Have you been waiting or wanting to make a mid career switch to counselling?
Then you would probably have done some research and may have come across programs accredited by the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors Singapore (APACS) and those recognized by the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC).
In this article, I share my internet research on how to become a registered counsellor in Singapore.
Social Service Tribe
During your research, you may have chanced upon the National Council of Social Services website, where they have a page that provides advice for those looking to join what they call the Social Service Tribe as a counsellor.
The page has a section on the education requirements and it mentions that the minimum requirements to be a Singapore Association for Counselling registered counsellor is a recognized postgraduate diploma and with 600 postgraduate clinical hours.
They also have a table with the recommend programmes that link you to the Singapore Association for Counselling’s website for their list of recommend programmes.
SAC vs APACS
But what about the Association of Psychotherapists and Counselors (Singapore) or APACS?
As you do your research you might come across programs accredited by APACS. So what’s the difference between the APACS and SAC?
Depending on how you look at it, APACS could come across as less stringent, or more inclusive.
Accredited vs Recognized Programmes
Firstly, APACS could come across as less stringent or more inclusive is that it accredits diplomas and specialist certificates whereas SAC only recognizes graduate diplomas and master degrees which include a minimum of 100 hours of practicum with 10 hours of clinical supervision as part of the program.
For example, to be a SAC registered counsellor, you need 600 face-to-face counselling hours and 60 hours of clinical supervision, this would be what they call the Clinical Membership. Graduates of SAC recognised programmes would first register themselves as Provisional Clinical Members and have 3 years to meet the requirements toward registration on the SAC Register of Counsellors.
On the other hand, APACS has multiple levels with the most basic level which they refer to as “Level 1: Certified Practitioner” only requiring a relevant degree with 150 hours of supervised practicum which may make hitting milestones seem more achieveable. Level 2 increases the supervised practicum hours to 300, Level 3 requires a relevant Masters degree with 300 hours of supervised practicum and Level 4 ups the supervised practicum to 500 hours.
SAC vs APACS Membership
Both associations have various membership tiers and if you look at the APACS site, their eligibility for student membership is anyone who is at least 16 years old and has expressed an interest in the fields of counselling, psychotherapy, psychology and/or human services and the example they give are nursing and psychotherapy. So its actually very inclusive and even students who have not started their tertiary education can sign up.
In contrast, to be eligible for SAC student membership, you need to be undertaking a SAC recognized programme at the time of application. And just to bring it up again, all their recognized programmes are at the postgraduate level.
Which to choose?
I would personally recommend choosing a programme based on what your prospective employer prefers or accepts. I mean, no point going to an Ivy League university like Harvard to do an MBA and trying to get a job as a counsellor if the organization doesn’t see value in that qualification when looking to fill a counselling role right?
So if you’re looking to join organisations under NCSS, it would be advisable to use Linkedin to reach out to relevant people in your desired organisations and asking if their organisation would employ graduates of programmes not recognized by SAC. Or if you’re shy, just check job descriptions to see if this is a requirement for jobs that you’re interested in.
Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. But, be mindful that if you don’t want to take the time to research and make this decision yourself, a salesperson will happily make the decision for you.
I’m employed at a university which offers a SAC recognized counselling programme.
So please do your own research, exercise critical thinking and make your own decisions!