How to get what you want from private counselling (part two)
Welcome to blog 4 of 2022. Each month we focus on a topical theme of counselling therapy, which I hope will help you in your decision to seek therapy and support you on your journey.
When you opt for private counselling, above all you're paying for the opportunity to choose. You want accessibility, flexibility and more. But how can you get the counselling you want? This month we continue with your search for a counsellor in private practice.
Keep Time on Your Side
It's easy to underestimate the level of commitment required for counselling. The frequency and duration of sessions will not only depend on your preference, a counsellor will be guided by their practice or modality and an assessment of the issues that you wish to address. As a result, you may be offered sessions twice-weekly, weekly or fortnightly. These may be 45 minutes, 50, 55 or an hour and you will usually be expected to attend regularly and consistently for a fixed or open-ended period.
Consider your schedule as well as the counsellor's availability. If you need some flexibility around appointments, be sure to make this known.
So what does this mean for you? Consider your schedule as well as the counsellor's availability. If you need some flexibility around appointments, be sure to make this known. Don't be tempted to settle for a practitioner who cannot accommodate your needs. Opting for a counsellor who has a busy practice but will try 'to squeeze you in' when you are working a rolling shift is not ideal.
A certain level of comfortability is required for counselling to be fully effective. Try to avoid entering into an arrangement that is likely to lead to missed appointments or any stress around appointments. These things can happen but a regular occurrence may impede your progress. It won't help you to accept the offer of a regular 2 pm appointment when you know you'll
have to rush to collect your children from school.
Stick to Your Budget
The cost of counselling is a concern for many and is generally viewed as costly. However, the cost of private counselling in the UK varies across the country, with averages of between £10 to £70 per session (NHS 08/12/22). Be aware that some private practitioners charge the same or less than 'low-cost' counselling services whose charges may range from £15 to £45.
When you make the decision to begin counselling, you're investing in yourself. If you're struggling to justify the cost of private counselling, comparing it with other weekly expenditures may help put things into perspective.
When you make the decision to begin counselling, you're investing in yourself. If you're struggling to justify the cost of private counselling, try comparing it with other weekly expenditures. Looking at the cost of eating out, entertainment, social events, hobbies, subscriptions, health and beauty treatments, holidays etc., may help you to put things
That said, consider your budget carefully. Remember: modality will have a bearing on the number of sessions you may need to attend (see Part One https://www.marypascallcounselling.com/post/how-to-get-what-you-want-from-private-counselling-part-one) and will therefore affect the overall cost of your counselling. You could consider saving prior to beginning counselling, rather than budgeting weekly or fortnightly. Alternatively, it may help to know whether a prospective counsellor offers a sliding scale, concessions, fixed fees or a flexible payment arrangement. Don't be afraid to ask - most counsellors are used to such enquiries.
If you're considering fortnightly rather than weekly sessions, make sure you're prioritising your counselling needs. Seeing a counsellor fortnightly rather than weekly, in order to save money, may be counter-productive. A fixed number of weekly sessions may be more beneficial than open-ended fortnightly sessions.
Cost does Equal Quality
No matter the fee, you have the right to expect a good standard of counselling. Many assume that the price of an item, clothing, for example, reflects the quality of the goods or, at least, the popularity of the brand. It won't pay to use this approach when you're choosing a counsellor.
A counsellor charging £100 for an hour's sessions will not necessarily offer better quality counselling than a counsellor charging £50 for a 45-minute session.
A counsellor charging £100 for an hour's session will not necessarily offer better quality counselling than a counsellor charging £50 for 45-minute session. And remember: counselling is not just about the counsellor's ability; for counselling to be effective, you will need to fully engage with the process.
Got to Be There?
Accessibility is a practical consideration. Do you want face-to-face counselling in your local area? Or are you prepared to travel? If so, how will you get there? Do you require parking facilities? Any travel costs will need to be included in your budget. And what about the counselling premises? Are they accessible for you? If there are steps or stairs, is there a ramp or a lift? Is there an accessible toilet?
Online or telephone counselling may feel more convenient for a variety of reasons, including accessibility: you needn't be limited to counsellors in your area; appointments are easier to schedule when you don't have to take travel time into account; as you don't have to travel, you only have the cost of sessions to consider and you can have sessions in the comfort of your chosen space. That said, online and telephone counselling is not for everyone; opt for suitability rather than convenience.
All in the Detail
You may be required to agree to a written or verbal contract outlining limits of confidentiality, number of sessions, payment arrangements, cancellation charges etc. This is common practice. If you can, ask to see or discuss the contractual agreement before booking your first session. Some practitioners include a sample of the agreement on their webpage or will forward a copy to you before your first session.
If you're presented with a contractual agreement during your first session and you're not happy with the terms, raise this with the counsellor.
If you're presented with a contractual agreement during your first session and you're not happy with the terms, raise this with the counsellor. There may be room for change but if the counsellor is not open to discussion and the agreement does not work for you, move on, and continue your search. Agreeing to terms that you are not happy with now may cause problems for you later and could affect the counselling relationship.
Take Time to Choose
During your search for a counsellor, your decision-making process may be influenced by a sense of urgency. Try to remain aware of this and allow yourself time to cone to a decision. It may not be wise to settle for a counsellor who says: 'I don't usually counsel for anxiety', if this is what you wish to address. Let your choice be guided by your needs, preferences, the therapists credentials and any sound recommendations. All the best in your search!