How to Find & Vet a Counsellor

Tips and advice for searching for a counsellor in the UK. How do you find a safe & qualified counsellor without succumbing to an unqualified fake? This article offers advice and suggestions on finding a suitable therapist.

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How to Check if a Counsellor is Legitimate.

Counselling, Therapy & British Law.

A current problem (2011 when I wrote this article, and still current in 2014) in British Law is that counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, spiritual/religious counselling, alternative therapies (and so on) are not regulated by law. 

Anyone can set themselves up as a “therapist” or use the word “counsellor” without (legally) requiring any formal therapeutic qualifications to prove their ability to practice as a counsellor.

This situation leads to counsellors not being required have to have any insurance.  They don’t have to be answerable to a professional body to oversee their practice.  These therapists can advertise themselves as a “counsellor” without actually having any training, qualifications, nor any actual experience as a professional intended to help you therapeutically.

Some organisations use ‘counsellor’ in forms such as “Travel Counsellor” or a “Debt Counsellor” – and by the true definition of the word counsellor they’re not intending to mislead the public into thinking they’re offering a therapeutic approach to your mental well-being.

Unfortunately, by the lack of British law, that the responsibility lays on the client who is seeking counselling/therapy to find someone who is appropriate for their treatment.

Going through a GP may not be enough (limited to offering only NHS IAPT treatment … often with a waiting list) to gain access to suitable counsellor. 

All of this can leave a person at risk when trying to find a counsellor who is not an unqualified fake.

Help in Finding a “safe” counsellor.

There is good news, though.

Finding a qualified, experienced, professionally accredited and insured counsellor can be straightforward if you know some helpful things to look out for. This article describes how to find a suitable counsellor – and offers some topics to check out with your potential therapist.

At your first meeting with your counsellor, most – if not all – counsellors should not be phased by you asking about any of these topics (in later sessions, however, certain therapists may not answer questions about themselves, but be interested with you in the purpose of your question – keeping the focus upon you.  This is a legitimate approach to some forms of counsellor (i.e. psychodynamic / psychoanalytical) but I mention it here for your knowledge).

Search Counsellors’ Professional Bodies’ Online Directory.

An easy way to find a suitable therapist is to use a professional counsellors’ body that offers a “find a counsellor” type of service. The counsellors listed may have had to pay for an entry, but would also have had their qualifications checked before being allowed to pay for an entry in the list.

… however, if you wish to find your own counsellor – or you would like some advice on what to check out about your potential counsellor – then click the next page for…

“The iCounsellor’s Guide to Finding a Counsellor“.

2 replies on “How to Find & Vet a Counsellor”

It is unbelievable that this industry is not yet regulated and I actually wonder what the government are thinking of? It most certainly is not the health and well being of the public nor is it to protect and value those of us with a full portfolio of qualifications, ongoing professional development and clinical supervision.

Unfortunately, this leaves the general public vulnerable, especially those with mental health issues and enduring complex needs. At best they are being financially abused; but at worse could experience inappropriate practice, behaviours and interventions, which have potential to harm.

Interestingly, practitioners with little or no qualifications will protect their lack of academic backgrounds and qualifications by giving the impression that this is not essential, whilst caring and having insightful intentions is more valid.

Most will not be aware of the need to have a DBS, CPD, Mandatory training including life saving, H+S, data protection/FOI, ethics, insurance and supervision.

I believe this issue should be addressed without delay to protect the public and the profession.

A chap from Pakistan was asking on a Social Network group (for professional counsellors) if anyone could recommend a 3-month training course to become a counsellor.

He had “dabbled” in counselling people a bit, and so thought he would be a good counsellor because he “listened well”.

His qualifications were in a scientific field (beyond degree-level).

It was put to him that he was a danger to his clients. That counselling was not “done” to people, like the approach a scientist would employ. That he didn’t know… what he didn’t know… about why he would be dangerous to people’s mental health. That he aught to be looking at several *years* (not months) of training and practice before qualification.

His reply was: “LOL, but I become bored after a few weeks”.

In the UK this person would be allowed to practice in without any legal restrictions for claiming to be a counsellor (maybe there are laws that could be manoeuvred to fit the damage he would cause in retrospect).

I’m not a fan of regulation – but if this is what we who have worked to become qualified, to become experienced, who have obtained professional membership accreditation, who continue with monthly supervision and CPD, practice in an ethical manner, would have to go through in regulation to prevent Mr Pakistan from setting up shop and causing harm to others… then I’d go through regulation.

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Other sites of interest: Counselling via Skype, Online Zoom Counselling, Havant Counselling & Counselling for LGBT Couples