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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.

[setmeta name=”title”]Ask a Counsellor about Confidentiality[/setmeta][setmeta name=”description”]What to ask a counsellor to check that they protect your confidentiality.[/setmeta][setfeatureimage img=’files/2011/12/3377332163_1b1d0ae3c31.jpg’]

A Counsellor’s Approach to Confidentiality.

Some counsellors publish client-testimonials or allow clients to make comments about the therapy that the client has received.  Some comments are generalised (i.e. no identifying information is allowed in the comments).  Some comments are more specific – referring to specific therapeutic experienced – and some comments clearly identify the client by the client’s full name being used.

When reading these case comments (assuming it is a client who has written the comments as opposed to, say, a marketing technique), ask yourself if you are comfortable with the therapist’s responsibility to protect the client from breaching their own confidentiality.  Has the therapist taken care to amend a client’s comments, or anonymise the name?  Has the client left themselves in an unsafe situation by revealing, in public, the contents of confidential therapy – and the therapist has not intervened?

Some counsellors discuss their casework on forums like LinkedIn.  Will the counsellor discuss you – and do you allow this?

Tip: ask the counsellor: “What is your position about confidentiality when writing statements in public forums like LinkedIn / your website?”

A Counsellor’s Approach to Confidentiality and Case Material.

Some therapists write about their cases on their website as a form of publicity.  Does the therapist state that they have changed names & places? Has the therapist stated that they have received permission from the original clients to use their case material (even if names have been changed, the fact that their story is being used is still a breach of their confidentiality). We might assume that a good therapist would do the necessary anonymising, but has the therapist actually made a statement to this fact?

Would you want your therapy to have been published – even if it was using someone else’s name – without first having been asked your permission to do so?  After being in therapy, would you wish to deny a therapist your permission to write about what you talked about?

Dean Richardson’s philosophy is to seek a client’s informed consent before using their case in case presentations for publication. His intention would be to change all names, places, and any other identifying information or situation. However, even with this procedure in place Dean has actually chosen not to publish cases to date.

On this website generalised statements are made about Dean’s therapy services using a composite of generalised client expressions made through the years.  No client names are ever used.  No specific situations of any specific individual, specific couple or specific group  are ever publicised.  No testimonials are ever used – even with a client’s permission – as this would still breach the confidentiality of the client/therapist relationship.

A Counsellor’s Fees.

Do you understand what the counselling will cost?  Does the counsellor explain to you how any discounts or reduction in fees work? What will absences cost you?

See Dean Richardson’s professional fees page.

A Counsellor’s Supervision.

Therapeutic supervision is a formal meeting in which a counsellor meets with a qualified supervisor (or another appropriately qualified person) to review their clinical work. Sometimes their professional development and their personal development is reviewed too – depending on needs.  A supervisor is not a managerial role, but more of a professional service designed to support the counsellor.

Is the counsellor taking regular supervision? Some therapists’ professional bodies require the therapist a minimum amount of supervision every month (eg 90 minutes). Some practitioners (such as psychoanalysts) are their own supervisor, although they may too seek another professional’s support.

Dean Richardson takes a minimum of 90 minutes supervision a month, increasing this as workload or case presentation demands.

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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