Finding someone right for you is a process – don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel a good connection with the first person you try with your search!
There is a great deal of jargon that can be hard to navigate, but taking the time to find someone right for you is worth the effort.
At the bottom of this post, there are some options for no- and low-cost counselling and therapy in the UK. I also work with small and medium-sized organisations who are looking for fixed-term sessions for an employee. Get in touch if you would like to know more.
#1 Make sure they’re qualified
📌 Finding a counsellor or therapist who is registered with a membership organisation means you’ll find someone who is qualified and required to meet certain ethical standards.
The terms “counsellor” and “therapist” aren’t legally protected in the UK unless (oddly) you are looking for an art therapist. This means anyone can call themselves a counsellor or therapist.
I’m registered with the BACP (counsellors and psychotherapists), but there are others such as the UKCP and BABCP. You could also search directories who check credentials such as Counselling Directory, Psychology Today and the Black and Asian Therapists Network. These often include more search categories if you are looking for something specific; for example, a therapist who is LGBT+ affirmative.
#2 What kind of therapy?
There are hundreds of different types of therapy out there – it can feel like a minefield. Top points:
📌 Most counsellors and therapists integrate various therapeutic approaches. But they largely fall into one of three camps: cognitive behavioural; humanistic (e.g. person-centred); and psychodynamic. If you want to know more about different types of counselling and therapy, here is a useful online guide.
📌 If you aren’t sure, reading the online directory profiles of some counsellors and therapists near you can be helpful. What speaks to you?
📌 The research shows that your relationship with the counsellor / therapist is more important than the type of therapy in terms of success of the therapy.
#3 What do you want from counselling / therapy?
Before starting your search, consider your therapy goals. Some questions to ask yourself:
💡 Do you struggle with a specific aspect of your life such as addiction, grief or social anxiety?
💡 Do you have a timeframe in mind? Some clients are looking for short-term therapy (e.g. 6 sessions), others are looking for a longer term arrangement. What’s best for you?
💡 Are you looking for a counsellor or therapist with specific training or lived experience?
💡 Are you looking for online sessions or in-person sessions?
The answers to these questions will help guide you in the process.
📌 Is there a difference between “counsellor” or “therapist”? Some say yes, some say no, some say maybe. I always suggest having a chat with the counsellor / therapist first to get a feel for how they work and see whether that matches what you’re looking for.
#4 Take your time with profiles
Make yourself a cup of tea or beverage of your choice and take your time to read through the profiles. What appeals to you is very personal, and it’s worth taking the time to check out what potential counsellors and therapists say.
- Do they use language that appeals to you?
- Are they in a location that’s convenient or offer online therapy (if that’s what you’re looking for)?
- Is this someone you might feel comfortable talking to about what’s going on for you?
Take your time and shop around if you can – you absolutely can approach more than one person!
#5 Ask for an initial call
You only need to reveal what you are comfortable telling potential counsellors/therapists. However, it can be useful to explain a little about what you are looking for so that you can get a sense whether they are right for you.
📌 I offer a no-charge initial call by phone or Zoom. It usually lasts about 20 minutes. Look out for a further blog post on what to ask in that initial call!
On the initial call, some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you feel heard and understood?
- How do you feel talking to them?
- Do they have availability for when you want to have sessions? They may offer a wait list, but you don’t need to compromise on your mental health if you would rather speak to someone more quickly than they can offer.
You should never feel pressured to book a session. Going with your gut is important. If it’s not a good fit, then that’s ok!
#6 You can change your mind!
You might decide after the first or a few sessions that it’s not the right fit for you. You may also decide after some counselling or therapy that you want a different kind of approach. All of this is completely ok – it’s your mental health and your life.
You get to decide what’s best for you.
📌 Check your counsellor’s/therapist’s contract for how much notice you need to give to cancel or postpone a session.
No cost / low-cost options
There are many services available throughout the UK offering no- or low-cost counselling / therapy, although there may be a waiting list and you may not get to choose your counsellor or therapist.
NHS: Counselling or therapy provided through the NHS should be free of charge. You can approach your GP for more information and MIND has some guidance here on discussing your mental health with them.
IAPT: You can also self-refer directly to a local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service which should be free.
Third sector organisations: these often provide counselling / therapy on a no or low cost basis. You can search by postcode here. Some national charities also offer lower cost therapy and counselling, such as Anxiety UK.
In the Manchester area, these are some useful organisations to check out for low or no cost therapy / counselling:
- South Manchester Centre for Counselling
- Face To Face
- 42nd Street (13-25 years)
- Manchester Low Cost Psychotherapy Clinic
Photo by Melissa Thomas