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The real deal

Counsellors and psychotherapists take themselves very seriously. This is not surprising when you consider that most of us have undertaken at least three years of postgraduate level study. Our training requires rigorous personal development work, not only in group settings but also in private therapy, usually over several years. We never stop learning, or questioning ourselves, in supervision sessions, reading groups, talks and discussions.

All of this matters a great deal, since we work closely with people who trust us with their secret stories and their deepest fears. This is an awesome privilege and responsibility, something that deserves to be taken very seriously.

Being interested in people and willing to listen with empathy and without judgement is just the start. The mix of training, personal awareness and experience that leads to BACP accreditation allows us to stay the course and offer the chance of real, long-lasting help for people who are ready to work with us to find their own solutions. This is not to say that we can help everyone; knowing our limits and how to safeguard clients, as well as ourselves, is important.

Taking all this seriously, there are several things that bother me. One is this:

  • all of the above - training, therapy and continuing professional development - cost money, as do insurance and fees for professional bodies, websites and directories. Yet the opportunities to earn money as a therapist are sparse. Qualified counsellors, who would rather gain experience for no pay than not work, find unpaid posts in NHS services, schools and colleges, even at charities where clients pay for sessions. Can this be right?

Another thing:

  • anyone can advertise counselling or psychotherapy services without the in-depth training and continuous learning described above. Anyone can create a website and offer mindfullness or behaviour modification techniques, which can be very helpful to many people but are not the same as counselling. So, how does a member of the public know who to trust?

  • Turn this question around - given that there is a large national umbrella body for counselling and psychotherapy, BACP, that collaborates with other serious psychotherapy bodies and the government - why not select someone in your area from the BACP Find-a-Therapist directory at and, for added reassurance, someone who has passed the complex post-qualification assessment to become a BACP accredited member?


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