So you want to become a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria and you don’t know how to go about it, or you don’t want to violate any legal procedure in the process? You are in the right place.
In this article I have outlined the step by step process you need to take in order to become a practicing and legal counsellor or therapist in Nigeria.
Before we continue, let’s get things straightened…
Who is a Counsellor or Therapist in Nigeria?
A counsellor is a trained, objective professional with whom you can build a healing and trusting relationship. They are trained to offer different types of assistance; most frequently talk-based styles of therapy. Therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, is the process of meeting with a therapist to resolve problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues, and/or somatic responses (sensations in the body).
Now, here’s the answer to the big question on your mind…
What professional qualifications do I need to become a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria?
You do not need any professional qualifications to become a counsellor in Nigeria. There is no law stating that you need any specific qualification to practice as a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria. Yes! You can just decide any day to call yourself a counsellor or therapist and if you can get people to believe you, that’s it, you are a counsellor already.
What is really needed is that you have the skills to actually match up to what you call yourself. But to get the skills and expertise to practice, and to position yourself as a person of repute, it is ideal that you get some form of organized training and certification.
There is a term for people who practice as counsellors but aren’t trained or certified. They are called quasi counsellors. While there are no legal laws stopping you, it is morally wrong to call yourself a counsellor without training or certification.
To get the skills and certification to practice as a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria, there are two routes you can take. The first is to get a degree in Guidance and counselling, psychology or psychiatry from any higher institution; and the second is to take professional courses physically or online.
I have explained how to go about the two routes below:
How To Apply for A Counselling Degree in Nigeria
In some Nigerian universities, Guidance and Counselling is called Counsellor Education or Educational Guidance and Counselling so you should check any of these names to know if the institution offers the course or not.
Even if the prerequisites for studying guidance and counselling in Nigerian institutions vary, there are some standards that you must meet. Passing at least 5 WAEC subjects, including English Language and Mathematics, is one of the most important requirements for studying guidance and counselling.
You must also enrol for the JAMB examination and pass any three subjects from the art or science departments. It is important to remember that English Language is the fourth subject and is a required course for the JAMB examination.
Most universities will admit you with 180 and above because guidance and counselling is not a competitive course. Only a few people apply for it.
Requirements for Direct Entry Candidates
To apply for Guidance and Counseling as a Direct Entry candidate, you require: ‘A’ level passes or NCE in two subjects plus UTME requirements.
How To Apply for A Psychology Degree in Nigeria
5 ‘O’ Level Credits including English Language, Biology and Mathematics and at least two other Social Science subjects from any of the following: Government, Economics, Geography, Civic Education and Social Studies.
UTME Subjects: English Language and at least two subjects from Government, Economics, Geography, and any other one subject from Arts/Social Science/Science subject. Psychology is more competitive then guidance and counselling so the higher your JAMB score, the better your chance.
Requirements for Direct Entry Candidates
At least two ‘A’ Level passes to include not less than two Social Science subjects such as Economics, Geography, Sociology, Business Management and Government in GCE/IJMBE or equivalent with the exception of NABTEB A-Level and NCE.
PS: If you want to take the psychiatry route to become a therapist, you need to apply for Medicine. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine. Being a psychiatrist gives you the added benefits to prescribe drugs while you give therapy. It is the combination of a doctor and therapist.
How long does it take to become a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria?
Typically it takes four years to become a certified counsellor or therapist in Nigeria. This is if you choose to study guidance and counselling or psychology in the university. But it can take as long as 7 years if you choose the psychiatry route. It can also take as short as one month if you decide to take online courses and certifications.
Which association can I join to become a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria?
The two major associations for counsellors in Nigeria are the Counselling Association of Nigeria (CASSON) and Association of Professional Counsellors in Nigeria (APROCON). They are supposed to be in charge of registration, licensing and regulation of counsellors in Nigeria but they are not really functional. While you can still visit their website and register, they have very skeletal structural activities.
Do I need any license to practice as a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria?
No, you do not need any license to practice as a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria. Although CASSON and APROCON are associations that give license to counsellors, there is no law to sanction any person that practices as a counsellor or therapist in Nigeria without licence.
How To Become A Counsellor or Therapist in Nigeria Without A University Degree
Like I’ve said right from the beginning of this article, you can become a practicing counsellor in Nigeria, one who will even be respected by graduates of counselling, without getting a university degree in counselling.
All you need is the necessary skills to actually help clients overcome their problems.
Truth be told, you can get these skills by reading books on counselling and therapy, watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts that teach about therapy.
But if you still want to get an organized form of training, which I advise you to do, there is only one institution in Nigeria I have found that offers counsellor training and certification and that is the Institute of Counselling in Nigeria.
Institute of Counselling in Nigeria
They offer certification and diploma courses in a wide range of counselling fields including Sex Therapy, Family, Couple & Relationship Counselling, Child & Adolescent Counselling, Substance Abuse & Addiction Counselling, Crisis Counselling and several others .
They also give you certification that is recognized by the Counselling Association of Nigeria (CASSON). If you want to experience a school environment where you interact with fellow students and lecturers, this is the option you should choose.
I have not witnessed any of their lectures but the fact that they have the backing of the professional body of counsellors in Nigeria, is a kind of assurance that you will get great return for your investment.
Online Course for Counsellors and Therapist in Nigeria
On the other hand, if you only care about getting the skills and being effective, the best option to choose is to go for an online course. Online courses are quick, cheaper and more intensive in their teaching.
I have examined a number of online courses and I have found these three to be the best. They are focused on actually drilling you with the skills and not theories:
- Counseling Skills Certificate Course (Beginner to Advanced)
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Practitioner Course
- Specialized Certificate Course in Psychological Counseling
In fact, even if you study guidance and counselling in the university or take any course from the Institute of Counselling in Nigeria, you should still take these courses to increase your effectiveness. Only a few of the subjects covered in these courses are taught in the university.
You will get certification after completing the course and the bigger news is that you can get all the courses for less than ₦20,000. The most expensive of the courses is ₦7,500.
There you have it! How to become a practicing counsellor or therapist in Nigeria.
If you are someone who is passionate about helping people navigate their lives challenges and live happy and satisfying lives, choosing to become a counsellor or therapist is a great choice especially in Nigeria where counselling is just gaining acceptance. You will become one of the early adopters.
No matter your age, economic status or location, you can still start since you don’t necessarily have to go to the university to practice as a counsellor in Nigeria.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.