Categories
Articles

How to Find & Vet a Counsellor

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“.

Categories
FAQ

I need Paperwork Completing by my Counsellor

Confidentiality is vital to the counselling work and to our professional therapeutic relationship.  Even when a client believes that breaking that confidentiality might assist them in some way, I will still have a say on whether or not I will comply with the client giving their permission. 

Ideally, the client(s) and I will discuss such matters before the client(s) take such action.  Where no such discussion takes place, the client may wish to be aware that operate with certain boundaries in these matters:

  • Solicitors letter – If I receive a letter from a solicitor asking to give information on our case, I will – for reasons of protecting confidentiality – decline to comment on our case.  This will be so even if you give your authority for me to discuss our clinical work with a third party. Due to the paramount of the confidential nature of our therapeutic relationship I will not reveal any contents of our work, nor will I confirm nor deny if you have been in counselling with me.  It is important that a client is aware of my position in these matters as to assume that giving your permission to your solicitor for him/her to contact me may surprise you by my response if you are unaware of my position. If I am required to write a response to your solicitor I will make a charge for doing so – even when it is to decline to respond to the request for information about your therapy with me.
  • Attendance forms for a Student-of-Counselling‘s Therapy Hours – I will co-sign a form that you have prepared/completed that shows the number of sessions that you have attended.  I will not reveal any information about our counselling work.  Attendance forms that I am required to complete on your behalf (e.g. noting dates of your attendance)  I may agree to complete this with you after first discussing it with you, however  I will make a charge for completing the form and I will not reveal any information about the content of our work.
  • Sponsorship/application forms – if I am asked to co-sign a form on your behalf (e.g. housing application form) I will decline.
  • Summary of Sessions (eg Insurance) – Some insurance companies that fund counselling on your behalf may request that I summarise our work for them (eg a treatment plan, measurements & a written summary of each session – or an overview of the counselling work).  It is important that you are aware that I will decline to do this.
  • Receipt – if you require a receipt for your payment for counselling I will provide one that only shows your name, the amount the session cost, that the receipt is for counselling, and my name.
  • Most other letters and/of forms that you (or a third party on your behalf) ask of me will require a discussion between you and I before I make my decision, but I will still not break our agreement with respect to confidentiality.  Should I not invited to discuss this with you, my position will be to decline to give a response to any such requests.  My position is that I will not choose to break the confidentiality of our work.

Charges for completing forms.

Should we have discussed, and I have agreed, to complete forms as discussed within the boundaries above, my charge will be my standard hourly rate for the type of therapy offered to you – rounded up to the nearest hour.

Categories
FAQ

How do I Find & Verify a Therapist?

Searching for a Therapist.

It’s an unfortunate truth with UK law that, presently, anyone can set themselves up and describe themselves as a “therapist” or a “counsellor”. They are not legally required to have to have any formal training, any qualifications, any experience, any insurance, nor do they need to be a member of a professional body that oversees & regulates their therapy practice.

People like these exist – some look quite legitimate – and they can make finding a properly-suitable therapist quite dangerous for the layman.

However, when you know what to look out for, professionally qualified therapists can be easily recognised.

Even if you are still unsure that a therapist/counsellor you’ve found is legitimate or not, the following questions put to the therapist will help you decide.  Do not be afraid to ask your potential therapist to proove their legitimacy!

Vetting Questions to ask a Potential Therapist.

Any of these questions would be appropriate to put to a therapist (private, NHS, charitable, spiritual, religious etc) during the first interview.

  • What are your formal qualifications to practice as a therapist – or are you still in training?
  • Who awarded you your qualification? (Check that the awarding body is also a suitable member of a recognised professional body) -or- who is overseeing your practice whilst in training?
  • If you have no formal qualifications, and are not in training, what is your rationale for offering me therapy?
  • What professional bodies are you a member of … and what is your membership number?
  • If you are not a member of a professional body, what are the circumstances around this?  Was it your decision not to be a member?
  • Does your professional have different levels of membership (e.g. member, accredited member, senior accredited member) – and, if so, what level of membership have you attained?  Are you aware of the next level, and are you working towards it?  If you are not working to the next level, what is your rationale?
  • How do you regularly ensure that are practising to your best (e.g. do you attend regular supervision, or are a member of a group supervision group)?
  • When was your last training course or self-directed learning (continued professional development/CPD)? (Check that the therapist stays up to date with current learning).
  • Do you have indemnity insurance – and who is it with? How does your insurance protect me as a potential client of yours?
  • (If appropriate…) … having learned of my/our needs for therapy, what will be your treatment plan for me/us?
  • Is your treatment suitable for my needs?
  • Have you offered this treatment before?

Trust your Instincts with the Answers.

How do you feel with the therapist’s responses to your questions?  Were the answers given freely?  Some therapists – later on in the therapy – will not immediately answer questions, preferring to investigate the nature of the question first (psychodynamic/psychoanalytic is a legitimate model of therapy, albeit different from other models), so it might be best to bare the therapist’s response with this in mind.

How does the therapist appear to you?  Does the therapist’s website and marketing material give the appearance of professionalism?  For example, does the website look healthily maintained, or is it a bit out-of-date/bedraggled?  Do the marketing materials look professionally produced, or kind of written on craps of paper in crayon?

Services such as VistaPrint can give a professional appearance to anyone in return for some money – but these services also produce rubber-stamp images (i.e. the choices of branding can be used by anyone, over and over again).  Looking professional is a good indicator of the professionalism of the therapist, but on its own it’s not an indication of the therapist’s qualifications, practice or experience.

In addition with the above questions information, if you meet with the therapist consider the following:-

  • Do you have a feeling that the therapist is someone you want to work with?  If not, don’t … and find someone else.
  • Does the therapist at least attempt to answer the questions helpfully, or evasively?
  • Do you know of anyone who has previously seen this therapist for treatment?

Bear in mind that there is no legal requirement for any of the above considerations to be set in place, so you are responsible to protecting your own well-being.

[button type=”small” color=”orange” permalink=”3989″ br=”yes”] Click for a more detailed article on this subject…[/button]