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Seeking counselling or psychotherapy for the first time

If you have noticed you are feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed this might the time to consider seeing a therapist. It can feel easier to try and ignore whatever is troubling you and hope it improves on its own. Perhaps even the thought of seeking help creates its own anxiety though.

How do you choose a counsellor/psychotherapist?

A good place to start are the two main membership organisations in the UK that register counsellors and psychotherapists...

   *   The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
   *   The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)

These two membership bodies set the standard in terms of training and qualifications and only list members who are insured and have met minimum requirements to practice.

There are also directories. Currently the largest two are Counselling Directory and Psychology Today. Both allow you to search by postcode and filter the results if you are looking for a particular treatment (e.g. EMDR).

These directories check that each therapist listed is registered with one of the membership bodies and hold insurance before allowing the listing. Listings hold more information about the therapist than the UKCP and BACP registers, so you can get a better idea of what each counsellor or psychotherapist works with.

Finding the right therapist for you

Using the UKCP or BACP registers, or the directories, it is possible to narrow your search down to practitioners who you might like to to work with. Most will list availability and fees so you can work out even before you contact someone if they might work for you. I list my fees in my FAQ section and on my directory listings.

At this point you might want to reach out and contact several therapists with a few questions. Therapists are aware this can be a nerve wracking process and will not mind at all if you ask what you think might be very basic questions. All questions are valid, so do not be afraid to ask.

You might want to ask if they have...

   *   worked with your issue before
   *   have availability in the evening or weekend
   *   offer concessions for lower incomes
   *   can be flexible with appointments for shift workers
   *   work on a short term or long-term open-ended basis
   *   have an accessible wheelchair access room
   *   are happy to meet you or talk on the phone before you decide
   *   offer online video/Skype therapy if you work away often
   *   are fully insured and supervised in their work

What to expect at a first session

Therapy is very often 50 minutes. At the first session, a counsellor will ask you to outline what brings you to therapy. They may ask you some questions to help them understand what you might need so they can work out how best to support you. The initial session will likely cover your primary relationships, a little of your childhood history and anything else that seems relevant to the issue you are bringing. There should be time for you to ask questions, agree a fee and a time slot that works for you.

What if the psychotherapist does not offer to work with me?

Therapists have to follow strict ethical guidelines. If, for instance, the therapist already has one of your friends or relatives as a client, they will decline to work with you as this would be a conflict of interest. They might also refer you to someone else if they feel you would be better served by another therapist. This might be because they do not have experience or suitable training to work with you. For instance, I do not work with clients whose primary issue is addiction, as this is not an area I have undertaken sufficient training in. It can feel rejecting when the counsellor we have selected is not able to take us on but the therapist should do this in a respectful way and signpost you to other possible help.


Whatever you want to talk about in therapy remains confidential. There will be no record on your medical file unless you ask the counsellor to write to your GP. Therapists are bound by ethical guidelines to maintain very strict confidentiality. If you are concerned about this ask questions via email or when you meet.

What if I do not like my counsellor?

If you meet your therapist and do not feel you can warm to them after a few sessions, tell them. The relationship between the therapist and client is one of the most important elements to a successful therapy. We all have different personalities and will connect with some people more than others. It is completely fine to try another therapist if your first choice does not work for you. The counsellor will be open to talking about this. You do not need to worry about their feelings. Of course, it might be daunting to stop with one therapist and start the process of looking again but finding a therapist you connect with will be worth it.

In conclusion, if you want to learn more about how I work as a therapist, or think you might like to meet me to see if we are a good fit, please use my contact form to make an appointment. I offer counselling psychotherapy in Bromley, BR1 and Deptford, London SE8.