Guidance and Advice

Free Advice for anybody considering therapy for the first time

An Introduction 

The HACP directory lists both counsellors and psychotherapists who work in many different ways. While care is taken to validate their stated professional qualifications, HACP does not make an assessment of nor guarantee their standard of work. However, these practitioners belong to one of the recognized national professional organizations such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP), the National Counselling Society (NCS) or the UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (UKAHPP).

Such organizations operate their own codes of ethics and practice and also have complaints procedures helping to assure you that you are enlisting the help of someone who has your best interests at heart and who is working professionally. These organisations are also the reference point for clients who can turn to them if needed for more information and complaints.

The HACP directory includes members who are on the voluntary register, the Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR),that has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. The AVR scheme was set up by the government to improve standards and safety for the benefit of the public.

What are Counselling and Psychotherapy?

Some people use the terms Counselling and Psychotherapy interchangeably. Others, from well-established traditions, distinguish between them. There is much overlap between the two. However, the distinction is not one which need greatly concern anyone seeking help: most practitioners want to be sure that what they offer is appropriate for the client before there is any commitment on either side. Counselling and psychotherapies are not necessarily exclusively based on talking. Psychotherapy can include the body, creative, play, art and action-based elements. Also, apart from one-to-one counselling and psychotherapy, therapy in a group can be an extremely effective setting and is usually less costly. Most commonly, sessions are held face to face, but may be offered via telephone, skype or on-line dependent upon the client’s preference or logistical need by counsellors and psychotherapists who work with these additional modes. There are advantages and disadvantages with both options. Furthermore, there is specialised help available for children, families and couples.

Counselling or psychotherapy is a contractual arrangement undertaken at the request of the client. The contract may either be in written or verbal form. Counselling/Psychotherapy will help you to make decisions. The practitioner will not tell you what to do but will be listening to you – the objective of the process is to help people who are willing to do so to explore difficulties or distress, understand some personal issue, dissatisfaction or loss, make a life change or adjustment and so on. It is about understanding and change.

When choosing your counsellor or psychotherapist, you may wish to satisfy yourself that the professional’s qualifications, experience and specialty are suitable for your needs. We also encourage you to listen to your instinct once you meet the practitioner. You need to establish that the practitioner is someone you feel you can trust, engage with and with whom you can imagine developing a trusting and deep relationship.

psychiatrist helping an older man
Making contact
All practitioners in this directory have listed their qualifications, certificates and their experience and will have been scrutinized by HACP. It is however appropriate for you to ask them any questions you wish regarding their way of working, their experience, and their professional association. Whoever you are working with, all counselling/psychotherapeutic work is carried out in strict confidentiality and under the Data Protection Act 1998.

You may want to enquire about practicalities and the framework such as:


  • Area of expertise
  • Talking therapy or additional elements
  • Possibility of group or one-to-one therapy
  • Place of meeting
  • Length of first/initial and subsequent session
  • Frequency of appointments
  • Price structure (including initial consultation)
  • Cancellation arrangements
  • Accessibility
Your first session
The first session is a very important one because it sets the framework for the work to come. This session is an opportunity for both parties to meet each other and at the end to come to a decision whether or not you will engage in a therapeutic relationship with each other. If both parties agree to work with each other, at the end of this session there will be either a verbal or a written contract with the aspects you have arranged.

HACP counsellingIn this session the counsellor/psychotherapist will make notes of your personal details, including your contact details, GP, next of kin, medical history and other relevant information the practitioner may need for the clinical assessment. It is also the time for you to tell your story as well as ask questions about aspects you wish to know about the process of counselling/psychotherapy in general and about the specific approach of the practitioner. You will also be asked about your motivation and reasons for seeking help and what your goal would be for engaging in this therapeutic work.

This first session is also the time for you to assess whether this is the professional you wish to trust and work with. You will get a sense of whether or not you will be willing and able to build an effective therapeutic relationship. It is completely legitimate to decide that this is not the therapist for you and you may want to make contact with other therapists before you feel able to choose. Also, sometimes the professional might refer you to a colleague who is considered to be more suitable for your concerns.

As far as possible try to be clear about what you want. Your aims form the basis for your time together and the outcomes you are hoping for.

Our Disclaimer
While every care is taken to validate their stated professional qualifications, HACP is neither able to make an actual assessment nor guarantee the standard of any practitioner’s work. 

We have checked that all the professionals in our database belong to at least one of the UK’s recognized national organizations such as the BACP, The UKCP or the NCS.. These details are checked periodically. Our directory also includes members who are on the Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR), which is a scheme overseen by the Professional Standards Authority. The AVR scheme was set up by the UK Government to improve standards and safety for the benefit of the public. All of these organizations are independent from HACP and they operate their own codes of ethics and complaints procedures.

asking for help is a great place to start