• Fiona Phillips

Is Your Counsellor Qualified?

...And should they be?

The short answer is YES! You wouldn't want a baker fixing your car, or go to a mechanic to discuss health issues... would you?

Scarily, there are currently no laws in the UK regarding counselling and psychotherapy. You could look up an advert in your local paper, or online, and see a totally untrained counsellor quite easily and without realising it. This makes me cross, as it does many other fully qualified counsellors... and I'll tell you why.

Firstly, a reliable and ethical counsellor believes in the wellbeing of others. We recognise that our intense training gives us the tools to work ethically and safely with our clients, and know how damaging it can be for someone to share their issues with someone who doesn't have that extensive training behind them. You would be forgiven for thinking that a counsellor is just a caring, patient, good listener, but I promise you there is far more to it than that.

I have seen and heard of plenty of online training courses for counsellors. By taking one of these courses a well meaning person can unfortunately, quite legitimately claim they are a "qualified proffessional". They may learn lots of theoretical information about counselling, psychotherapy, CBT, mindfulness and countless other methods of therapy. They may learn of the findings and works of our amazing anscestors such as Freud, Jung, Bowlby, Rogers and again, there are many more. Let me take this opportunity to tell you for the record that these lessons are all very important. But are they enough? NO!

To be recognised by a reputable, and professional Counselling Governing Body such as the BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) ,or NCS (National Counselling Society), therapists have to undergo extensive training to be considered safe to work with clients. This training includes learning skills, theories, ethics and so much self-awareness you would find it hard to believe! After 2 years developing the above, we can then undertake another 2 years (minimum) and enrol on a diploma course that fine tunes everything we already learned, requires us to undergo extensive personal therapy, and insists we find a supervised voluntary placement where we give our services for a minimium of 100 client hours (this varies and can sometimes involve up to 400 hours depending on the individual requirements).

  • I estimate my own training route cost me in excess of £10,000.

  • I KNOW that my training pushed me to my absolute limits at times. I had to examine and re-examine parts of my self that I didn't think I needed to.

  • My own personal relationships were tested rigorously.

  • I wondered several times if I was capable of ever qualifying!

I'm not going to lie, there were some extremely difficult times on this journey and a lot of students give up on the way. But I truly believe it was well and truly worth it. I know that it made me capable of helping others, to a professional standard... and what's more, I know I would never have been as capable without this gruelling training beforehand.

Learning doesnt finish after you qualify either. It is highly advisable to find a counsellor who is a member of one of the professional bodies above. This ensures that their training is of a sufficient standard. By being a member of a body, we are bound to comply with their ethics and code of conduct. It costs more money on an annual basis to stay registered, and we undertake a minimum of 30 hours (annualy) of ongoing continued professional training. We're also bound to attend regular supervision, which helps ensure we are working ethically and provides us with ongoing support and guidance on a regular basis. We understand the importance of confidentiality, and are fully aware of all the aspects to this, such as professional note taking, storing information safely and we know how to sensitively manage any safeguarding issues that may arise from time to time, keeping our clients informed and safe in the process.

I have not seen any agency who employs a counsellor who hasn't gone through this whole gruelling process... For good reason.

I guess this just sums my point up.

I strongly advise anyone searching for a counsellor to do their homework. Please ensure your counsellor has had sufficient training from a recognised provider to protect yourself. You are most likely seeking counselling as you're feeling vulnerable and need support. Seeing a counsellor that hasn't had this extensive training may do you more harm than good. A qualified counsellor will work with you without judgement, and to your own agenda. They will not advise you as to what they would do as you are your own person. Instead, they will help you make your own goals and guide you through difficult times, trusting and building your own sense of self and autonomy. Good therapy can be truly life changing,

And you deserve the very best!

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