Counselling And Psychotherapy

Counselling and psychotherapy are often referred to as the "talking therapies" or "talking treatment". The terms Counselling and Psychotherapy are often used interchangeably and similar skills are used in both. Counselling is a process in which a person is supported to explore their difficulties and to work towards change.

What does counselling involve?
Counselling usually involves committing to a series of regular sessions of about an hour in length over a period of time. The relationship between you and your counsellor is confidential. The counsellor endeavours to create an environment in which you can feel respected, accepted and understood. The counsellor’s role is to listen and to help you clarify what is troubling you. Counselling requires you to be open to exploring feelings, thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. Counselling provides you with an opportunity to gain greater awareness of your individual circumstances and to identify choices that will facilitate change. The counsellor’s role is to support you through this process of change.

Counselling & Therapy

How does it work?
The counsellor is trained to listen in a way that is accepting and non-judgmental. The aim is to allow you the freedom and the space to express thoughts, beliefs and emotions that you might not feel able to express to your family, partner or friends. Bringing unexpressed thoughts and emotions to the surface can sometimes be distressing. The counsellor’s role is to create a climate that enables you to express your feelings in safety and to accept them as part of yourself. The counsellor may also help you to look at the thoughts and beliefs underlying your feelings and emotions. This can help you to gain an understanding of your present behaviour and to get to the root of problems. It can help to provide you with a greater sense of control over your life and empower you to make growthful, life-enhancing choices as you move forward.

Some facts about counselling:

  • Counselling/therapy is not about giving advice or prescribing solutions to problems. It is about empowering an individual to make choices that are in line with their needs and that will enable them to live more resourcefully and achieve a greater sense of well being.
  • Counselling takes time. The length of time needed to feel some benefit will vary for each individual. It will also depend on the counselling approach used.
  • In some cases, a counsellor may suggest working in partnership with a GP, a dietitian or other health professional if this is in a person's best interest.

Choosing a counsellor:

  • Different kinds of counselling are available and many counsellors are trained in a variety of approaches such as person centred counselling, interpersonal or psychodynamic counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, couples therapy, etc. All approaches can be equally effective depending on an individual's needs and preferences and therapists can rely on a combination of approaches with any one client. Long lasting positive change depends on the degree to which the therapeutic relationship between the individual and the counsellor has developed, and on the individual's motivation to remain in counselling and work through issues that arise.
  • Choose a qualified practitioner. Qualified counsellors and therapists undergo rigorous training and most are accredited by their relevant professional bodies. You should always feel free to ask about a counsellor's training, experience and professional membership.
  • Counsellors who work with children and adolescents often have additional specialist training. It is very important that children and young people feel free to talk about experiences that may be troubling or confusing for them. Parental acceptance and support for counselling is crucial and the deeply private nature of the process should always be respected. Parents may find it helpful to ask the counsellor to explain to them why confidentiality is so important and what boundaries need to be respected so as not to hinder the work their child is doing.
  • Finding a counsellor in your area can be done through consulting the directories of professional bodies (see list below) or a telephone directory. Often, it is helpful to have a recommendation from a trusted source (a GP or other health professional, a friend) but it is important to remember that you need to find a person that you feel you can work with, so don't be afraid to make enquiries and 'shop around'. In most cases, no referral is needed.
  • Establish cost from the very start. Cost can vary considerably. The fee is usually per session and some counsellors offer a sliding scale according to your ability to pay. To help you work out the cost, ask the counsellor if they can give you an estimate of how many sessions might be involved. Counselling is provided free within public health services and most third level institutions offer student counselling services free of charge. A number of voluntary agencies also provide free counselling. Some health insurance packages cover the cost of a limited number of counselling sessions. Ask your insurer to clarify the terms and conditions of cover.

N.B. Low cost counselling: If cost is a problem, this should be mentioned when making enquiries as some of the databases include details on sliding scales, low cost options or payment on the basis of a donation.

Further Information:

Information about different approaches to counselling/ psychotherapy:

The booklet A Guide to Psychotherapy in Ireland (Columba Press), produced by the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (see below), contains a section on approaches to psychotherapy or visit

Information on cognitive behavioural therapy:

Information and lists of accredited practitioners may be obtained from:

  • Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – IACP, First Floor, Marina House, 11 – 13 Clarence Street, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. Tel. 01-2303536
  • The Irish Association for Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy, 40 Northumberland Ave, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Tel. 01-2841665
  • Irish Council for Psychotherapy, 13 Farnogue Park, Wexford, Ireland. Tel. 01-9023819 (offers an online "find a therapist" facility)
  • Family Therapy Association of Ireland (FTAI), 73 Quinn's Road, Shankill, Co. Dublin. Tel. 01-2722105
  • Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), Floor 2, Grantham House, Grantham Street, Dublin 2.. Tel. 01-4720105 (offers an online database of registered members)