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Psychotherapy / Counselling

First things first – safety checks!

If a person chooses to access psychotherapy or counselling privately, they do not always require a referral from their GP. Many therapists do not require this. If a person decides to make an appointment with a psychotherapist or counsellor there are some basic safety checks to consider:

  1. What is the person’s qualification?
  2. Are they an accredited member of a professional organisation?
  3. Do they have experience working with people with eating disorders?
  4. If a private psychotherapist / counsellor is accessed for someone under 18, it is essential that the therapist liaises with the young person’s GP, who is required to monitor physical health. Parents need to be aware that the psychotherapist, in most cases, is not equipped to monitor physical health, and due to the risk of physical deterioration, it is best practice that a GP is part of the care plan.
  5. If a person is choosing a private pathway, it is advisable that they endeavour (especially for someone under 18 yrs.) to put in place a multi-disciplinary team approach, which will include a physician e.g. GP, a psychotherapist, a dietitian, and often a psychiatrist. The optimal situation is if all of these clinicians can be in communication with each other, and work together, whilst keeping the confidentiality boundaries of their disciplines.

  • The Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy
  • The Irish Council for Psychotherapy
  • Irish Association of Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy
  • Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland
  • Irish Association for Alcohol and Addiction Counsellors
  • National Association for Professional Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • European Association for Psychotherapists
  • European Association for Counselling
  • Psychological Society of Ireland
  • Irish College of Psychiatrists
Due to the seriousness and complexity of eating disorders, it is crucial when thinking about treatment, that the therapist is experienced and has been trained appropriately to treat a person with such a serious diagnosis.

In light of this, as well as the safety checks above, it is important to know the difference between ‘psychotherapy’ and ‘counselling’ because the two terms are often used interchangeably, despite the two professions being recognised as different at a government level. While, in everyday language people use the terms ‘ therapist, ‘counsellor’, ‘psychotherapist’ interchangeably, there is a difference and the distinction lies in the education and training requirements to achieve the title ‘psychotherapist’ and ‘counsellor’.

Generally, a person with the title ‘counsellor’ will have reached degree level 8, (minimum of 4 years training) and a person calling themselves ‘psychotherapist’ will have reached degree level 9 (minimum 7 years of training). In May 2017, the Minister for Health has confirmed that the two professions will be regulated by the state as different professions, and the training requirements to achieve the title ‘counsellor’ or ‘psychotherapist’ will be different (as outlined).

On the Bodywhys website there is a Services Directory which lists by county all treatment information including public and private options.
A private counsellor or psychotherapist will set their own fee. There are many ‘low cost’ options, and many therapists operate a sliding scale which means that the person pays according to what they can afford. In this way, private does not necessarily mean expensive.
There are 3 private hospitals / treatment centres that provide inpatient and outpatient treatment specifically for people with eating disorders currently in Ireland. More details can be found in the Bodywhys services directory. Each has a referral pathway starting with the GP. More details can be found in the Bodywhys services directory. Sometimes a person’s private health insurance will cover the cost of the centres, and if a person does not have private health insurance, and the assessment is that they need to be admitted and treated by one of these centres, and the public pathway cannot meet their needs, then a case can be made to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide funding for that person to be admitted to the private bed.