121 – Difference Between Counselling Assessment Criteria and Learning Outcomes

121 – Difference Between Counselling Assessment Criteria and Learning Outcomes

Stepping up to a New Level – Getting the Skills Right

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In episode 121 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast – the second in this new season – Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes offer tips on stepping up to the next level in your counselling training. Our new regular segment, ‘Check-In with CPCAB’, then looks at counselling assessment criteria and learning outcomes. Last, the presenters explore the pressure we might put ourselves under to get our counselling skills right.

Stepping up to a New Level (starts at 1.25 mins)

Perhaps you may be moving from level 2 to level 3, from level 3 to level 4 – or from one year to the next on a diploma or degree course – this coming academic year. Ken and Rory’s tips are as follows:

  • Get hold of the reading list for your course if possible, so you can get prepared.
  • You might also find our list of recommended reading useful, with ideas for helpful books at all levels and for various modalities.
  • Remember that the underlying theory is the same at all levels – what changes is the depth to which you study it and how you interact with it (e.g. moving from describing to analysing).
  • Personal development – with the aim of increasing self-awareness – is an important part of counselling training, which again becomes more in-depth as you step up the levels.

Check-In with CPCAB: Difference Between Counselling Assessment Criteria and Learning Outcomes (starts at 9.10 mins)

So what are learning outcomes and counselling assessment criteria? Rory speaks to Kelly Budd (Qualification Service Manager) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) about this question.

Kelly explains that the learning outcomes for a qualification list what you will learn by studying it. The counselling assessment criteria, meanwhile, describe how the awarding body will test that you have achieved these learning outcomes.

When CPCAB puts together a new qualification, it looks at purpose, target learners, level (i.e. how it fits within the National Qualifications Framework) and size (i.e. whether it will be an award, certificate or diploma).

The depth of understanding expected increases with the levels. For example, level 2 is GCSE standard, level 3 is A level standard, and level 4 is first-year degree standard.

More advanced learners are expected to be able to do more complicated things with information in that field.

The verbs (doing words) in learning outcomes are key here (for example, you might be called on to show that you can reflect on, use and understand, compare and contrast, analyse or evaluate something).

It’s important always to think:

  • What am I being asked to do?
  • What evidence do I need to provide to show that I can do this?

Above all, CPCAB tries to keep things really clear. It’s important that you too work to keep it simple: try to resist getting sucked into the criteria hysteria that can affect some students and be contagious throughout the whole class!

CPCAB also aims to be flexible in its approach. So although the learning outcomes and assessment criteria are set, you and your tutors have scope to meet these in different ways.

For more information, please see CPCAB’s website. CPCAB is the UK’s only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.

Getting the Skills Right (starts at 23.55 mins)

Ken recalls the burden he felt when being observed in skills practice – and indeed when starting placement – to get his skills right. This can lead to the paralysis of analysis!

It’s really important to try to take the pressure off yourself. If you are feeling very on edge about your skills, your client may well pick up on this.

Ken and Rory offer valuable tips on how to become more relaxed and confident in skills sessions:

  • Aim to do your best rather than aiming for some kind of perfection. There is in any case never just one ‘right’ way to respond in counselling.
  • We all need to make mistakes in order to learn and change.
  • Make good use of your peers: use all the opportunities you have at college to practise skills together.
  • Record your skills practice and listen back: this is a great source of more learning.
  • Remember that even for qualified counsellors, we are all learning all the time.
  • Try to be balanced, reflecting on what you did well as well as areas for improvement.

In short, give it a go and don’t be held back by a fear of not getting it ‘right’!

*Check in with CPCAB is proudly sponsored by CPCAB, the only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.
To learn more about CPCAB qualifications and to get more detailed information on today's podcast topic, visit CPCAB.co.uk.


  1. Michelle Cobb

    My takeaway is , ‘put that stick down’ . I’m really going to take this on board and use mistakes and errors as a tool for growth and not to berate myself. A wonderful and valuable podcast. Thank you

    1. Rory Lees-oakes

      Michelle , sounds like a good idea

  2. Andrew Hurst

    Hi, is there anywhere I could find a recorded session to spot skills being used so I could practice for the level 2 assessment in the new year?

    Thanks for all you do 🙂

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