• First Steps in Counselling: an introductory companion (5th Edition)

First Steps in Counselling: an introductory companion (5th Edition)

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ISBN 9781910919385
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First Steps in Counselling is essentially a book about helping and this fifth edition has been updated and revised with the help of two co-authors; Paula J Williams and Andy Rogers. It is for anyone thinking of becoming a counsellor, working or volunteering in a role that requires helping and listening skills, or simply caring for someone. It explains in clear language what counselling is, the theories on which it is based, how it works and how it is positioned in relation to contemporary debates about culture, politics, language, race and power.

This is not a ‘how to help’ manual; rather it is a questioning, curious, explorative and challenging companion. It aims to be your guide along whichever route you are taking, answer your questions and help you decide if you want to take your interest in counselling to the next steps. First Steps in Counselling remains the text of choice for students and tutors of introductory courses.

With contributions from Eugene Ellis, Igi/Lyndsey Moon and Clare Shaw.




1          First steps

2          What is counselling?

3          The importance of self-development

4a        Where do ideas in counselling come from?

4b        Psychoanalysis

4c        Behavioural and cognitive approaches

4d        Humanistic psychology

4e        Integrative approaches

5          Counselling and helping attitudes and skills

6          Clients: who are they and what they bring

7          Power and oppression

8          Ethics for counselling-informed Helping

9          Limits: what they are and what to do when you reach them

10        Support for basic helping

11        Counselling connections and contexts

12        Questions for counselling in the 21st century

13        What comes next?

14        Endings


Since First Steps in Counselling was first published, every new edition has been a core textbook on counselling and counselling skills training courses.  For this fifth edition, Pete Sanders, Paula Williams and Andy Rogers bring the text up to date with recent developments in the counselling professions.  They offer the trainee and novice helper a rich overview of the role, purpose and value of counselling skills in contemporary helping roles.  They also helpfully chart contemporary challenges, distinguishing professional, social and political features, including the recent tensions in the counselling and psychotherapy professions between medical and psychosocial, non-pathologising interpretations of mental health. This is a welcome update that will continue to provide an excellent foundation text for counselling, counselling skills and mental health training, as well as an invaluable resource for those who use counselling skills as part of a helping role. 

Lynne Gabriel, Professor of Counselling and Mental Health, York St John University

This is a must-have book for any aspiring or trainee counsellor. Let this book be your mentor and travelling companion from day one of your training. First Steps will introduce you to and guide you through the counselling profession, modalities and skills, and your professional and self-development. You, the reader, are the focus of this book, and your journey to becoming a qualified counsellor. This was the first counselling book I ever bought as an aspiring counsellor and it guided me. This new edition speaks to an evolving profession in acknowledging our cultural context and the inclusion of counsellors and clients from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The authors do not  shy away from the significant themes and controversies and the role of identity, race, culture, power and oppression in counselling practice and training. I just wish this edition had been around when I started my counselling training!

Myira Khan, counsellor and supervisor, founder of the Muslim Counselling and Psychotherapist Network

This new edition of First Steps in Counselling is a detailed yet accessible companion for all those interested in counselling. Exploring pertinent themes for contemporary practice, it situates these discussions in the 21st century. It also offers readers detailed and considered reflective questions and activities. It is important for anyone in the counselling profession to be alert to issues of power and anti-oppressive practice throughout their career. However, often students are introduced to these concepts extremely late in their training. It is therefore great to see an introductory text that examines these topics and invites the reader to explore their own relationship with them. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to explore the world of counselling but is uncertain where to start.

Peter Blundell, Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Liverpool John Moores University

That First Steps in Counselling is now in its fifth edition is a testimony to the critical eye cast by its authors as they observe our fast-changing world.  This well-timed update reflects this, bringing into view issues such as how we valorise the different models and approaches, how an intersectional approach to counselling brings into focus issues of power, and also, in a more subtle way, the relevance of the political to the world of counselling.

Yet, what I most appreciate is the willingness of the authors to lean outside of their counselling comfort zones and engage with some of the foremost academic writers in the field for their views on some of these essential topics.  This openness makes First Steps a truly collaborative endeavour, and an essential text for our field.  

Dr Dwight Turner, senior lecturer, counselling and psychotherapy, University of Brighton

First Steps offers a comprehensive and robust guide to new and experienced counselling- informed helpers and trainers at all levels of the UK counselling landscape. This new edition invites us to explore counselling’s foundations, history, theories, contemporary practice issues, dilemmas, debates and critiques, and signposts us on to further reading and future developments. Embedded as a continuous and necessary thread in this fifth edition is the insistence that all helping-relationship practitioners give attention to the impact of difference, diversity, power relations, and the wide range of social justice and equalities issues that result in oppressive practice, if left unrecognised by the helper. This gem of a book, panoramic in its scope, maps out the territory of counselling practice in clear, concise, accessible language, using light-touch, easy-to-follow explanations of sociological and psychological terminologies with humour and humility.  There really is something in this book for everyone, whether you are learning something new or anew. A great counselling reference guide to have on your shelf that does not shirk the big issues or contradictions.

Dr Val Watson, independent counselling and psychotherapy practitioner, supervisor coach, consultant and trainer

First Steps in Counselling continues to evolve in this fifth edition, ensuring that it remains the essential introduction to counselling and ‘counselling-informed helping’ for the 2020s. Paula Williams and Andy Rogers have joined Pete Sanders as co-authors, skilfully blending their voices while each bringing their own distinctive presence, alongside several contributors whose personal experiences and perspectives are all too often marginalised within the counselling field. This fifth edition retains the vision and heart of the original book, thoughtfully restructured, developed and thoroughly updated. Readers are left in no doubt about current challenges and debates. This remains an accessible, rich and thought-provoking introduction aimed at a wide audience of people and makes a clear and convincing case for the fundamental value of counselling and counselling-informed helping for each of us as citizens within our own communities.

Dr Susan Stephen, senior teaching fellow (counselling, psychotherapy & applied social sciences), University of Edinburgh

First Steps in Counselling has been, for many years, one of those key go-to books for any trainee finding their way.  This fifth edition builds on the many strengths of the previous editions, drawing on the additional expertise of Paula Williams and Andy Rogers, both of whom bring their own rich heritage as counsellors to the table.  This seminal text continues to be an essential purchase for anyone embarking on their training and will provide them key insight, navigation and richness of detail, as it has done the many thousands who have travelled that road previously.

Dr Andrew Reeves, associate professor in the counselling professions and mental health, University of Chester

Pete Sanders

Pete Sanders worked as a volunteer at ‘Off The Record’, Newcastle-upon Tyne, in 1972 before completing a degree in psychology at the university there, and then the postgraduate diploma in counselling at Aston University. He practised as a counsellor, educator and clinical supervisor for more than 30 years, and published widely on many aspects of counselling, psychotherapy and mental health, as well as co-founding PCCS Books in 1993. After practising and teaching counselling, he continued to have an active interest in developing person-centred theory, the politics of counselling and psychotherapy, and the demedicalisation of distress.  He died in February 2022.

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Pete Sanders

Paula J. Williams

Paula J Williams is a person-centred counsellor, trainer, lecturer and supervisor based in Scotland. After several years in the voluntary sector, she now works primarily in private practice.

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Andy Rogers

Andy Rogers managed counselling services in further and higher education colleges and now runs a private counselling, supervision and mental health mentoring practice.

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