What is counselling and how can I access it?

Firstly its important to decide what support you need, counselling might not be the best option for you. Before deciding on counselling take a moment to look at the other options available to you. Please see Is there any support for mental health, can I talk to someone?

Counselling aims to help you to explore and understand your feelings in a safe and confidential environment, and to think about ways of coping with the changes in your life. You will be encouraged to express your emotions freely. By discussing your concerns with you, the counsellor can help you to gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, as well as identifying ways of finding your own solutions to problems. 

Most counselling is based on seeing the same counsellor once a week for up to an  hour. It may last for a fixed number of sessions, or it may be open‑ended and you and the counsellor would decide between you when to finish. You can usually expect to go for several regular sessions of counselling before you start to notice a difference in how you feel.

Your counselling sessions should be confidential, and your counsellor will not share what is said in your sessions with anyone without your agreement (unless they have concerns about your safety. 

You should make sure your counsellor is a member of a professional body (such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy), which has a code of conduct and a complaints system.

How to access counselling

Discuss how you feel with your GP, who can refer you for free NHS counselling. Your GP might also suggest a local private therapist, who will charge a fee (often negotiable) and will offer unlimited sessions.

You could possibly access free counselling from other sources, such as your employer, or trade union. Some local and national charitable organisations offer counselling services, as do some local societies for blind and partially sighted people. Other voluntary counselling organisations in your area may also be able to help. 

The cost of counselling varies according to where you live and the experience of the counsellor. Some charities offer low‑cost or sliding scale charges based on income and some therapists adjust their fees according to your income.

You can find your nearest local charity or support group on the Sightline Directory by entering your postcode and the search words 'counselling' or 'support group'.

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