It can be hard to know how to find a counsellor or psychotherapist, particularly if you’re going through a difficult time. It’s good to do some research, and to think about the practicalities. Engaging in therapy involves prioiritising ourselves, which we might not be used to doing. We have to be prepared to share of ourselves as fully as we can by being honest with ourselves and our therapist about our experience. Therapy also involves a commitment of time, money, effort and energy.
Here are a few suggestions and pointers for things to consider, along with some other places you can look for a therapist (apart from here!). If you’re wondering what the difference is between counselling and psychotherapy read this.
Availability and timing
If you want to find a counsellor or psychotherapist at a time that’s convenient for you it’s good to think about your availability. Do you work full-time during the day on weekdays, so can only meet in the evenings or weekends? Do you work shifts? Is your work part-time, or are you self-employed, retired or unemployed with more flexibility? These are all important considerations to be clear about for yourself when first making contact with a therapist. Also, bear in mind therapists’ schedules can change, from one week to the next.
Some therapists have more flexible schedules; I tend to allocate a particular time slot to a client and we stick with that. I work weekday daytimes: five mornings from 07:00 and two afternoons up to 17:00.
The cost of counselling and psychotherapy
The cost of therapy can vary, depending on your location. What therapists charge is a personal matter, taking into consideration factors such as room hire and professional expenses like supervision.
Can you afford to commit to full-cost weekly therapy? It’s good to be clear about this for yourself, and upfront with whoever you contact. If you can’t afford full-cost weekly therapy, it’s worth considering lower-cost therapy: some therapists allocate a certain amount of their time to working with lower-cost clients. It’s worth contacting a therapist to check what’s possible.
If you’re on a low wage or unemployed, there are some free or very low cost services available, for example:
West London Centre for Counselling (for Hammersmith and Fulham residents, or people working in those boroughs).
There are also local branches of Mind, including:
Sometimes the trade-off is there’s a waiting list for such services.
Frequency, duration, pace and length of counselling and psychotherapy
Therapy usually takes place once a week, especially in the earlier stages of working together when establishing a working relationship. Most therapists offer either 50 or 60 minute sessions.
The frequency, pace and length of therapy is something to discuss when you first meet with a therapist. Are you looking for something short-term and if so, how long a time do you mean by that? Are you realistic about what’s possible? I don’t like to specify a time frame: it can take time to establish an effective working relationship and to develop our work. I like to review our sessions every few weeks, to check in with you about how our work is going, to ensure it’s proving helpful for you.
Other places to find a counsellor or psychotherapist
A standard way to find a counsellor or psychotherapist nowadays is by looking online, such as on the sites listed below. Do you have a recommendation from a friend or relative? If so, it’s good to check out the therapist’s credentials to make sure they’re registered or accredited with one of the main counselling and psychotherapy bodies in the UK.
Counselling Directory is a national directory of counsellors and psychotherapists that you can search by location, name, and the issue that you’d like support with.
Pink Therapy is the UK’s largest independent therapy organisation working with gender and sexual diversity clients (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and those who identify as being gender- or sexually-diverse in other ways). They have a searchable directory.
Are you in crisis or looking for other support?
If you’re in the UK, in crisis and in need of urgent support, I suggest you contact one of the following:
Samaritans offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal.
Befrienders are a worldwide organisation providing support to prevent suicide
The Listening Place Face-to-face support for those who feel life is no longer worth living
Maytree A sanctuary for the suicidal in North London
Nightline Students there for students
Rape Crisis 0808 802 9999 (365 days, 12pm-2.30pm, 7pm-9.30pm)
Domestic Violence UK If you’re experiencing domestic violence
Childline for younger people
Switchboard the LGBT+ helpline
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and are under medical supervision I would encourage you to contact whoever is involved in your care, or to go to your local A&E department rather than find a counsellor.