Friday, April 19, 2024

Addressing the Dilemma of Unpaid Placements in Counselling Education



Working as a counsellor and a counselling student, I am greatly distressed for the growing problems which results in unpaid placement in the system of education. The story of Nariman Dein, a young ambitious psychologist, whose higher education was interrupted by the necessity of taking up unpaid work placement positions, highlights a deeper issue affecting students at multiple levels of study.

The 200 hours of placements and 40 hours of supervision are much needed part of the counselling educational programs. Nevertheless, this demand for counsellors who are actively practicing and registered with counselling governing boards poses a great challenge. The result of the study reveals that professionals who are competitively committed will regularly achieve more than is expectant of their supervisory hours before they enrol for the formal attachment (Smith et al., 2020).

L lived through the same situation as other students with social inequalities. The financial pressure of unpaid internships is unreasonable and unfair which specifically falls on the individuals who cannot afford to lose out on paid employment opportunities. Research has shown that those who do unpaid placements have a higher probability of dropping out of school or switching programs, while those who experience financial difficulties also have a greater likelihood of quitting or altering their program (Jessup et all 2022).

Furthermore, the personal consequences of these obstacles are not overestimated. As shown by the work of ( Hodge et al (2021) under-paying internships were associated with increased anxiety, depression and burnout in students who were forced to work there. The struggle to manage academic loads with pragmatic training needs and financial restraints of students from homogenous backgrounds can lead to a variety of mental health difficulties.

University Accord' report (2022) drawn this very picture with "placement poverty" phenomenon and that is why a systemic change is so much needed. The report is focused on the funding of placements, especially the most critical field of all, mental health counselling, where practice is pivotal.

As a proponent for change in the counselling community, I encourage the stakeholders to see the wider context of unpaid placements for students and its impact on their well-being and professional development. A paid placement scheme not only promotes diversity and inclusiveness but also allows prospective counsellors to follow their dreams of higher education without worrying about financial stability and mental health.

The bridge between academic standards and real-world needs could enable the creation of an educational terrain that supplies the children of the caring and competent counsellors.


Durack, K. T. (2013). Sweating employment: Ethical and legal issues with unpaid student internships. College Composition and Communication, 65(2), 245–272.

Hodge, L., Oke, N., McIntyre, H., & Turner, S. (2021). Lengthy unpaid placements in social work: Exploring the impacts on student well-being. Social Work Education, 40(6), 787–802.

  Jessup, B., Hoang, H., Podubinski, T., Obamiro, K., Bourke, L., Hellwege, B., Jatrana, S., Heaney, S., Farthing, A., Sheepway, L., & Rasiah, R. (2022). ‘I can’t go, I can’t afford it’: Financial concern amongst health students undertaking rural and remote placements during COVID19. The Australian Journal of Rural Health, 30(2), 238–251.

Morley, C., Hodge, L., Clarke, J., McIntyre, H., Mays, J., Briese, J., & Kostecki, T. (2023). ‘This unpaid placement makes you poor’: Australian social work students’ experiences of the financial burden of field education. Social Work Education, 1–19.

Smith, S., Smith, C., & Caddell, M. (2015). Can pay, should pay? Exploring employer and student perceptions of paid and unpaid placements. Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(2), 149–164.

Nariman was forced to give up her career dream because of this 'discriminatory' requirement.

University Accord Report. (2022). Addressing placement poverty: Recommendations for educational reform.

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