In order to have the best chance possible of receiving the best quality service and care from your counsellor or psychotherapist, you may wish to ask some of the following useful questions before your visit or at the initial assessment meeting:
It is considered good practice for every counsellor and psychotherapist to belong to a professional body (i.e. organisation) that governs the practice of its members and can offer professional information services, support and further training. There are several such governing bodies that regulate the profession of counselling and psychotherapy and have been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority to have a Register of counsellors. ACC is unique in its support and professional representation of Christians who practice counselling and psychotherapy (and pastoral care). ACC is a government recognised professional body, so anyone who is registered with us belongs to one of these bodies.
You may wish to ask your counsellor or psychotherapist what professional body they are a member of and whose framework for ethics and practice they follow. A link to professional bodies that have been approved by the Professional Standards Agency is provided below by clicking the blue link:
In order to become competent in their work, counsellors and psychotherapists usually undertake a series of courses. Often they begin with an introductory course and then proceed onto a Certificate and/or Diploma course. Counsellors with a Diploma are usually considered ‘qualified’ to counsel. Some psychotherapy and specialist forms of therapy require longer and more intensive training in order to gain higher level qualifications. After their initial training, all practitioners will continue to develop their knowledge and skills through continuous professional development (CPD).
You may wish to ask your counsellor what training they have undertaken in order to work as a counsellor or psychotherapist.
You may wish to ask your counsellor if they are registered and if not, what plans they have for becoming registered.
Accreditation is a mark of achievement. Not all qualified practitioners will have attained accreditation as this requires additional experience and practice beyond training. Accreditation will normally be attained some time following qualification and registration as a counsellor.
Accreditation ensures a high standard of both training and experience gained beyond the basic level of qualification. This means that the counsellor or psychotherapist has obtained a wide range of training, knowledge and skills to be able to help you. In order to gain accreditation, the practitioner will have had to provide evidence of training and experience and been assessed to ensure they meet the necessary standards.
You may wish to ask your counsellor if they are accredited or working towards accreditation.
Counsellors and psychotherapists who work in private practice usually charge a fee. Some counselling agencies also charge a fee or ask for a donation. Some services are free. There are no pricing rules to govern fees so it is advisable to check on charges before or during the initial assessment meeting.
You may wish to ask your counsellor if they charge a fee.
Initially you may need to see the counsellor or psychotherapist on a weekly basis and then less frequently. The practitioner will have some idea of what works best and you can discuss this with them as part of your therapy.
You may wish to ask your counsellor how frequently you will need to attend and for how long.
The counsellor or psychotherapist will be able to give you information about how to contact them in an emergency or if you are unable to attend your appointment. There may be a period of notification and a charge for non-attendance.
You may wish to ask your counsellor what to do if you are unable to attend your appointment and if there will be a charge.
The counsellor will explain how this works for both of you and what options there may be for covering holiday periods.
You may wish to ask in advance what happens about holidays.
While you may have agreed to a contract with your counsellor or psychotherapist and to attend a certain number of sessions or for a particular timescale, you may also decide that you wish to end counselling before that time is completed. If this is the case, you may wish to discuss this with your counsellor in order to ensure a beneficial ending. Progress in therapy can often be slow or static at times. Sometimes you may feel you are moving backwards before moving forwards. This can be part of a normal process as you negotiate difficult issues. If you are thinking of ending counselling it is often helpful to talk this through with your counsellor. However, you are under no obligation to continue with counselling if you are unhappy with the progress, relationship or results.
You may wish to ask your counsellor what to do if you want to end the counselling.
If you are unhappy about something your first option is to talk to your counsellor or psychotherapist about the issue with a view to resolving the problem. If you are unable to resolve the situation, they should be able to advise you on how to complain, either to the counselling agency with whom they work or to their professional body (if they are in private practice). Normally, you will have been offered a contract at the beginning of therapy and there may be information about how and to whom to make a complaint in that document. For more information about making a complaint, click here.
You may wish to ask your counsellor or psychotherapist what you should do if you are unhappy about something.
Within counselling or psychotherapy practices or agencies there is often a mixture of both male and female therapists. You are entitled to request an appointment with the gender you prefer. It may delay your appointment a little if there is no immediate availability, however, the agency will usually try to accommodate your needs. If there is only one gender available within the practice or agency, they may be able to refer you to another service that can meet your needs.
You may wish to specifically request a male or female counsellor.
Counselling and psychotherapy provide the space and offer the opportunity to discuss issues with someone who is professionally trained and skilled in listening and supporting you to explore these issues. The service is confidential within certain limits that the counsellor or psychotherapist will outline to you in their contract and during the initial appointment or ongoing work.
You may wish to ask your counsellor about confidentiality and any limits that apply.