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Our Counsellors & Psychotherapists - who you are seeing

The Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) exists to promote and maintain the profession of psychotherapy and the highest standards in the practice of psychotherapy. The Council for Psychotherapy has the greatest majority of the reputable Psychotherapy Organisations in the United Kingdom as its members. The majority of our therapists belong to the Psychoanalytic & Psychodynamic section of the UKCP but may also be Members of the BACP & the BPS (Counselling Psychologists). Our therapists adhere to the Codes of Ethics and Practice of their own organisation, which are consistent with those  of the UKCP, the BACP or BPS.

Counselling & Psychotherapy Assessment

This London association for counselling & psychotherapy is a London group practice with over 18 Full Associate Members: counsellors, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts & counselling psychologists, with some 15 student therapists who also have clinical psychotherapy & counselling placements with us.

Not all of our counsellors & psychotherapists take first meetings (psychotherapy & counselling assessments).
So, you are only meeting with veteran & fully qualified therapists.

The counsellor or psychotherapist with whom you are having that assessment, might not be the therapist that you carry on seeing. Psychotherapy assessment is about  the therapist understanding in quite some detail about what is bringing you along. The counsellor then discusses the various treatment model options (CBT, Group or Couples Counselling, Individual Counselling, Individual Psychotherapy, short or longer term work), and constructs with you how that can be put together with us here.

Usually with us the counsellor that you meet with will be the counsellor that you agree to carry on meeting with.
But the psychotherapist can and should refer you on to another practitioner in the group should that counsellor not have that right skill-set, or should the psychotherapist feel that a therapy is better undertaken by a different member of the group practice. This is the advantage of arranging a consultation with a professional group practice that covers the field of therapy.

Psychotherapy & Counselling: The Initial Consultation

The initial consultation (an assessment for psychotherapy or counselling) is an opportunity to discuss with the therapist whether a psychotherapeutic intervention (a psychotherapy treatment or series of counselling meetings) might be appropriate for your difficulty, and to agree with the therapist about the arrangements for further counselling meetings here . The Initial Consultation takes about 45 minutes to 60 minutes.

Before going to meet your counsellor or psychotherapist

Arrive prepared for your first psychotherapy session. Spend time thinking about your situation and expectations.
Think about things when seeing a new counsellor or psychotherapist.
Though not a necessity, your therapist should help you explore the questions.
  • Think about the problem you are addressing in the therapy in detail. How does this affect you?
  • Are there things a therapist might do that would prevent you from working constructively with that counsellor?
  • What qualities would you like to see in your therapist? Are there qualities that would help you during counselling?
  • Are there any unacceptable forms of psychotherapy treatment? If yes, what are they? Are there any  treatment forms (orientations) you strongly believe in?
  • Do you have any special concerns when looking for a counsellor?
  • Have you had any previous bad experiences from mental health professionals? Understanding this, the counsellor will be able to grasp more clearly what works for you.
  • Have you had any good experiences with therapists? If yes, what are they? How have they affected you? Again, this will help the assessing counsellor understand what treatment to propose.
  • Have specific questions before meeting your new counsellor or psychotherapist. Taking counselling for the first time can be a difficult experience and most people find it helpful to have questions ready for the therapist.

Counselling & Psychotherapy first meetings - what to ask

Remember, with counselling in the London private sector, you hire your therapist! You can fire your therapist if you feel you cannot work with this therapist for any reason.
  • What are his or her professional credentials? Where did they undertake their counselling, psychotherapy or psychoanalytic training? Where has the therapist worked before? What are they doing in the psychotherapy or counselling field now?
  • Does this therapist have any experience working with people with your specific issues?
  • What treatment methods does this person use (counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are broad umbrella terms, and are a useful first take. Then each of the three has different 'orientations' which allow a more precise understanding of the counselling or psychotherapy proposed, and the aims and direction of the psychotherapy or counselling work. Take a little time to Google the terms.?
  • How do you arrange payment with this counsellor? Each therapist has different arrangements
  • What are that counsellor's terms for meetings that are cancelled, missed or for short breaks & holidays? These are also published - see the list of counsellors and psychotherapists.
  • When and how often do you meet for counselling or psychotherapy sessions?
  • In case of emergencies, how can you reach your therapist?
  • If you are seeking help for anything controversial within psychotherapy, such as DID, False Memories, ADHD, or other counselling issues of controversy, ask your prospective counsellor where they stand on those issues. See the footnote below.
  • Any other questions you feel would be important to ask your counsellor or psychotherapist to help you feel comfortable seeing him or her.

Counselling & Psychotherapy - points to ponder for yourself after the first meeting.

  • Is this a therapist you can come to trust given the time and opportunity?
  • Can you talk freely in the session?
  • Did you feel this person genuinely cares about you?
  • Again, remember, you hire a counsellor, and you can fire a counsellor. This is about working through your difficulties, and it is important you feel comfortable.

Choosing Counselling & Psychotherapy in London: A note of caution:

We do not have counsellors or psychotherapists who have not gone through full psychotherapy training or are not accepted as practitioners by the leading UK umbrella organisations that oversee counselling & psychotherapy practice, or who if still in training are not working with the express permission from their psychotherapy or counselling training organisation that they are competent for meetings. London is awash with therapists, and there are many people practicing things that call themselves 'therapists' but whose treatments are a long way from counselling & psychotherapy models. Such London 'therapists' are without 'licence' & sometimes present their therapy under a religious or spiritual umbrella. It is important to carefully consider your needs before accepting such a psychotherapy, and realise that there are no safeguards, should something go wrong. Therapists' not belonging to UK umbrella bodies for counselling and psychotherapy are not necessarily trained in ethics. Nor do you have any legal recourse if the treatment goes wrong, If you choose a controversial therapy, thoroughly research its pros and cons. If you choose an 'unlicensed' therapist, take extra care in finding one.

We hopes this helps when considering a psychotherapy or counselling, and in choosing a psychotherapist or counsellor or counselling psychologist in London.


What does counselling research tell us?

Counselling research has shown that the technique the counselor uses is not as important as the relationship you build together. As counselling  progresses, you will actually use the relationship between you and your psychotherapist as a workspace, to resolve problems. Because the relationship with the therapist is so essential, it is important to find a psychotherapist in London to whom you feel connected and feel safe.

The process of creating a “safe space” in which psychotherapy or counselling can take place is building a “secure frame,” and is a very important aspect of therapy. It includes the physical surroundings, the emotional environment, the psychotherapeutic structure, and the relationship between you and your counselor. You should expect absolute privacy and confidentiality in psychotherapy or counselling. This assures you that it is safe to speak, because nothing you say can ever get outside the room.

You have a right to expect acceptance in psychotherapy. When you feel safe with and held by your psychotherapist, you may talk about some painful things. You should feel that your therapist will not pass judgement on you, or be repulsed by anything you say. You should feel that your psychotherapist or counsellor will not react negatively, even if you become enraged at the therapist. The counsellor should respond to you therapeutically, allowing all your feelings, good and bad, to be released in a therapeutic frame which is strong and secure enough to hold them.

You start to build a secure frame long before you start counselling. The process begins the first time you consider calling a psychotherapist for an appointment. How do you choose a psychotherapist to call when there are over 300 varieties of counsellors, psychoanalysts, counselling psychologists and psychotherapists in London?

Take into consideration the psychotherapist or counsellor qualifications.

The best referrals are from local London referrals: from a professional who knows the psychotherapist or counsellor professionally;

  • your family doctor,

  • a professional organization,

  • a counsellor or psychotherapist whom you have consulted for the purpose of obtaining a referral,

  • some similar person who is in a professional position to have general feedback that this psychotherapist's clients have worked successfully (and who is NOT themselves a client).

If you use a London psychotherapist or counsellor referral service or directory, especially those online psychotherapy services directories, keep in mind that most of them are commercial services. Unlike us, they may not have screened the therapist; any psychotherapist or counsellor in London who pays for a listing could be included. In other cases, the psychotherapy or counselling service could be restricted to only one variety of therapy, giving you less of a choice.

When you get the psychotherapy referral, you may find out about the psychotherapist or counsellor education, training and experience, and, if you know you have a particular need, the therapists specialty, if any (i.e. alcohol/addiction, depression, family or couples psychotherapy etc.). London counsellors may have a particular “orientation” like psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, cognitive/behavioural, gestalt, solution-focused, etc. It can be traumatic just trying to understand all the various psychotherapies on offer, let alone decide what kind of therapist to see. The letters after a therapist's name cannot reliably be used as a rating system to distinguish between good psychologists and ones offering poor psychotherapy.

Since psychotherapy or counselling  is as much an art as a science, there is a degree of plain old talent required, which is difficult to define with credentials; not to mention human qualities of compassion, empathy and character. To be a competent therapist, one needs ALL of the following:

Start with a master’s or a doctorate in a mental health field  A good London psychotherapist or counsellor has completed an extensive training program (“clinical placement”). It may have been part of the psychotherapist’s academic degree, or it may have been a separate postgraduate program. Some PhD’s and MA’s have academic knowledge about psychological research or medication, but have never had actual training or practice in psychotherapy or counselling . In London, a supervised psychotherapy placement is where counsellors and psychotherapist's learn their trade. After placement, and supervised experience, the therapist has been pronounced worthy by an authority to which they will be accountable. If the therapist doesn’t have all this, find someone who does.

Likewise, research in London has shown that the “orientation” of the psychotherapist or counsellor, and the technique that the therapist uses, is not the biggest factor in psychotherapy or counselling  outcomes. As with credentials, therapists like to say that their techniques are the best. But research in psychotherapy suggests that it has much more to do with the counsellor’s relationship with you.

You've selected a therapist in London to call for an appointment. The hardest part is that first contact. Do judge the relative competence of your prospective therapist.

In your very first contact, you will probably encounter either an answering machine or (less likely) a receptionist if using a psychotherapy service. With either, you only need to leave the following information: that you want to talk to the counsellor, your name, telephone number, email. When you can be reached  At this time, it is not necessary to explain the reason for your call. You need never have to discuss the reason that you want to talk to the counsellor with anyone except the therapist. A receptionist is NOT entitled to know and should not ask.

You shouldn't have to convince the psychotherapist or counsellor to see you. It would be unusual that any London therapist in private practice would not agree to see you at least once, as long as they have time available. Don't feel that you have to "qualify" for the appointment by offering the counsellor a suitable reason. The psychotherapy service receptionist should call within a few hours, certainly the same day.

  • The service receptionist or psychotherapist identifies him/herself.

  • You say that you want to make an appointment for psychotherapy. You mention where you heard about the psychotherapist or counsellor.

  • The London psychotherapy service proposes a day and time no more than a week away. You agree on a day and time.

  • Note: you have to be flexible here; be aware that good psychotherapist or counsellor’s schedules is usually full, especially evening hours.

  • The counselling service gives you clear directions to the counsellor’s office.

  • You confirm the appointment, say goodbye.

Don’t barrage the psychotherapist with extensive details at this time. These are better worked on in session. Do clearly ask what the psychotherapist charges and fees are. In London, this can vary greatly. The psychotherapy or counselling services manner should be professional and to the point.

The Initial Consultation: The therapist should have private offices with a comfortable waiting room. In a good London psychotherapy or counselling service, the therapist comes out to the waiting room, introduces him/herself, and shows you into the consulting room. When you are settled, it's usually up to you to start; otherwise the therapist may prompt you with a general question such as "What brings you along for psychotherapy?" You can describe the problem you are having or anything else that comes to mind. Don't worry about whether you can tell the counsellor everything with absolute precision. The counsellor should be able to help you get it all out. In this first session with the counsellor, you can expect to do nearly all the talking. You can expect your psychotherapist or counsellor to listen actively. While you are talking, the therapist will be listening carefully, and deciding on possible treatment. In order for the therapist to do this, the therapist must listen to you, and not influence what you say. Beware of a psychotherapist or counsellor who talks more than you do in the first session, especially about himself!

Toward the second half of the session, the psychotherapist should indicate whether a psychotherapy can help you, whether the psychotherapist can refer you within the counselling group service to another psychotherapist or counsellor more qualified for your case. The counsellor should then propose a therapeutic structure: a schedule of appointments, a fee, and any other related details. Though you may think, consciously, that flexibility on the part of the psychotherapist or counsellor is desirable, the opposite is true. At this point, you need the therapist to be firm and consistent (like a good parent). Fees and times may seem incidental to the actual therapy; but consistency contributes to the work. The usual psychotherapy is once a week, though you and your psychotherapist or counsellor may decide to meet more frequently; in therapy twice a week is not uncommon. In cases of financial hardship, a therapist may agree to sessions every other week.

Psychotherapy or counselling sessions are typically 45 or 50 minutes. Your therapist will hold you to that time absolutely. If you arrive late, the counsellor will still must stop at the agreed time. Your absences and lateness for psychotherapy sessions, persistent silence with the psychotherapist, wanting to leave therapy, forgetting to pay the counsellor, are often symptoms of "resistance", or fighting psychotherapy. In most cases, you will be responsible for paying for any regularly scheduled counselling sessions that you miss or cancel.

At your first session, the therapist should propose a fee. What is a normal counselling fee? It varies enormously with the area, the psychotherapist or counsellor qualifications, and the psychotherapy services setting. London psychotherapists or counsellors in private practice, may charge anywhere from £25 per session in Neasden, to £150 or more in Mayfair. Non-profit counselling  centres and clinics with sliding scales may reduce the counselling fee significantly. You can ask your psychotherapist or counsellor not to take notes or record your session. If you choose to allow information to be released by the counsellor then your therapist should obtain a consent form from you. If your psychotherapy or counselling is provided as an employment benefit, there should be no requirement for the therapist to report back on the therapy to your London employer.  Many insurance schemes though now intrude on this right: discuss it through with the therapist if it happens. We hopes this helps when considering a psychotherapy or counselling, and in choosing a psychotherapist or counsellor or counselling psychologist in London.