based resources to support your learning.



Here are two books we use in Year One, for example:

  • Basic Counselling Skills: A Helper's Manual by Richard Nelson-Jones

  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World [With CD] by Mark Williams

Key skills that you can expect to acquire on this course:

  • Foundation level counselling skills like empathic attunement and active listening.
  • Self-awareness, reflexiveness, and Mindfulness.
  • Communication skills
  • Understanding of human psychology
  • Academic writing and critical thinking skills
  • Information technology (IT) skills
  • Practical organisational and study skills

For enquiries please contact Course Director Tamsin Cavaliero 

E :Tamsin.Cavaliero@atu.ie



Application Closing Date : 16th August 2024

Entry Requirements

We particularly welcome mature applicants and those who can demonstrate relevant prior learning, life experience, and/or practical understanding. The entry requirements include:

  • Minimum age of 21 at time of registration
  • Successful interview at which applicants must demonstrate appropriate work, educational, and helper/ care experience
  • Two written character references
  • Leaving Certificate or equivalent
  • Garda Vetting (This is completed following registration on the course)

Please Note: In line with best practice in counselling skills training, we will endeavour to avoid assigning participants or staff with close personal/ professional relationships to the same training group. If this situation arises we will work hard to accommodate candidates but may not always be able to progress their application.

Career Opportunities

The knowledge and skills developed by graduates of this certificate course will be of value in roles in a range of areas including community development, disability, educational, family support, healthcare, lifelong learning, older persons, social care, youth work, and other volunteering, pastoral care, and support settings.

Graduates have gained employment in roles such as special needs assistant, mental health advocate, and social care positions.

This Certificate in Introductory Counselling Skills is not a professional qualification in Counselling and graduates are not qualified to practice as professional counsellors.

However on completion, many of our graduates have successfully applied to progress onto professional counselling courses thereby achieving the qualifications to work as therapists in areas such as; private practice, health care, social services, schools, third level institutions, and community organisations.

Further Study

Graduates of this course will have begun on a pathway to a career in counselling/psychotherapy whereby a level 6 Certificate is considered to be a stepping stone qualification and is an advantage when applying for a degree or masters professional training course in this field.

For those who wish to progress in this field, ATU Sligo has a cooperation agreement in place with the  Institute of Integrative Counselling & Psychotherapy  (IICP). Specifically, graduates of the Certificate in Introductory Counselling Skills at ATU Sligo are eligible to apply for a place in 2nd year of the IICP Honours Degree under Recognition of Prior Learning, subject to successful completion of ATU Sligo full award and a successful interview with IICP.


Student Success Story

Terry Byrne Student Success Stories

Did you know?

  • The Department of Social Sciences was shortlisted for the 2019 Education Awards in the category of the Best College of Arts & Social Science.
  • This course is an academically accredited programme, under the National Qualifications Framework (QQI Level 6).
  • It provides effective and real-world skills for understanding, working with, and supporting other people.
  • Students receive part-time, flexible learning, and have access to resources and supports such as the Academic Writing Centre, IT Services Helpdesk, free Microsoft Office 365 software, online virtual learning environment (Moodle), Library Services, and Access Office.
  • It is delivered by a small friendly team of experienced psychologists and psychotherapists with many years of clinical and community practice, who teach in dynamic and innovative ways.
  • Students benefit from guest speakers and opportunities to attend external conferences and seminars on counselling and psychotherapy.
  • Many graduates have followed a progression pathway into Year 2 of professional degree programmes in counselling and psychotherapy.






Terry Byrne, Certificate in introductory Counselling Skills

I have just completed my two-year certificate course in the ‘Introduction to Counselling Skills’ at ATU Sligo.  I started my journey in September 2019; it was a mixture of online learning and experiential days in college. It was the perfect blend, and I never felt intimidated by my surroundings. In the beginning, I found the reading tasks technical and the course content focused. The covid -19 pandemic emergency dominated semesters two, three and four. All of our learning went online except for two occasions in semesters three and four for skills practice. At all times, we felt supported and understood by the staff, and they were mindful of the tasks we faced as a class.

My online experience at ATU Sligo has helped me prepare for similar experiences at other institutions. The course I chose at ATU Sligo has been beneficial to me and my career choice. The course content has also helped me in my role as a Samaritan volunteer listener, benefiting the many callers I engage with. It has led me to explore further the world of counselling and psychotherapy.

The world of counselling and psychotherapy will become a personal and professional journey, with twists and turns along the way. You will begin to view the world and its people differently. You will become more open-minded on political and topical issues. A more empathic person will emerge from this two-year program of self-discovery.

It is a journey that you never want to end and want to know more and more. The lust for further learning on this topic is powerful; it is the road I am committed to travelling. I have enrolled in the degree course at IICP in Dublin to continue my goal to gain a professional qualification starting September 2021. I believe I will be a qualified practising counsellor long into retirement, extending my working life to help others.

Programme Fees

Academic Year 2024/25 Fees

Total Programme Fee: €3,000

To help make the payment of fees more manageable for students who are self-funding their studies, tuition fees can be paid through payment instalment plans at ATU Sligo. For further information on instalment plans, please visit our Fees and Funding webpage

If you apply and are approved for an online course at ATU Sligo, you will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of €250 to secure your place. Your deposit will then be credited against the course fees once you are registered as a student. Students at ATU Sligo are also eligible to claim tax relief at the standard rate for tuition fees.

For further information and guidance about Fees and Funding for online and part-time courses at ATU Sligo, click here.

If you are seeking to take your exams online, and you meet the eligibility criteria (overseas students and those with extenuating circumstances), an additional examinations fee will apply. For further information, please visit our Examinations webpage



Sligo Chamber Skillnet may be able to partially fund  programme fees for you or your employees - for further details please contact gcourtenay@sligochamber.ie