Here are some of the questions that you may have about how counselling works. Remember, the best person to answer specific questions is a counsellor.
- Will my counsellor respect me as an individual?
All our counsellors should treat you as an individual and will certainly be aware of and respect people’s differences, for example, those related to age, sex, sexuality, disability, race and so on.
- How many sessions of counselling will I need?
This will depend on you. Some types of counselling such as CBT or solution-focused therapy are often six to eight sessions. Whereas psychodynamic counselling will tend to be for a lot more sessions. This is something that you will discuss with your counsellor when you first meet and many counsellors will agree on a set number of sessions with you which they will review with you.
- How long does a counselling session last?
An individual counselling session will usually take 50 to 60 minutes and your counsellor will make this clear to you at your first meeting.
- How often will I see the counsellor?
This is something that you will decide with your counsellor. People often see their counsellor once a week but this is flexible. For example, you may meet once a week at first and then decide together that you want to meet more or less frequently depending on how you feel.
- How much will counselling cost?
If you are seeing a private counsellor, this is something that they will discuss with you when you first contact them. You will usually pay for each session as you go. Depending on the area of the country you are in prices vary. Some private counsellors may offer discounts to those on a low income.
- What if I can’t afford to pay?
Counselling can be paid for by the NHS. If you want to be referred to an NHS counsellor, you should speak to your own GP. (There may be long waiting lists for this service.) There are also a lot of charities that offer low-cost or free counselling. In this case, you can look in your local telephone directory – ask your GP or research on the internet.
- What happens if I have to miss a booked session?
Your counsellor will explain such things as their policy on late or missed appointments.
- What happens at the first session?
It is possible that you will feel quite worried about meeting your counsellor for the first time. But don’t, they will understand this and do their best to put you at ease.
At the first session, your counsellor will tell you all about the practical information you need to know and of course, you will be able to tell them about your own goals for having the counselling. They will give you the guidelines about:
- how many sessions you will have;
- what type of therapy they use;
- how much it will cost;
- what happens if you miss a session; and
- if you can contact them between sessions.
You will also have the opportunity to ask them about things like their experience and most importantly, decide if you will feel comfortable working with them
- What is the difference between talking to a counsellor and talking to a friend?
For most people talking to a friend means talking to someone who knows us well – they will tend to either agree with everything we say or criticise us. They may have their own issues that influence what they will say and, even worse, may talk about the whole thing to someone else. On the other hand, when you see a counsellor everything you discuss will be in absolute confidence. Your counsellor has to keep to a code of ethics which means they will consider your safety and wellbeing at all times. Your counsellor will have both training and experience to make sure they are acting in your best interests.
- What if I don’t like my counsellor – do I have to keep going?
The relationship between counsellor and client is a very important part of counselling – often referred to as the ‘therapeutic relationship’. You do not have to keep going but rather than just disappear, tell your counsellor what you are feeling as that might be a really helpful thing for you to discuss. Perhaps they remind you of someone? If you talk about it you will be able to understand why you don’t like them. Or it may simply be that they are not the right counsellor for you –if you discuss it they may be able to refer you to someone you feel more comfortable with. If you are seeing a private counsellor, you can of course choose the person you want to see but it is likely that if you see a counsellor through the NHS or any other organisation, they will choose the counsellor for you.
- Can I bring a friend with me to the sessions?
You may want to get a friend to go with you to the place you are meeting the counsellor and then ask them to meet you afterwards. Talk about this with the counsellor. It is better not to have another person you know in the room as that may get in the way of you talking honestly about your feelings.
- Is there any age limit for having counselling?
Anyone over the age of 18 can choose to see a counsellor. If you are under 18, you may need the permission of your parent or guardian and you should talk to your counsellor about this. If you are a parent or guardian wanting to arrange counselling for a child or young person, it is best to talk to the individual counsellor. There is certainly no upper age limit – the changes that we experience with ageing mean that counselling can often be very helpful.
- How do I know if my counsellor is qualified?
By using one of our members you have the security of knowing that we have checked their qualifications and experience, they have insurance, and they are governed by our code of ethics.
- Can the Society recommend a counsellor for me?
As a membership body, we cannot recommend a specific counsellor but by choosing a NCPS member you can be assured that they are insured and they agree to abide by the Society’s Code of Ethics.
- Can I speak to a counsellor if I phone the Society?
The team of people who work at the Society provide advice and support to all of our members but they are not able to offer counselling services. If you want to speak to a counsellor please contact one of our members who are all qualified and experienced. You can also speak with your GP who can advise you.
- I have found an advert for a counsellor in the local phone directory – why are they not on your therapist listing?
There are some different professional membership organisations in the UK. It is a good idea to check with any counsellor that they belong to a professional organisation. You can then check that organisation on the website and check that its members have professional insurance and abide by a code of ethics.
- My counsellor says they are a member of the NCPS but I cannot find their name on the therapist listing?
Please contact the Society and we will check our membership files and be able to confirm this with you. There may be a simple explanation but if a counsellor is incorrectly claiming to be a member of the NCPS we will certainly address this.
- Can I ask my GP if I can see a counsellor?
You can certainly ask your GP to see a counsellor. It may take some months before you can see an NHS counsellor. In urgent cases, your GP may be able to refer you to other mental health services.
- Where will I see a counsellor?
You may see a counsellor in all sorts of different settings. It may be in the offices of a charity, in a private consulting room or an NHS setting. Some private counsellors also work from home. The important thing is that you will meet in a quiet and private room where there will be no interruptions.
- Is it confidential?
Yes, it is important that you feel you can talk about things in complete confidence. Your counsellor will not talk about you with others – the only time your counsellor will break this confidentiality is if by not speaking to someone else it could cause significant harm to you, your counsellor or another person – for example, if your life is at risk.
They will explain this when you first meet.
Counsellors generally have a supervisor and they will likely talk to them about your case (without revealing your identity). This is to help the counsellor offer you the best possible service – a similar process to a doctor discussing your medical notes with a specialist.
- Is counselling guaranteed to make me feel better?
A counsellor will never offer to ‘cure’ you. A counsellor will help you understand your issues and provide a safe place where you can work through your feelings. Going through this process will help you to move forward. As you discuss your feelings and issues you may sometimes feel worse before you feel better – all sorts of emotions may surface that have been hidden.
- I am taking antidepressants – is it OK to have counselling as well?
It is likely that when you first meet your counsellor they will ask you about any pre-existing medical conditions that you may have and also if you are taking any prescribed medication. They may ask you to check with your GP before you start counselling (unless of course, your GP has sent you for counselling).
- What happens if I am not satisfied with my counsellor?
In the unlikely event that you are not satisfied with your counsellor, you should discuss this with them (if you are comfortable doing this). We have an independent panel to which we refer any complaints to.
Visit our 'Have a concern' page for more details.
- What kinds of people seek Counselling?
People from all walks of life can seek counselling, regardless of their background. Counselling is there for anyone who is facing difficult times; experiencing issues and needing support or guidance; or needs to talk to an empathetic listener.
- How do I know if I need counselling?
If you are stressed, depressed, anxious or simply not feeling yourself emotionally, you may benefit from counselling. Counselling can help with a wide variety of issues and counsellors are trained to see you as a unique individual and acknowledge your specific needs. Anything said within the counselling relationship is confidential and counselling takes place in a relaxed non-judgemental atmosphere.