Counselling people in need is a big part of the community services worker (CSW) job description. Imagine you're working at a women's shelter, child foster care program, or addiction centre—helping individuals and families work through really difficult issues, and find healthy ways to move forward.
Counselling will play a key role in this process. You'll be helping clients set new life goals, stick with treatment, cope with trauma, and most of all, feel hopeful and empowered.
The truth is, this role comes with a lot of responsibility. CSWs who counsel clients have a duty to protect their best interests, mental health, and overall wellbeing.
Counsellors can have a huge impact on the people they work with. They are in a position of influence and power—power that must be handled with great care and responsibility.
So, what does it take to be a really effective counsellor? What qualities should you possess to consider this kind of community services career? Here's a look at the special skills you'll need to thrive in this role
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Are you sensitive to other people's moods, needs, body language, and social cues? Can you tell when someone is uncomfortable, sad, or angry, and automatically adjust your response to fit that situation?
Are you good at reflecting on how you feel, and how your (and other people's) emotions impact behavior?
If so, you have a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ). So, how does this make you different?
People with high EQ are especially tuned-in to their own emotions, and the emotions of others. They use these skills to connect with people—build trust, offer just the right kind of support, be a good friend and listener, and help solve problems.
It's easy to see how counsellors with high EQ would be particularly effective at their jobs! This is one of the most important pre-requisites for community services careers in counselling. In fact, almost every other quality on this list relates to EQ in some way.
Interested in digging a little deeper, and finding out your own EQ score? Psychology Today has a free online EQ test you can take to learn more about your strengths in this area.
It takes about 45 minutes to complete all the questions, so just make sure you have enough time before you click: Start your EQ test here.
Easy to talk to & non-judgmental
If we're lucky, we all have that one friend or family member we feel we can talk to about anything. This person doesn't judge us, and we always feel better after the talks—like that issue we're stressed about isn't so impossible to face, after all.
Or, maybe that person is you.
You are the one people tend to come to with problems, questions, and big life decisions. You put others at ease. You instill a sense of trust.
These are really important qualities for CSWs in general, and particularly key for those who do a lot of counselling work.
Counsellors can't allow their personal feelings and opinions to impact their interactions with clients. They must never lash out, judge others, or make a client feel small.
Of course, this doesn't apply to a situation where a client is doing something illegal—like putting another person's life in danger. You would need to speak out and report that. Counsellors don't enable destructive behavior.
We're talking about creating a safe and open space where clients feel free to express their true selves. You'll learn specific counselling techniques in community services worker training, which will help you create that trusting environment.
But, it's very helpful to have a natural gift in this area—a natural understanding of how to put people at ease, and help them open up.
Patience & resilience
Once you start your community services career, you'll find yourself working with people who have been through very serious life challenges. No matter how gifted you are as a counsellor, you won't be able to help every single person. And some clients will take much longer than others to find their path.
There will be set-backs and losses. To be effective as a professional counsellor, you'll need to be patient—and you'll need to be resilient in the face of disappointment.
A client recovering from addiction suffers a relapse, an ex-offender you've been working with violates parole, or a troubled teen you've been counselling drops out of school.
Counselling has a lot of ups and downs, and it will take real strength to stay positive and keep working toward solutions with your clients.
If you enrol in a Community Services Worker Program, you'll learn that counsellors follow a code of ethics. Specifically, you'll study the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association Code of Ethics.
This Code lays out the ethical and legal responsibilities you have to clients as a counsellor. Among other things, it focuses on your obligation to respect the dignity of every client, your total commitment to fairness and social justice, and your clients' right to confidentiality.
It explains what to do if your client breaks the law, endangers another person, or needs help from another specialist. These codes of professional practice protect the integrity of the counselling profession in Canada.
Every counsellor is expected to understand these guidelines, and work hard to uphold them throughout their career. You'll need sound judgement and a strong sense of ethics to succeed in this field.
Respectful of diversity
Canada is an incredibly diverse country. In fact, Toronto was recently named the most multicultural city in the world by the BBC.
Immigrants make up over 21% of our entire population—that's more than 7.5 million new Canadians spread across the country.
You really can't expect to build a community services career in counselling without developing a very deep respect for diversity.
Whether you're working with at-risk youth, adults with physical and/or cognitive disabilities, homeless populations, or refugees—it's a guarantee that you will counsel people from all walks of life.
You'll be working with people from different religious backgrounds, with varying levels of English language skills. You'll be counselling individuals, groups, and families with very different cultural influences, customs, and beliefs.
Your ability as a counsellor will depend on your willingness to learn about and respect those differences—to meet clients where they are, and set goals that fit their individual needs. More than anything, you'll need to keep a very open mind.
Problem-solving & Strategic planning
Let's say you're counselling a women who has recently escaped an abusive relationship and is now living at a shelter.
What steps will she need to take to work through the trauma of her experience? How will she begin to find confidence, independence, and financial security? Does she need a job? Career training? Where will she find safe housing?
Part of your role as a counsellor and community services worker is to help clients map out plans for the future. Taking it one step at a time, these goals must be realistic and achievable. They may involve other healthcare providers, community programs, and social services—you'll have to figure out which ones.
You'll need to know what services are available in your local community, how to connect your clients to those resources, and continuously follow-up on their progress. If the plan you've mapped out together isn't working, you'll need to adapt it.
This process takes logical thinking and strategic planning. You'll focus a lot on how to assess clients, set goals, and use local resources in CSW training. Learning how to intervene, evaluate, and guide clients toward better wellbeing is a major component of this diploma program.
If you're already great at analyzing problems, brainstorming solutions, and coordinating projects, you have an excellent foundation on which to build.
Are you ready to move forward and find out how to become a counselor? Your first step is to find a reliable community services worker college, and learn more about the training process.
Get started by speaking with Admissions. An Admissions Advisor will guide you through Community Services Worker training, how to apply, financial aid, class schedules, and more.
Chat live with an Advisor right now. Or click below to explore Herzing's Community Services Worker program in more detail. We're here to help!