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What is counselling?

And things to consider when choosing who to work with

Counselling is a professional service where a counsellor provides a confidential space for you, the client, to explore your identity and address any issues you're dealing with in a confidential setting. This means that everything discussed will remain private.

In the UK counselling is a self-regulated profession, counsellors who sign up to a membership body, such as the BACP or NCPS, agree to follow their ethical framework. The counsellor providing the services should be suitably qualified, membership of a professional organisation indicates that the counsellor is appropriately qualified to identify as a counsellor and is committed to a high standard of good practice. 

In addition to having appropriate qualifications, a counsellor should provide a contract at the beginning of therapy. This contract should clearly outline their work methodology, expectations, and practical details such as session location and cost. This clarity is crucial in understanding how that counsellor operates because although counsellors would to ethical frameworks there is a wide variety of different ways to work within that.

Counsellors can use various modalities, or theories in which they've trained. This diversity can be overwhelming, but it's also a positive aspect. As continuous research and developments produce new methods, counsellors' resources to help clients keep expanding. Counsellors are often drawn to specific ways of working, which is why it's beneficial to ask potential counsellors about their preferred methods.

Just as every client is unique, so too are all counsellors. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. When looking for a counsellor, using directories like the BACP directory or the Counselling Directory, can help confirm that counsellors are appropriately qualified.

You might want to consider the following:

  • The type of person you'd like to work with

  • The training or modality they use

  • Whether you prefer in-person, online, or phone sessions

While it might seem overwhelming, finding a counsellor you like and feel comfortable with is an important factor in determining if the counselling will have a positive outcome. Generally, counsellors are a supportive group of people. While reaching out may feel like a big step, it's worth contacting a few, some of whom even offer free introductory calls, to see who you connect with.


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