Counselling is a type of talking therapy. Counselling involves talking with a professional about your feelings and concerns, and working through these concerns. There are many forms of counselling available for a wide range of problems and many counsellors specialise in particular areas such as addiction or bereavement. All approaches emphasise non-judgemental, attentive listening and respect for the client. Counselling aims to enable people to take control of their own lives, and the counsellor may not adhere to one particular theory.

What to expect when visiting a counsellor

Your first one or two meetings should involve you and the counsellor getting to know each other and deciding to work together. The more information you have about what to expect, the less likely you are to be disappointed. A good counsellor will expect questions and be happy to answer them. You might want to talk with the counsellor about:

  • The counselling approach he or she offers.

  • The length of sessions and how often they are held.

  • How long the counselling might last for and how it will end.

  • How long before you can expect to feel some benefit from the counselling.

  • Is it possible to contact the counsellor between sessions, if you need to do so.

  • The counsellor’s training, years of experience and accreditation. 

    Some counsellors are qualified psychologists, but many are not. Those who are not may have a basic degree or training in other areas and/or relevant work experience (e.g., teaching, nursing, etc.) plus a counselling qualification. These qualifications can vary from Masters degrees to short-term courses. 

  • Whether he or she has experience working with people with similar issues to you.

  • Are the sessions confidential and when confidentiality might be broken.

  • When might the counsellor refer you to another professional.

  • What is the cost per session and whether there is a cancellation fee.

Accessing counselling:

If you are thinking about arranging an appointment with a counsellor, ask about their qualifications and whether they are registered with an accrediting body. 

A G.P. can also recommend counselling services in your area. These might include free, low cost or private options. 

Other options include:

  • Counselling in primary care
    Medical card holders aged 18 and over can access counselling in primary care, if your G.P. thinks it would be of benefit. This is a short-term service offering up to eight sessions with a counsellor. This counselling is suitable for those with mild and moderate depression and other mental health difficulties. Find out more about counselling in primary care.

  • Community and non-statutory services
    Many community and non-statutory organisations offer free or low-cost counselling. Charities such as Pieta House offer counselling specifically for those who are having suicidal thoughts. Agencies such as Aware and Grow offer support groups. Jigsaw offers support to young people. Turn2Me provides online support groups and counselling. Search for supports in your area in our Find Services section.