How Do You Choose A Counsellor?

Research shows that choosing the right counsellor is the key to a successful counselling experience. WJ reader Margaret Fenson from Thame says the choice is bewildering:

“When you go to see a counsellor how do you decide what sort? One of the women in our office has done a part-time course and styles herself ‘BACP accredited’. But she also calls herself a psychotherapist. Jennifer in the office says her Mum is a counsellor yet she trained for five years more or less full time. To confuse us more, Roderick said over lunch that his father has been a psychotherapist for nearly 30 years and had to train in London for seven years. Do all these people do the same thing and how on earth do you choose between them?”

Many people are confused by the word “therapy”. Not all of them are practising therapists. For instance, I work as a counsellor four days a week. Over 20-odd years I’ve built up a busy London practice. But I also work as a psychotherapist doing longer-term work, and as a sex therapist. I also supervise other counsellors and therapists. And I’m a marriage counsellor. I’m properly qualified to do these jobs with framed certificates on the wall including my “BACP” from the British Association for Counselling not to mention my “Accreditation”. But it might take me pages to explain exactly what my work involves.

Therapy means “curative powers” and “healing”. But when you talk to therapists they say they never offer “cures” – in the words of Leonard Cohen “there ain’t no cure for life”. Psychotherapy just means “talking treatment”. The problem here is that anyone can pretend to be a psychotherapist just as anyone can pretend to be a doctor by offering “Healing Medicine” or “Alternative Cures for Diabetes”.

The Government has NOT regulated the talking therapies despite years of lobbying. Therefore common sense says it’s important to trust only those practitioners who are properly registered with a large ethical organisation. So look for the initials such as“BACP” (The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy),  or “UKCP” (UK Council for Psychotherapy) after a therapist’s name. Safeguards are now such that any therapist on these registers is better regulated than many a doctor or lawyer.

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