PDA Setting up a Counselling Practice SCQF level 8

Professional Development Awards (PDAs) extend or broaden professional or vocational skills and are often linked to National Occupational Standards. The PDA in Setting up a Counselling Practice at SCQF level 8 will allow professional counsellors to develop the skills and knowledge required to set up their own practice.

This qualification covers areas such as the professional standards in counselling and ethics that are relevant to setting up in private practice. Also covered are the fundamental business planning stages to follow to ensure private practice is confidential, safe and viable.

This qualification is available through colleges. It has been designed for delivery as a taught course, and will normally be available as a combination of lectures and self-directed study.

The PDA in Setting up a Counselling Practice at SCQF level 8 has been developed in partnership with education and industry so it is suitable for the sector.

It is designed to support counselling professionals who wish to prepare for self-employment.

The unit-based structure aids timetable flexibility. Units are typically 40 hours of learning and they can be delivered on a full-time or part-time basis.

This PDA provides progression routes to further study (see Progression). 

The target audience is those currently in work, or training to work, as a counsellor and seeking to set up in self-employment.


Entry is at the discretion of the centre. 

Entry requirements

It is recommended that candidates have achieved the HNC in Counselling at SCQF level 7 (or equivalent) as a minimum.

Prospective candidates would benefit from having completed (or be currently working towards) the HND in Counselling at SCQF level 8 or equivalent and/or having experience of working in the counselling sector.

The units of the PDA are also contained within the HND in Counselling, therefore learners may undertake this PDA as a standalone qualification or as part of the HND in Counselling.  Where separate certification is required, learners must be registered with SQA for both the HND and PDA group awards.

Centres interested in offering this qualification require to come forward for approval and should contact SQA's Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA's general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Systems and Qualification Approval Guide.  The specific delivery requirements are set out in the group award specification (arrangements document).

Each individual unit specification gives detailed information on the evidence requirements and approaches to assessment for each unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply and includes extended response questioning and the development of a business plan.

The use of reflection and self-evaluation will enhance learners' practice.

Group award code: GN7H 48 (24 SCQF credit points)

The PDA in Setting up a Counselling Practice at SCQF level 8 consists of three mandatory units: 

Title Code
Counselling: Setting Up a Practice HL9M 35
Counselling: Professional Standards HL9J 35
Preparing to Start a Business H7V4 34