A Guide to Finding a Independent Counsellor
by Matt Ridley
This is a guide on how to find a counsellor that works independently and is not linked to a GP or a counselling organisation.
To many people, the world of talking therapy is a scary unknown, and there can be a lot of confusion when it comes to finding a qualified and competent counsellor.
Where do you start looking?
Are they properly trained?
How do I know I can trust a new counsellor?
I'm sure there is an endless list of questions that people ask and with good reason...
Believe it or not, there are no laws to say who can or can't work as a counsellor, as long as they don't outwardly lie or mislead, anybody is free to set up shop and offer private counselling. Given the delicate nature of the profession I find this fact to be rather astounding. I know from experience how important the Counselling relationship can be as you're encouraged to be open and honest, to bare your innermost to a complete stranger. For this trust to be broken or manipulated could be devastating.
I firmly believe there needs to be more governmental regulation brought into the profession. At present a counsellor has to choose for their self to be a member of a governing body such as the British Association for counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) or another similar agency. This comes at a cost and you have to fulfil certain criteria in order to be a member (shown below).
When looking for a counsellor, I would recommend finding someone that is a member of a governing body. This usually means they are expected to adhere to certain minimum requirements to allow for ethical and safe practice.
I am a registered member of the BACP (MBACP), so for the purposes of this blog I am going to use them as an example.
The BACP are there for support, guidance and perhaps most importantly they play the role of ensuring accountability amongst its members. Privately working counsellors that are not a member of the BACP, or similar agency, are possibly working with zero accountability. This I find to be a scary prospect.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”
John Acton (1834–1902)
BACP membership requires a counsellor to do the following:
Be suitably qualified
Adhere to the BACP's Ethical Framework
Attend regular supervision with a qualified supervisor
Hold relevant professional liability Insurance
Further their understanding by completing regular continued professional development
There are different levels to the BACP membership:
So it's clear to see the benefits of selecting a Counsellor that belongs to a governing body. If however you choose a counsellor that is not a member of a governing body you should look out for the following:
To work privately a counsellor should hold one of the following:
A Diploma from a course that includes at least 400 hours of taught classroom time. (Some courses are accredited by the BACP which shows that there will be certain minimum criteria that the course must abide by)
Bsc (Hons), BA (Hons) Degree
Postgraduate Diploma / MA / MSc
Professional liability insurance:
I would always recommend choosing a counsellor that holds the correct professional liability insurance, this is regardless of professional membership.
Making a Complaint:
If for any reason you are unhappy with the service you have received from a counsellor, the first thing to do is talk to the counsellor about it. It could be that the problem is easily resolved or is a misunderstanding. If you have tried this and not gotten any where or feel you can't do this, then the next step is to speak to the BACP. They will support you and offer the best advice about how to proceed.
Taking the final step:
After taking all of these things into account, the next step is to choose your counsellor. I would suggest setting up meetings with a few different counsellors to test the water and get a sense for who you feel most comfortable with. Everyone is different and what's right for one person may not be right for the next. It's important to trust your instincts and go with your gut.
Counsellors will usually clearly show what experience and training they have had, as well as any professional memberships. However, some good places to start looking for a counsellor that meets the requirements I've talked about are:
I hope that this blog has served to shed some light on the world of Counselling. I wholeheartedly believe in working safely and ethically and I am committed to my clients well being. Please don't forget that the majority of people have positive and growth full experiences of therapy and it can change your life in profound ways.