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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A Counsellor’s Insurance.

Does the counsellor have indemnity or civil liability insurance?

Dean Richardson is covered by civil liability insurance and public liability insurance.

A Counsellor’s Commitment to Continual Professional Development.

Does the counsellor make you aware that they attend CPD (a form of continuing their training and experience throughout their practice). Some professional bodies, such as the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, require that the therapist obtain a minimum of 30 hours CPD per year.

Does the counsellor make known the history of their CPD?  If so, this may be of interest to you.  If not, perhaps you might ask the therapist what was their most recent training experience or what they learned from it.  Perhaps a therapist who has not engaged in new learning recently might be able to justify to you their philosophy behind this.

Dean Richardson seeks a minimum of 30 hours CPD / year including attending workshops, studying literature & participating in online forums.

A Counsellor’s Marketing Claims.

Does the counsellor  make claims about being “the best”, or “the most effective” or “most choose me”? 

In 2012 I saw (and challenged) one counsellor who had the Google advert: “The UK’s Leading Counsellor”. Considering that there is no quantifier for counsellors to be judged as  ‘leading’ or otherwise, claims of this sort are unsubstantiated and against their professional body’s requirements for membership. (The counsellor took down the advert shortly after receiving my enquiry about how she – or her marketing company – was quantifying her claim).

If the counsellor makes claims of “I’ve helped hundreds…” or “80% of people rate me as ‘the best'” – how does the counsellor substantiate that claim whilst protecting each of their clients’ confidentiality? 

Whilst it may be a legitimate marketing technique to use superlatives to describe a service or product, can the counsellor substantiate their claims about themselves and their practice to you in the real world? 

It may be worth you asking the counsellor to provide evidence to you of the claims being made.

Website: does the therapist website look as though it is professionally produced?  When was the last entry added to the website – a week a go … a year ago … longer?  Does the website give contact information, a local postal address, the counsellor’s professional membership (ie someone to whom you can complain if the counsellor is less than legitimate)?

Printed Material: does the counsellor’s printed material read accurately? Does it give you a sense of professionalism?

Dean Richardson produces and maintains his own website and all marketing material and adheres to his professional body’s requirements (The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy).

This website is his main professional practice’s website.

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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