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It's good to talk, but sometimes it's even better to listen - Counselling at NWRC

04 April 2022
Michelle Leonard

"Counselling is a way of life for me now – it’s not just something I go in and do every day, it’s the way I am. People begin to heal the moment they are heard, that’s a powerful statement. I can’t think of any other job that gives you that.”

Michelle Leonard
NWRC Lecturer in Counselling

North West Regional College (NWRC) lecturer in Counselling, Michelle Leonard, always knew she wanted to help others.

She’s been a fully qualified counsellor since 2010, working in the local community and through her own small private practice.

Now, Michelle is taking her skills to a new level. In September she joined the Health and Care team at NWRC as a part-time lecturer and says she’s loving the challenge of training new counsellors, who are in demand across Northern Ireland in the health, community and voluntary sector.

According to Michelle, no career is more rewarding than counselling – and she knows because she’s personally felt the benefit of counselling in her own life.

She said: “I had counselling when I was in my 20s, and when I came out of it, I knew that I wanted my career to be about helping others in that way. I’ve always been told that I am a good listener and people find a calmness about me. In fact many of my friends have sought me out in times of crisis or distress.

“I trained at NWRC where I completed my Certificate in Counselling in 2006. I then went on to complete my HE Diploma in Counselling, and on to join Lifeline, a 24/7 Crisis Service for Northern Ireland.

“Now I’m lecturing in counselling, I’m passionate about getting more counsellors trained and qualified because they are so badly needed. People often ask me what skills are needed to be a counsellor and I usually tell them: a passion for helping others, a good listener, a capacity to look after yourself, and, being committed to an ongoing journey of personal reflection.

“Counselling is a way of life for me now – it’s not just something I go in and do every day, it’s the way I am. People begin to heal the moment they are heard, that’s a powerful statement. I can’t think of any other job that gives you that.”

Returning to NWRC as a lecturer, Michelle says she’s come full circle.

“It feels good to be back,” she said. “It’s a privilege and a huge responsibility to do this.

“The courses in Counselling at NWRC are demanding but extremely rewarding. Our students work hard to maintain a good work/life balance. You will be challenged to look at yourself, and what you believe in. Personal Development is one of the most important skills you’ll learn.”

Michelle is particularly excited to be lecturing on NWRC’s new Level 5 in CBT beginning in September. This course is for already qualified counsellors allowing them to develop CBT skills and theory as an integral part of their professional counselling.

The Counselling Portfolio at North West Regional College has an extensive range of courses catering for those interested in pursuing careers in counselling & mental health. In recent years there has been increasing demand for these courses.

All counselling courses are delivered by qualified counsellors who are actively working in clinical practice. Tutors are qualified in various areas such as Integrative Counselling, Person-Centred Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Children and Young People, Family Systems, & Psychotherapy.

Qualified counsellors can expect to work in community and voluntary organisations, sessional work, GP Practices, Schools and Private Practice.

Prospective students can enter at different levels as there are courses aimed at complete beginners and others which are only suitable for qualified counsellors. There are also taster courses for those who simply wish to test if this is a subject area of interest.

The college currently has two pathways for students new to counselling.

The first is the CPACB which includes a 12 week introduction course progressing into Level 2, which require no formal qualifications, successful students can then progress to Level 3 and 4.

Alternatively, students can study the Level 4 certificate in counselling studies, a course validated by Ulster University. Successful completion of the Level 4 Certificate allows students to progress to a Level 5 (Foundation degree) in Counselling.

From September 2022, NWRC is introducing 2 new courses for qualified counsellors: the Level 5 Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Skills & Theory and the Level 5 Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling.

As demand for places in counselling courses is quite high, applicants are advised to apply early to secure a place on their course.

Counselling courses are available in Strabane, Strand Road and Limavady Campuses.

For more information contact Curriculum Manager Kim Boyle on or log on to

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