Become a school counsellor or school psychologist
Many school counsellors and school psychologists first saw the value of these roles when they were at school. New South Wales has had school counselling in public schools since the 1940s.
About the School Counselling Service
The School Counselling Service includes school counsellors and school psychologists. Our staff work with teachers, families, school executive, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community.
School counsellors and school psychologists support students by:
- providing counselling to students individually or in groups
- assessing students with specific wellbeing and learning needs
- working collaboratively with teachers and specialist staff
- helping families understand and manage their children’s learning and mental health needs
- liaising with external agencies and other mental health professionals to provide coordinated, wrap around support for individual students.
The NSW Department of Education currently employs over 1,200 school counselling staff working in all public schools from Pre-School to Year 12 across a diverse range of school settings in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas of New South Wales.
Martin Fraser, School Psychologist, Allambie Heights Public School
I'd never really considered psychology as a career and never even aware of it, but I was fascinated by people, and then just coincidentally doing a couple of psychology electives and feeling like something clicked for me, and that was where a passion was and where I wanted to go.
I actually never even realised, just with the psychology, no education background, that I could work in a school.
Angela Helsloot, Principal, Allambie Heights Public School
Martin's an active school counsellor in the fact that he's not a person that believes he just sits in an office.
He sees his role in our school as integral to supporting everybody. And so with that, he will meet with parents, he will meet with staff, he will visit classrooms, he will run group sessions in our classrooms and in the playground.
I do a lot of group intervention as well. So working with a small group of people and focussing on common themes or areas of interest and needs, it's consulting with other staff and families.
There is an element of assessment as well, which can be academic, social, you know, assessing various risks and needs to young people.
Lauren Brincat, Senior Psychologist, Education
Sometimes people have a bit of a, I guess, preconceived notion as to what school counselling looks like. A lot of people are quite familiar with psychology in movies, which is lie down on the couch and tell me your feelings, tell me about your childhood.
However, we're working with a really diverse group of young people from ages 3 through to 18, sometimes older, from different cultural backgrounds, in rural and remote areas, as well as in our metropolitan cities as well.
So I think some people are quite surprised when they know how integrated our service is within the school.
In my previous roles as a psychologist, I found working with adults and older populations that there had often been mental health issues present for a long time without ever accessing or receiving the right support.
And so for me, the principle of early intervention is going back to the younger ages when people are first starting to present with any kind of difficulties and trying to support them at that point.
And for me, there was no arena that made more sense than to work in the school system.
His ability to work with staff, to work with students, and to work with parents actually just has everybody on the same page.
And sometimes those conversations are difficult to have with all stakeholders. And so Martin's calming presence and his knowledge is invaluable to us as a school community to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all.
When you're working as a psychologist or a school counsellor, you're often working with quite emotionally demanding situations, and so if you are working in isolation, it could could lead to burnout.
So it's really important within my team, within the department, that we support one another to make sure that we're delivering, I guess, the best service to our young people.
The positive outcomes we do see working in the school environment is actually one of the best privileges of the job because you are part of that community.
So there's no greater feeling for me than when you can help someone else or be part of a positive aspect of their journey in life.
You can make such a difference in a role like this. And at the end of the day, if that's something that drives someone, I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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Justin Whyte, School Counsellor
I feel very fortunate to be working in schools as a school counsellor, but with a teaching background.
Pina Fanggidae, Principal, Strathfield North Public School
Our school counsellor Justin is very much a ‘hands on’ school counsellor. He’s always ion classrooms.
The advantages of Justin being a school teacher before and having that expertise and knowledge is he knows how the classroom operates, he knows the curriculum, he understands how students’ learning progresses through stages, and he knows what interventions will work in terms or marrying the learning and the academic with the social-emotional behaviour and other challenges that students might have.
I came to school counselling through a teaching pathway. So, I was a primary teacher for about ten years, just over ten years. I’d always had an interested in the welfare, wellbeing side of teaching, and I really enjoyed watching and supporting the emotional growth of children in my class.
Justin works really closely with our students, our staff and our parents. It’s benefitting the learning needs and behaviour needs, and the different needs of our students.
The role of a school counsellor is very varied. There’s lots of different things we do as part of this role. Assessment and counselling are our two main areas, assessment and intervention I should say really, but our intervention can be supporting our teachers and parents and families, and whole school initiatives as well.
Early intervention and prevention is really key in addressing the mental health of our population.
When I first started two years ago, Justin and I had a conversation together where we set the scene that this would be a partnership. So, he does really feel part of our school and our communities. Not an add-on, he’s not an extra service that we go looking for. He’s a member of our staff.
School counsellors are definitely part of many teams within a school and I think that’s one of the things I love most about this role is the ability to work with people. Often principals and deputy principals ask us for support and guidance in managing very difficult situations.
We don’t always solve everyone’s problems straightaway, we don’t have a magic wand, but when we can see people growing and learning through our in put it’s fantastic and it keeps you coming to work every day.
I’ve been asked a few times would I go back to teaching. And I don’t know if I would now. I’ve been in the school counselling role for a while and I really enjoy the variety that comes with it, and how the role is really valued by a lot of the executive and teachers and families.
I still hugely respect all the teachers I have worked with and continue to work with, but I think I’ve made the right choice with the role I’m in now.
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Working in the School Counselling Service
Download the Career pathways into the School Counselling Service flyer.
For more information on the pathways to provisional or general registration with the Psychology Board of Australia, including accredited psychology courses, visit the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) website.
The NSW Department of Education’s School Counsellor Sponsorship Programs are available to support eligible teachers who are interested in becoming a school counsellor. The different programs are dependent on your current qualifications. Visit Teach NSW’s School Counsellor Sponsorship Programs for more details and to find out if you are eligible.
Recent psychology graduates who meet the requirements for and have submitted an application to undertake a Master of Professional Psychology (School Psychology) may be eligible to apply for the department's Psychology Graduate Scholarship program. Learn more by watching the video below.
School Counselling Service career benefits
Working in the School Counselling Service is a rewarding career and our staff are well supported with access to:
- Professional individual and group supervision and support, including supervision for staff undertaking registration with the Psychology Board of Australia
- Access to ongoing professional learning
- Collegiate networking
- Career development into senior leadership positions
- Opportunities to work in a range of school settings
Rural and remote benefits and incentives available for school counsellors and school psychologists
There are a range of great benefits and incentives available for both school counsellors and school psychologists in rural and remote NSW public schools.
Members of the School Counselling Service working in rural and remote schools may be eligible to apply for a rural and remote relocation support payment of up to $8,000. The payment supports relocation costs of staff taking up roles in NSW’s 153 rural and remote incentive schools.
The eligibility date has been expanded so that School Counselling Service staff who relocated to commence their role from the beginning of Term 1 2023, may be eligible to receive this support.
Stamp Duty Relief payment
Members of the School Counselling Service working in rural and remote schools may be eligible to apply for a stamp duty relief payment of up to $10,000. The payment assists with stamp duty costs for staff who purchase a home near their place of work when taking up roles in NSW’s 153 rural and remote incentive schools.
For more information about eligibility and entitlements, refer to Teach NSW's benefits and incentives page.
Belinda Jones, School Counsellor
So, moving from the coast to Bourke, my initial response was “Bourke isn’t even on my radar”. Rural was, but not Bourke.
But the more I investigated, the more I spoke to people there was just a really good sense I was getting about the place.
What it offered in terms of my own practice and professional development.
The Department of Education were terrific in providing support in terms of conversations over the phone to give me a bit of an understanding about the tea that I’d be working within.
Definitely the Department’s support was a major player in my decision.
Being a stranger coming in from the big city and coming into a particular culture that I’m in has meant building trust. The timeframes to build the trust has been something I wasn’t really prepared for.
Even though I’m an Aboriginal woman, not form the Nation here, I look different. I’ve tried to keep my door open and just be accessible. So, to be out in the playground, going into classrooms.
I’m thankful that my supervisor encourages me because if she had not I’d start to doubting I’m making any difference. Yeah, she just reminds me that it takes time and just keep doing the same thing and be consistent and be reliable and genuine.
One time, where it really just blew me away, where a student who has been…where it has been really difficult came up to me with a group of others and, in front of them, said “You’re my Aunty”, and ah, I thought ‘wow’ that’s a real honour to be called that; and that was the first time that happened.
And since then a couple of the students have just bellowed out, “Oh, that’s Aunty Belinda.”
In the rural setting specifically, I love that aspect of my job that allows me to practice ongoing psychotherapy. So, the school setting provides that direct link.
I also love the collaborativeness that comes with working within the school setting. working with staff with their own talents. Everybody’s good at something.
I feel especially supported by the principal, and the deputies and the teachers. They readily welcome me into their classroom. Really looking to work as part of a team.
The hard work has definitely been worth it. Personally, it’s growing and developing me as a professional.
The rural setting really does provide a rich engagement in an already amazing role.
It’s a privilege to work as a counsellor within the schools.
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School Counselling Service roles
If you would like further details about a career in the School Counselling Service, please contact the following:
For teachers who would like information about becoming a School Counsellor and the School Counsellor in Training Sponsorship opportunities, please email email@example.com
For all other enquiries, including more information about becoming a School Psychologist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org