The European Association for Counselling Synopsis of the History of Counselling


The emergence of the counselling profession could be said to be a twentieth century phenomenon. Throughout the evolution of peoples, there have been healers for those who were emotionally traumatized. Such forces for good may have been entitled oracles, high priests, witch doctors, leaders in established religions, medical professionals. Because of the enormous sociological and cultural changes that swept Western Europe and the United States in particular, from the last half of the nineteenth century, the need for an additional and more specific professional response made itself felt. In order to cope with the loss of traditional support structures such as the extended family system and sense of community, professional family care started in the United States as early as 1877. Standardisation of the family social-work response had to come and was in place by 1911. It was in this Social Science working response that counselling techniques had their origins.

Theoretically, counselling training has its roots in philosophy, psychology and social science. It is broad based and has drawn from a wide spectrum of scientific research. Buber’s concept of the ‘I-Thou’ relationship has been one of the fundamental philosophical underpinnings. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Freudian psychoanalysis and its variations had been spreading north to Germany, south to Switzerland and across the Atlantic to the United States. Adaptations were made as hypotheses were tested and found wanting resulting in a variety of individual psychotherapies and family therapies. The early twentieth century Behaviorism of Pavlov, Watson and Skinner was influential in the formation of therapies for addictions. Alongside these developments the psychologist and epistemologist Piaget never tired of insisting that affective life and intellectual life are not only parallel aspects of the human psyche but also are interdependent. Feelings express the interest and value given to the results and outcomes of the intellectual process.

In 1937 the first university course on couple counselling was established at Duke University in the United States. In 1943 the first training manual in counselling for social workers was published. The decade of the 1930s saw the setting up of Hirschfeld marriage consultation bureaux in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands and in the Scandinavian countries. In the countries where Hitler gained control, he annexed these bureaux to his own evil purposes. Fortunately the work of these bureaux, as first conceived, continued in the United States, in Britain and in the Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, beyond Hitler’s reach. The center in Prague was closed down in the communist putsch in 1948 and re-established again in 1967. The work done there includes premarital, marital, post-divorce, parenting, psychological problems, and psychological assistance in life crises and problems in relationships with colleagues, neighbors and friends.


Counselling at the present time can be considered from a variety of stances. There are a number of theoretical bases and specializations, which deal with particular presenting problems. What do these variously described approaches have in common? Counselling has a role in for example child development, education, physical and mental health and in minority populations. In its role in the coming century it is possible to see the profession as the conduit of an intrapersonal and interpersonal revolution that has the capacity to facilitate the full development of the human person in a balanced society. In order to put safe boundaries around such a task, it is essential that a clear charter for ethical practice, together with guidelines for accreditation and practice be agreed and disseminated across National boundaries. To this end, the European Association for Counselling sets out its criteria for those wishing to acquire the European Certificate in Counselling.

The core value of the charter is the respect for human rights and differences. The attitudes, which characterize the counselling approach, are those of respect, integrity, authority, responsibility, autonomy, confidentiality and competence. In the delivery of practice, this leads to the skills of contracting, setting and maintaining boundaries, being explicit and open, monitoring the process and maintaining appropriate levels of privacy.

The European Association for Counselling criteria for the career progression of a professional counsellor constitutes the rest of this document.


Introduction and Background to the Development of EAC Training Standards


PTSAC has worked at all times according to the mandate of the EAC Executive. The work and decisions of PTSC were submitted to the EAC Executive for ratification. Formation of the committee

The Professional and Training Standards Accreditation Committee of the European Association for Counselling were formed as a standing committee in April 2015. Its membership comprises Eva Metallidi (Greece) - Chair; Christine Moran (Ireland); Milena Maksimovic (Serbia); Regina Juergens (Germany).

Our brief from the EAC Executive was to identify core competencies for European counsellors and make recommendations to EAC regarding training guidelines and professional standards for counsellors across Europe.

Our meetings have been lively, challenging and fruitful. Intense debate is perhaps the best way to describe how we communicate as each one of us attempts to make meaning across our different cultural and personal boundaries. The first meeting opened with a presentation on the potential polarities of a decision making process. Out of this discussion the following statement was developed to reflect the guiding philosophy for the work of the PTSAC.

The prime task of the Professional and Training Standards Committee is to acknowledge, respect and address the tremendous differences that exist within the countries in Europe and avoid all political efforts to make the EAC a representative of any single part of Europe. The professional standards as developed by the PTSAC should therefore be open to differences in:

  •  dimensions of country / culture 
  •  relationship between counselling and psychotherapy 
  •  individual versus organisational counselling 
  •  state-of-the-art developments
  •  the extent to which different theoretical orientations are valued 

Training Standards Guidelines

Our first task was to decide where we were going to pitch standards. This took time and energy. Following a question paper to all EAC country representatives the polarities were clear. Some pushed for high standards and others wanted low standards. What was clear was that countries in which there were no agreed standards did not in fact want lower standards. Eventually we reached a clear consensus regarding the categories of European counsellor and related training standards.

The categories of counsellor and proposed training hours have been the subject of much debate, discussion and consultation. They reflect the need to incorporate the various ‘levels’ of counsellor under the European standards umbrella, as well as to promote the mobility of the professional counsellor across National boundaries so as to enhance the career path working towards “Counselling without Borders”.

In developing minimum training standards and core competencies for European counsellors, we decided that core competencies would be explored as: listing competencies for counselling roughly alongside phases of the counselling work (doing) listing competencies for being a counsellor inter-cultural core competencies not connected to a specific phase.

In order to work within our guiding philosophy we have consulted with and gathered feedback from colleagues across Europe regarding the training standards as laid out in this document. We have been fortunate to have committee members who represent different countries, modalities and with wide experience of the counselling profession internationally and within Europe. EAC now offers accreditation as a European counsellor. In this booklet you will find the standards and procedures for the award of the European Certificate of Counsellor Accreditation.

We are aware of the trust and responsibility given to this committee by both the Executive Committee, the Governing Board and the membership. Our goal has been to attempt to honour these in the setting of standards for counselling across Europe.

EAC is currently developing criteria for the accreditation of training programmes. We are taking careful steps to achieve the ultimate long-term goals of the EAC. The committee is keen to hear from the membership. Please let us know your views.


Eva Metallidi

Chair PTSAC April 2015


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