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or Psychotherapist

about therapy. If he or she is not available at that moment, then ask when you can call at a more convenient time. Ask when the first available appointment could be made. If it is too long until you can get an appointment and you feel the need to be seen immediately then ask for a referral to another therapist. The average wait is less than a week.

Does the counsellor limit his or her practice to a particular type of client? Does the counsellor do family or couples therapy if necessary? What type of therapy does he or she use? What type of experience, training, and qualifications does the counsellor have?  How long are the sessions, and how often does the counsellor generally schedule sessions? And of course, what is the fee?

Tell the therapist that you want to talk to a few other potential therapists and you will call back if you decide to make an appointment. Give yourself some time to think over and digest your feelings about the phone conversations. Then choose a therapist and make an appointment for an initial session.

After You Have Left Your First Session

Assess carefully your reaction to how it felt. Was the counsellor open to the manner in which you presented your story? Did you get a sense that you could be comfortable with this counsellor? Did you feel a sense of connection with the counsellor? Remember that each therapist creates a different environment and you have to decide if the atmosphere felt right to you. Do you feel that you will be able to trust this counsellor? Did the counsellor push you to reveal things that were uncomfortable too quickly? Were your needs listened to? Did the counsellor behave in a professional manner? Did you feel comfortable about the goals that you two were able to set?

A Word of Caution

If you feel that the counsellor is setting goals for you which are based on what the counsellor considers is important for you to change and these goals are not your own, then be wary. At times counsellor will unwittingly introduce their own unresolved issues which influence their treatment decisions. This is something to watch out for. For instance, if you mention that you are in an unhappy marriage and yet you are going to therapy to get over stage fright, and the counsellor says you have to work on your marriage first, then he is a counsellor to avoid. That counsellor may be dealing with unresolved personal relationship issues which are influencing his or her judgment in regard to your treatment. This is rare, but it is something to be aware of.

Never let the counsellor perform any action or ask you to do anything that is against your morals and values. If a counsellor ever asks you to do something unacceptable and does not respect your wishes then leave immediately. Counsellors are in a position of power and at times try and wield that power by saying "I know what is best for you." As with any profession, there are a small percentage of bad counsellors who will abuse this power. Remember, never do anything that is against your values.

A counsellor should never touch you without your permission. Some counsellors will put their hand on your shoulder once they know you to offer support, but if such a gesture makes you uncomfortable then tell the counsellor. If he or she does not respect your wishes then leave immediately.

If you ever have a particular problem or disagreement with your counsellor, it is vital to bring this out in the open. Disagreements will inevitably arise, this is part of the therapy process. You should watch out for counsellors who don't listen to your concerns or don’t apologise for mistakes.

Counsellors are expected to uphold the moral and legal standards of the counselling community. Clients should be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.

The following are behaviours that are not ethical for a counsellor:

Any sexual approach is unprofessional for a counsellor. Asking you to remove any of your clothes, or touching you in any way without your permission is unethical. Having romantic encounters or even asking to see you outside of therapy is also unethical. Be wary of counsellors who try to elicit help from you for their own problems or charities or outside business interests. Counsellors may bring up personal anecdotes to assist with your therapy, but the focus should not change to dealing with the therapist's problems.

Though these situations are rare, if you believe that your therapist behaved in an unprofessional manner then discuss this behaviour with the counsellor, and if there is no satisfactory resolution, then contact the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy to begin the complaints procedure.

Finishing Therapy

The recommendation to finish your therapy can come either from your counsellor or from your own self-appraisal. Ultimately, the choice to end therapy is always yours. You may be encouraged to discuss your decision, but a good counsellor should always respect your judgment about when it's time to go it on your own. Although the cost of therapy can affect the way you approach the process and what counsellor you choose, the length of treatment should be based on more important factors.

What Should I Look for in a Counsellor or Psychotherapist?

Whether you see a Counsellor or a Psychotherapist, you should make sure they are registered, either with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), or with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Both of these organisations issue codes of ethics to which their members have to keep.

Accreditation takes some years to achieve and involves a great deal of training and experience. Many counsellors and psychotherapists are working towards accreditation. They can, in the meantime, be members of either BACP or UKCP. This doesn't mean that they are registered, but is an indication that they abide by the Code of Ethics of the organisation they belong to. Many will be good counsellors or psychotherapists and some will have a lot of experience.

There are many different kinds of counselling and psychotherapy, numerous different training and certificates and so on, so much so, it can be difficult to know what it all means, who you can trust, if the person is properly qualified and so on. All the evidence shows that of most importance is choosing the right person for you. Of course you want your therapist to be competent and to have done the training but it’s also important  how you feel with them, ask yourself if you feel comfortable telling this person intimate details of your life; do you feel safe with them; do you like the way they act towards you; do you feel respected and heard?

If you are at all concerned about a potential therapist's credentials, do not be afraid to ask them what training they have done; do they have regular supervision of their work; what experience they have had; and what is their code of ethics? It is your right to interview a number of practitioners before making your choice (although you may feel fine about the first person you see, too!). You will usually be charged you for this initial interview. In the U.K., you will expect to pay an established, experienced therapist anything from forty to fsixty pounds per session. I personally charge fifty pounds. You may be able to arrange a limited amount of free counselling through the NHS and your doctor, though you may have to wait a while.

Many times your doctor will refer you to a therapist that he or she knows personally. Sometimes the referral to a therapist is not based on familiarity with the therapist's ability or practice; rather it may be based on a personal friendship, a mutual referral arrangement, or geographic location (such as being in the same building).

The best way to locate a therapist is through a recommendation from someone who has a problem similar to yours and has had a good experience with that particular therapist. Since it is unlikely that your acquaintances will have a similar problem and be willing to tell you about their therapy, it is good to have other options.

The telephone numbers of therapists and counsellors can be found listed under “Counselling and Advice” in your Yellow Pages phonebook. Professional organisations such as the “British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy” maintain referral lists of qualified therapists. If a therapist receives any complaints, the organisation is available to evaluate and resolve the dispute. If consistent problems occur, the therapist will be removed from the service. As most of the organisations require that the therapists maintain the highest level of professionalism, a therapist from a service such as the “British Association  for Counselling and Psychotherapy”, has of necessity been exposed to extra screening.


Be careful to protect yourself. Just because someone says they are a therapist does not mean that they have had any training. People can call themselves a therapist, a psychotherapist, an analyst, a counsellor, a marriage counsellor, a hypnotherapist, or a sex therapist and not have had any formal training. If you choose a counsellor from the list of accredited counsellors provided by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, you can be assured that the counsellor will have the necessary qualifications and/or experience.

Before Calling the Counsellor

First decide if you want a same-sex therapist or one of the opposite sex. If you are apprehensive about therapy then choose the sex of the therapist with whom you feel most comfortable.

Next find out how much you can afford for therapy. Assuming that therapy is once a week, then figure out how much can you afford to pay for four sessions in a month.

Questions to Ask on the ‘Phone

Ask the potential counsellor if he or she has a few minutes to talk to you

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