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Can a Professional Counsellor help?

professional counsellor

drawing – en.wikipedia

Professional Counsellor demand in 2016

The latest studies show that there is a trend in the growth of counselling demand. They show that people are now more than likely to seek the help of a professional counsellor for problems with relationships, or self awareness in addition to personality disorders. This allows them to talk to someone in privacy when they feel that life is getting harder to cope with. In one survey over 95% of respondents agreed that it was better to speak to a counsellor about their problems.

The discussion that follows is from an independent standpoint. The European Association for Counselling (EAC) does not train or check counsellors. Their counsellor members are registered to different European Counselling associations. These Associations are responsible for training their members to the EAC professional standard. They provide resources for learning and provide a disciplinary process as well as a code of ethics that must be adhered to.

Who can say they are a counsellor? What qualifications are needed?

First of all one should ask.

So what is professional counselling and what is its potential?

Counselling is an umbrella term covering a range of talking therapies.

They include personal therapy, coaching and careers.

A Counsellor should be trained to a high level both academically and practically. They will be bound by an ethical framework for good practice and professional conduct. A Counsellor can be employed or self-employed. In a voluntary or paid capacity. They can work in a group or on an individual basis. They use their skills to help others understand or explore their emotional problems. Counselling is designed to bring about an effective change or enhance the wellbeing of a client.

Individuals who are facing difficult or painful emotions can find therapy beneficial. Perhaps they want to develop a better understanding of themselves or others. Perhaps something particularly unsettling has happened in their lives. these can include a divorce, bereavement, redundancy these and other things can bring on bouts of stress, anxiety and depression. They are all events that can have a major impact. To such a degree that talking with a counsellor can greatly improve their wellbeing.

These events or any such events may not have developed recently. They could have happened in an individuals childhood but have not been dealt with. In childhood events may include bullying at school or abuse. It should be remembered that there are things and events that a counsellor can not fully deal with. Every counsellor is willing to hold an initial meeting. At this meeting they will either, offer to help or not, even suggest that someone else in the practice may be better able to help. A professional counsellor will never suggest a course of therapy just for the sake of it.

All professional counsellors offer a safe and confidential environment. This is to aid the exploration of a client’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs. They will be skilled in building a comfortable atmosphere so the relaxed client is able to talk. Although, this may take a short while to establish especially where a problem is deep seated.

A counselling session is designed so the client does not feel pressured or talked at. They are able to explore their own feelings. To enhance the opportunity of an effective behaviour change. The whole basis of a counselling session is that the client leaves positive and with a feeling of wellness.

Counselling involves setting boundaries that help the client feel everything is confidential. A counsellor may, with the client’s permission seek to share some of their thoughts with a senior counsellor. This will only happen if it is for the benefit of the client. Such exchanges of information will be confidential. Unless it involves the senior counsellor joining a session, no names are exchanged.

Counsellor Supervision

It should be noted that all professional counsellors are supervised on a regular basis. This ensures that they are able to offer clients’ a meaningful and professional service.

What does a professional counsellor not do?

A counsellor is not a medical practitioner. Although some may have specialised training in which they conduct therapy sessions. They will never prescribe a course of drugs or medication. Even if they are familiar with medication recommended by medical practitioners.

They will never discuss their own problems. Even if they share similar emotional strains as the client. They will never discuss situations shared with other clients.

Can anyone call themselves a counsellor?

Unfortunately, as the law currently stands throughout most European Countries anyone can call themselves a counsellor. This is correct at the time of writing this article. There is no need for training whatsoever. Some European countries are moving toward regulation.

It is the mission of the EAC to have a consensus of opinions as to what common standard can be set so that the whole of Europe works to the same guidelines. This would make it easier for the person seeking help. All counsellors would need to reach a set standard before offering their services. This will be discussed in a later article on this site. It would mean that those who have reached or exceeded that standard would offer their services as European Accredited Counsellors. Those who did not reach the standard would be unable to practice.

There is a voluntary register of standards in the UK. But, as long as it is voluntary anyone can call themselves a counsellor . They do not need to be listed on that register.

It is necessary that anyone seeking the advice of a counsellor checks their qualifications. They must ensure that they meet professional and ethical standards. One way of doing this is to check with the Accredited Member register on this site. Other Counselling Associations should have a similar register. The listed members on this site have all met the EAC standard. They must annually verify that they have continued to meet and improve their training. This is done in counselling by following a career development programme that is recognised by the EAC. These counsellors are also subject to a complaints procedure. If they do not perform to the agreed set of professional ethics and practice they can be disciplined.

What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

This is a question that is often asked. There is no set difference between the two professions. What makes it confusing is that the terms are often interchanged.

Perhaps what could be said in the past is that the counsellor works within a shorter time-frame than a psychotherapist. But, with the advent of “brief therapy” and longer counselling training courses. Many counsellors study to Masters or Doctrate level, the boundary is becoming even more blurred. Let us look at some definitions these are from the UK but similar definitions will be held across Europe:

Psychiatrist:- A psychiatrist is a medically-qualified practitioner who will have spent 5-6 years training to be a doctor. He or she will then have worked as a doctor in general medicine and surgery for at least a year. He or she will then have had at least 6 years of further training in helping people with psychological problems.(1). As such they may prescribe drugs to treat mental health issues. Psychiatrists are normally attached to a hospital.

Clinical Psychologist: In practice, clinical psychologists may work with individuals, couples, families or groups. These include private practices, hospitals, mental health organisations, schools, businesses, and non-profit agencies. Most clinical psychologists who engage in research and teaching do so within a college or university. Clinical psychologists may also choose to specialise in a particular field. Clinical psychologists study a program in psychology plus postgraduate training and/or clinical placement and supervision. The length of training differs across the world. This ranges from four years plus post-Bachelors supervised practice to a doctorate of three to six years which combines clinical placement.(2)

Psychoanalyst: Psychoanalytic therapy is a type of treatment based upon the theories of Sigmund Freud, who is considered one of the forefathers of psychology and the founder of psychoanalysis. This therapy explores how the unconscious mind influences thoughts and behaviours, with the aim of offering insight and resolution to the person seeking therapy.

Psychoanalytic therapy tends to look at experiences from early childhood to see if these events have affected the individual’s life, or potentially contributed to current concerns. This form of therapy is considered a long-term choice and can continue for weeks, months or even years depending on the depth of the concern being explored.

Differing from several other therapy types, psychoanalytic therapy aims to make deep-seated changes in personality and emotional development.(3)

Psychoanalysis, a highly influential method of treating mental disorders, shaped by psychoanalytic theory, which emphasizes unconscious mental processes and is sometimes described as “depth psychology.”

The psychoanalytic movement originated in the clinical observations and formulations of the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, who coined the term. During the 1890s, Freud was associated with another Viennese, Josef Breuer, in studies of neurotic patients under hypnosis. Freud and Breuer observed that, when the sources of patients’ ideas and impulses were brought into consciousness during the hypnotic state, the patients showed improvement.

People who choose this treatment should be willing to commit to sessions two or three times a week for long periods even years in some cases.(4)

Counsellor/Psychotherapist: Counselling is an interactive client beneficial relationship set up to approach a clients issues. These issues can be social, cultural and or emotional and the Counsellor will approach them in a holistic way. A client can be a person, or a family group or even an institution.

The overall aim of counselling is to help clients recognise opportunities to help them live in more satisfying and rewarding ways. The Counsellor can be involved in resolving specific problems which could involve making decisions and helping a client cope when in a crisis situation. The Counsellor can help a client resolve relationship issues, through helping them raise their self-awareness. To do this they will also need to work with the clients feelings, thoughts and perceptions and be aware of both internal and external conflicts.

Preparing to meet a Counsellor

Once a counsellor has been selected and a meeting set up it is advisable to have a prepared list of questions at hand. Although a professionally qualified and registered counsellor will cover what will happen during the counselling sessions the client should ensure that all their questions are handled before the sessions commence.

Do not be afraid to ask the counsellor about their experience and qualifications. Ask them if they are accredited and to which professional body they belong. You ask for their code of ethics and complaints procedure. Does the counsellor meet the qualification for handling your need? Ensure that your discussions are confidential and how if at all another counsellor may be brought into your meetings. Ask what type of treatment will be offered and why that has been selected. Will the treatment last for many sessions or be open-ended. What are the charges and when have they to be paid. Clients are sometimes inhibited from asking questions on the first session has they have just met their counsellor. The questions should be written out and if necessary handed to the counsellor so they can handle them to the clients satisfaction. No professional counsellor will object to these or similar questions being asked of them. It is an important step in building the client counsellor relationship. Helping the client to feel comfortable and to talk freely is a major step in the process


This article was a written as a guide as to what a client may expect from counselling. It is not a definitive guide but stresses the importance of using properly trained and professional registered counsellors. Whilst the skills and academic achievements of the counsellor are important it is more important that the client feels safe in a confidential environment while being respected and liked by the counsellor.


(1) Royal College of Psychiatrists;Health Advice;Treatments & Wellbeing

(2) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(3) History of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy  Counselling Directory 

(4) Psychoanalysis WRITTEN BY:The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica

(5) Definition of Counselling European Association for Counselling


Author David Dutch professional counsellor

Author David Dutch