The following has been adapted from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website, which is the main regulatory body for counselling in the UK.
You should expect one or a series of confidential, professional appointments of up to an hour in length in a suitable private setting.
- Service provided when you wish to make changes in your life.
- An opportunity to make sense of your individual circumstances.
- Contact with a therapist who helps identify the choices for change.
- Support for the individual during their process of change.
- The end result leaving you better equipped to cope in the future.
There are many different, valid ways of undertaking therapy. In most cases, though not always, you would be offered a chair to sit on.
They usually work face-to-face employing a range of techniques to suit your circumstances. However, the internet now enables some therapists to use a mixture of telephone, email and video conferencing.
Different therapies have different styles. For instance, in cognitive behavioural and sex therapy there will be 'homework' to do. In bereavement therapy, there would be a lot of emphasis on supporting you through some difficult emotions. A psychodynamic counsellor would look at your past, while another type of therapist might focus solely on your life in the present day. Some therapies concentrate on the future.
Many approaches regard your developing relationship with the therapist as a kind of model which may reveal the patterns of behaviour that cause you problems. Others look at your family relationships and who wielded the power in your house when you were growing up. Others focus on your thinking style and changes in behaviour. There are big distinctions between therapy where you do most of the talking and those which involve much more of a dialogue. But don't worry, whichever approach is adopted you should be able to make the changes you are looking for. The first appointment, sometimes called an assessment session, is an opportunity to explore issues that could affect the relationship between you and the counsellor/psychotherapist as well as your personal needs for counselling.
The goal of any talking treatment is your increased self-awareness, skill acquisition and independence. During therapy, you may develop some feelings of reliance upon the therapist. Although a normal reaction it can, at times, feel worrying. But an experienced therapist knows exactly how to handle these feelings and is genuinely interested in helping you make progress.
Therapists practise in all walks of life and all parts of society – from an NHS clinic to the boardrooms of top companies. They are trained in situations as diverse as coping with anxiety and bereavement, relationship difficulties, educational dilemmas, sexual and racial issues, and personal problem-solving, as well as helping victims of child abuse and trauma.
Ask about the time, place, cost and duration of meetings plus any charges for cancelled appointments and holidays. You may also wish to enquire about the counsellor or psychotherapist's professional membership, experience and training. During this time you will build up an idea of what is involved and you will be able to make up your mind if this is a person you can work with. It is important to be clear about what you want and what the practitioner is able to offer.
Everything you discuss is confidential between you and the counsellor or psychotherapist. There can be certain legal exceptions and the practitioner should clarify this with you prior to the establishment of any agreed contract for working.
All BACP therapists need to be in supervision which is a form of consultative support and must therefore discuss their work with at least one other person. But a supervisor is also bound by rules of confidentiality so in practice there is no likelihood of any breach of trust.
Counselling at SCARD is completely free of charge. Elsewhere, costs can vary widely – fees are usually higher in the big population centres – so it is important to establish how much you will be paying before entering a mutual contractual arrangement. You could expect to pay anything between £10 and £80+ per session.
If you are on a limited budget then fees can sometimes be adjusted to meet your situation and your ability to pay.
Students can seek counselling/psychotherapy from staff employed by their training institute, university or college and special or no-fee arrangements may apply. Always check beforehand.
During the assessment or first session be prepared to trust your instinct because your relationship with the therapist is at the heart of the work. If you are unsure about the practitioner seek another one. Having confidence in your practitioner is very important and will enable you to get the best out of the time you spend together. Always remember it is you who are the customer.
Every effort will be made to see you at a time to suit. Sometimes demand for individuals or in organisations for counselling/psychotherapy can mean waiting lists.
You cannot. A person cannot be 'sent' for counselling or psychotherapy. They must wish to use the service and make the approach themselves. By all means, find out the names of therapists on their behalf but please encourage a direct approach by the person who needs the help.