COSCA Certificate in Counselling Skills


Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland (COSCA) is Scotland’s professional body for counselling and psychotherapy.

They are a registered charity and a voluntary organisation committed to the promotion of not only counselling and psychotherapy but also the use of counselling skills in a variety of settings.

What is the COSCA Counselling Skills Certificate?

The COSCA Counselling Skills Certificate:

  • Provides a COSCA certificated 120 hour training programme in counselling skills.
  • Is normally delivered over 4 Modules of 30 hours each.
  • Can be accessed across Scotland via an expanding network of over 40 COSCA Validated Training Providers.
  • Contains four strands: skills, knowledge, self-awareness and ethics.
  • Uses experiential learning, e.g. students practise skills in groups of three.
  • Is mainly designed for people in helping or caring professions.
  • Helps the individuals who complete it to develop and apply counselling skills to non-counselling settings.
  • Gives a professionally recognised qualification in counselling skills.
  • Provides an excellent starting point for those who wish to train as a counsellor or psychotherapist.

What is the Purpose of the Course?

There is a growing awareness that counselling skills can enhance performance in various inter-personal contexts that require people’s voices to be heard including:

  • Nursing, teaching and social work contexts.
  • Personnel work.
  • Welfare services.
  • Staff development appraisal.
  • Management relations.
  • Residential and non-residential care.

This is ideal training for those who work in health, social care or related mental health fields and want to advance their communication and counselling skills within their primary role.

What Does the Course Not Do?

This course does not lead to a qualification to practice counselling but is considered by most institutions as a recognised and recommended pre-requisite for any person considering taking further study to become a counsellor/psychotherapist.

Who Can Attend the Course?

Anyone who has an interest in learning counselling skills, and who has an opportunity to practice the skills learned on the course, can apply for a place.

However, individuals will be selected on their emotional readiness to undertake such a programme.

Course Content

  • Module 01: Beginnings.
  • Module 02: Exploration and Expansion.
  • Module 03: Review and Reflection.
  • Module 04: Integration.

Module 01

The theme of module 01 is Beginnings (Advanced Communication Skills), and introduces the participants to the concepts and skills involved in a counselling approach.

This module contains the following strands: skills, knowledge, self-awareness and ethics, and these are interwoven throughout the exercises.

The module begins with establishing a working agreement and defining a counselling approach. It introduces participants to the practice of attending and responding. It also provides a means of increasing participants’ self-awareness. Participants are introduced to the essential qualities of acceptance, genuineness and empathy and trained to practice these qualities. Participants engage in informed discussions on the importance of ethics, in particular confidentiality.

The module concludes with an assessment of participants’ integrated practice of the above counselling skills.

As such, the aims of module 01 are:

  1. To introduce participants to the theoretical concepts of a counselling approach and to the use of counselling skills.
  2. To present basic attending and responding skills to the participants.
  3. To provide participants with the opportunity to practise these skills in a safe and supportive environment.
  4. To set these skills within the essential ethical framework of a counselling approach.
  5. To introduce participants to the concept and experience of self-awareness and personal growth in the context of counselling skills training.
  6. To provide a suitable foundation for possible further training in the areas of counselling skills and the use of a counselling approach.

Module 02

The theme of module o2 is exploration & expansion.

This module begins by reviewing Module 1 and looking at participants’ expectations for module 02. It places the concept of structures (beginnings, middles and endings phases) within the counselling approach. It considers the importance of boundaries in the helping relationships when covering beginnings, and focusing, change and challenge when covering middles.

It introduces participants to the concept of human emotional attachment and the consequences of losing attachments: loss and re-attachment. Issues regarding sexuality are discussed:

  • Participants’ understanding;
  • Awareness; and
  • Its role in the counselling approach.

Participants’ personal motives and values in their roles as helpers are reviewed. Participants are introduced to working with difference and the ethic of justice is considered within the counselling approach. Endings are reflected on to give participants insight into what it means to end the counselling approach with individuals.

The module concludes with integrated practice of the above skills with video and a review of the personal development of each participant in relation to the content of the Module.

The aims of module 02 are:

  1. To consolidate and expand the learning of module 01 in the areas of knowledge, skills, self-awareness, self-in-context and ethics.
  2. To place the practice component within a structure of beginnings, middles & endings.
  3. To explore the processes and elements of a beginning phase in the counselling approach.
  4. To introduce participants to some experiences, tasks and skills of a middle phase in the counselling approach.
  5. To deepen participants’ understanding of a middle phase in the counselling approach with particular reference to the process of change, the process of negotiating goals and the skills of challenging.
  6. To introduce participants to the idea of endings as a necessary and important phase in the counselling approach.
  7. To encourage participants to become more aware of the influence of their motives and values in the context of the helping process.
  8. To explore the concept and importance of boundaries as the ethical framework for safe practice.
  9. To enable participants to integrate the learning in this Module, practise it and evaluate their practice.

Module 03

The themes of module 03 are review & reflection.

These themes are developed through the inclusion of information about different theoretical perspectives in the counselling/psychotherapy field. The process of increasing and integrating counselling skills and self-awareness is further developed in this module by the contributions from the different theoretical perspectives.

The module starts with a review of Modules 1 and 2 and expectations of module 03. It then gives an overview of the theoretical perspectives in the counselling field before covering the humanistic/existential, psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural perspectives. It also discusses the significance of past experience, genograms, and, under ethics, the ethos of care and power. Spirituality is raised as a means of self-understanding and that of others.

The module concludes with the video-taping of participants’ integrated skills practice and self-reflection on personal development related to this Module.

The aims of module 03 are:

  1. To review the content of module 02 and to encourage each participant to take responsibility for identifying his/her personal learning aims for module 03.
  2. To set the training in a counselling approach within a context of emotional and cognitive self-reflection, with a view to identifying what is important in our interaction with others.
  3. To introduce participants to different theoretical counselling perspectives in understanding human development, behaviour and relationships.
  4. To acquaint participants with the basic tenets of Humanistic, Psychodynamic and Cognitive Behavioural theories by exploring relevant issues in participants’ experience.
  5. To examine how the Listener’s own life events can influence the process of working with others.
  6. To explore the nature of power and vulnerability when using counselling skills.
  7. To consolidate the skills practice within a structure of beginnings, middles & endings by concentrating on the characteristics of middles and endings.
  8. To integrate the learning in this Module and bring it to bear on the use of a counselling approach and apply it.

Module 04

The theme of module 04 is Integration.

The theme of Integration is put together in this module with information about different theoretical perspectives in the counselling/psychotherapy field. The process of increasing and integrating counselling skills and self-awareness is further developed by the contributions from the different theoretical perspectives.

The module begins with a review of Module 3 and discusses expectations of module 04. It presents the Gestalt and Transactional Analysis counselling perspectives. There are 2 units on ethics, one of which again looks at boundaries and the other looks at listeners’ responsibilities in the context of the counselling approach. Awareness is raised about issues related to social inclusion in the use of the counselling approach.

The Module also raises the issue of stress for users of the counselling approach and for those with whom they work. Skills practice is given much attention in this module with Units 7-9 dedicated to it.

The Module and the course draws to a close with a two-staged approach to a final review of personal development in relation to this module and the entire course, and ends with a self-evaluation assessment.

The aims of module 04 are:

  1. To establish learning which has taken place by participants in modules 01-03 and encourage each participant to identify their personal learning aims for module 04.
  2. To introduce some basic concepts of the Gestalt approach and experience as an example of the humanistic/existential perspective.
  3. To continue the exploration of power and vulnerability within the helping relationship and identify contributing factors, to and consequences of, boundary violations from Speaker and Listener perspectives.
  4. To explore current definitions of the concepts of belonging, social inclusion and social exclusion.
  5. To introduce some basic concepts of the Transactional Analysis approach and experience as an example of a model which draws on both humanistic and psychodynamic perspectives.
  6. To explore positive and negative effects of stress on the individual.
  7. To explore and clarify the nature and importance of professional responsibilities such as supervision for the counselling relationship.
  8. To consolidate counselling skills practice within the structure of Beginnings, Middles & Endings.
  9. To reflect upon the ending of working with this group and to explore the participants’ experience of self and others in the group setting.
  10. To review the personal development of each participant in relation to the content of this Module, specifically in the areas of: knowledge; counselling skills; self-awareness; self-in-context; and attitudes appropriate to the counselling relationship.


The assessment process throughout the programme is a key element of the Course. Fundamentally, the system of assessment is formative (ongoing) rather than summative (at the end).

Assessment methods include:

  • Skills assessments (based on performance criteria demonstrated within listening practices, audio, and video);
  • Oral assessments (using general and specific questions, and individual presentation); and
  • Written work (essay at the end of each module).

Participants also undertake observer’s feedback and video-taping sessions. Participants will also reflect on their sessions and this will ‘travel’ through to each module.


COSCA’s Counselling Skills Certificate has 40 SCQF credits at SCQF Level 8.

The course was revised in 2004, and updated in 2017.


The Certificate in Counselling Skills is self-standing and is used by participants as a means of enhancing their work performance; it is not a licence to practice as a counsellor.

If an individual wishes to train as a professional counsellor, the certificate is recommended as a foundation study to lead on to a Diploma in Counselling.

It is also recognised by other institutions as a desirable qualification to gain prior to pursuing further study in the field of counselling or psychotherapy.

Further Steps in Counselling Skills follows on from the COSCA Certificate in Counselling Skills and provides individuals with many opportunities to further develop their skills, knowledge and self-awareness.

Some institutions, for example the University of Strathclyde, now offer a MSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy for which the certificate is one of the requirements for entry.