So, you’ve decided you want or would benefit from some counselling.
Next step: how do I find a counsellor that’s right for me?
There seems to be a million different types of therapists and counsellors offering services, especially on social media, all speaking a different sounding language at times. This can make it hard and perhaps overwhelming to know where to start.
This blog will break down some of that language and provide you with some things to consider as you set about trying to find yourself a counsellor.
Understanding the UK landscape – protected and non-protected titles:
The first thing that I want you to be aware of is that in the UK counselling and psychotherapy are not legally protected titles. This means that literally anyone can set up shop and call themselves a counsellor, therapist, psychotherapist, therapeutic healer…..terrifying, I know!
Note: some psychology titles are legally protected: this means that those practicing with these job titles must be, by law, registered and regulated by the HPCP (Health & Care Professions Council). These include titles like Art Psychotherapist, Music Therapist, Clinical Psychologist, Counselling Psychologist, Educational Psychologist. For more information about the HCPC and the designated titles they protect, see here: https://www.hcpc-uk.org/about-us/who-we-regulate/the-professions/
The role of the professional body
For non-protected titles like counselling / Counsellor, psychotherapy / Psychotherapist, it’s not just a free for all. There are several professional bodies who are responsible for setting the standards for the profession and granting professional membership and accreditation status for practising professionals.
Here are some of the professional bodies for this field of work:
• The BACP – British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
The BACP is one of the leading and largest professional bodies for counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. It provides a recognised and respected ethical framework by which it expects members to abide by. All member counsellors are expected to have achieved appropriate qualifications and have a certain amount of experience in supervised practice. The BACP holds a register of practitioners who have trained, qualified and practice to the BACP’s standards.
• The BABCP – British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapists
The BABCP governs therapists who practice in Cognitive and Behavioural methodologies, such as CBT. They promote, improve and uphold standards of CBT practice, supervision and training in the UK and Ireland, and hold the voluntary register for accredited cognitive behavioural psychotherapists.
• The BPC – British Psychoanalytic Council
The BPC is the professional association for psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and holds the accredited public register for those practising in this modality.
• UKCP – UK Council for Psychotherapy
The UKCP was set up to promote and maintain high standards in the practice of psychotherapy in the UK. Accreditation is achieved through accreditation courses offered by these members organisations. The UKCP is also the awarding body for the European Certificate of Psychotherapy.
As a psychodynamic counsellor, my professional body is the BACP. As a registered member of the BACP, I have demonstrated and met the high standards of proficiency, professionalism, and ethical practice they require. Part of my commitment to the standards set by the BACP mean that I undertake regular supervision for my clinical work, and that I attend regular and continued professional development so that my practice is always being developed and improved upon.
My professional training has been accredited by the BPC.
Registered or accredited – what’s the difference?
To become a registered member of the BACP I have to have qualified as a psychodynamic counsellor, following close to five years of rigorous and accredited training, supervision, professional practice, and passed a Certificate of Proficiency examination. On meeting these thresholds I am entitled to use the designatory letters ‘MBACP’ after my name.
Following on from registration, and on completion and demonstration of further training, practice and supervision I will become an Accredited Member of the BACP. As an Accredited Member of the BACP I can use the designatory letters ‘MBACP (Accred.)’ after my name. The journey to accreditation is not a short or easy one. It can take several years to gain the experience and additional training required to meet the Accredited standards of practice, post initial qualification.
Check the registers!
So, by all means, find your preferred counsellor on social media, or using search engines or local directories, or word of mouth from a friend….but please always double check the relevant professional body register for peace of mind.
You’ll usually find details of professional membership or accreditation status by the designatory letters used after the counsellor’s name. A quick copy and paste of these letters into your search engine should get you to the website of the professional body and from there you can usually find a professional register to double check.
You can double check the BACP register to see if your counsellor is listed and at what level (MBACP or Accredited) here – https://www.bacp.co.uk/search/Register
Other things to consider:
Once you have found or double checked prospective counsellors against the professional registers, here are some other things that might be helpful to consider:
• Types of session available
Would you prefer to work in person, or via telephone / online video? Does your preferred counsellor, and is appropriately trained to offer this?
• Specialism / topic
Are you coming to counselling looking for support for a particular thing? Like, for example anxiety, or relationships, or self-esteem. If so, make sure that your counsellor has experience in working in these areas.
• Practical factors
Consider your budget, accessibility and location requirements. Counselling is a commitment, and it’s got to work for your circumstances.
While everyone will have their own preferences and experiences when it comes to qualities of a professional, asking around for recommendations can be a good method to help you find a counsellor.
• Try them out
Most counsellors offer a few different ways of getting to know what working together might be like. I offer an initial 20 minute phone call, and then a 50 minute assessment session – these provide us both with more of a feel of what the counselling process and relationship might be like. There are no obligations to move from these initial discussions and explorations into counselling should you not want to.
The future is changing: SCOPED
It’s important to know that the future of the profession in terms of standards and qualification is changing. I feel that the various professional bodies have recognised how confusing it can be to individuals, government and commissioners seeking counselling and therapy services when there exists various different registers and professional bodies.
In answer to this, a shared framework for the profession is being developed: SCOPED (the Scope of Practice and Education). This is being developed by six Professional Standards Authority accredited bodies, including the BACP, the UKCP and the BPC. For more information about SCOPED, please visit: https://www.bacp.co.uk/about-us/advancing-the-profession/scoped/
A summary checklist:
• Check the professional registers for membership and accreditation status
• Check training background and experience
• Ask for recommendations
• Check for specialisms and mode of counselling offered – does it suit your needs?
• Consider budget and practicalities
• Try them out!