Free or low-cost counselling, although saving you money, comes with a cost of time, as you will likely wait around 6 months to see a counsellor. You will also take a gamble on the support you receive as you cannot choose who you see and what type of counselling you get.
If you are LGBTQ+ this means there is a high chance you could end up with a counsellor with no experience in working with gender and sexual diversity.
Most people who can afford it choose to access private counselling as they want help immediately, and want to get support from a professional with the relevant experience.
To help you decide whether you feel it’s worth paying for a private counsellor, I share in this blog how counsellors get paid and why some services are funded and some are not.
Is counselling expensive?
Counselling costs money; it’s not cheap. But it is an investment and it could save your relationship or even your life.
You don’t need to suffer alone; professional help is important.
When it comes to choosing the right counsellor for you it’s important to do your research.
Private counsellors charge a range of different fees. Check out their websites/blogs to learn more about their experience and how they set their rates.
To learn more about my fees check out my blog ‘9 reasons why my fees are high’.
Why is private counselling not free?
Although it would be ideal if private counselling were freely accessible to all, this is sadly not possible, as our services are not funded.
If we work for free, we cannot cover our costs, and therefore cannot continue working.
How do private counsellors get paid?
As counsellors in private practice there is no funding to pay our salaries.
We don’t get any money from the NHS or any other organisations to cover, or even help with, the cost of our services. Instead, we pay thousands of pounds to train whilst also working in mandatory unpaid placements for up to 2 years to gain experience to qualify. As part of my training it was also mandatory to attend, and pay for, weekly personal therapy sessions throughout the 2-year post-graduate degree course.
Private counsellors are all self-employed.
We don’t get sick pay, holiday leave or pensions. When we set up counselling private practice we do so out of our own pockets and cover all the overheads (professional registration, mandatory clinical supervision, insurance, ICO fees (data protection), DBS fees (criminal record check), website/advertising costs and mandatory ongoing training).
As a private counsellor my only income is from client fees, which covers these overheads and my salary.
Can you not just get a second job?
Many private counsellors choose to run a very small private practice and spend their remaining time doing a salaried job. I used to do this too, but as my counselling practice grew – through a lot of hard work – I decided to take the leap and dedicate full-time hours to my true passion: LGBTQ+ counselling.
I therefore work full-time as a counsellor, which means I can put 100% of my attention into giving my clients the best service I can.
What do you do when you’re not seeing clients?
When I am not working with clients in 1-to-1 sessions I have a lot of other tasks. I hope this list helps you learn a bit more about what it’s like to be a private counsellor.
My other tasks include:
· writing up client notes
· processing/reflecting on client sessions
· attending clinical supervision
· undertaking mandatory professional development training
· responding to emails/calls
· creating training workshops/videos to teach other counsellors about LGBTQ+ counselling
· advertising my services
· updating my website
· writing blogs (like this one!)
· keeping up a Twitter presence
· networking with counsellors
· many other little tasks I have probably forgotten about …
Is counselling free on the NHS?
Yes, counselling is included on the NHS. This means that in theory you are entitled to free access to counselling and don’t need to pay for this service.
However, being eligible and getting referred for 1-to-1 counselling on the NHS is becoming harder, and in recent years it is more common for GPs to refer you for mental health-type group workshops or for online courses to work through your ‘issues’ with limited check-in phone calls/emails. These support services are commonly not provided by trained counsellors.
NHS counselling is extremely limited.
If you do meet the criteria and are able to get referred for counselling on the NHS it’s common to wait at least 6 months for a first appointment.
You don’t get to choose your counsellor or the type of counselling you receive. It is common for most folks to be offered CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). There is rarely an option to try an alternative type of therapy or therapist if it doesn’t work out for you. And, typically, you only get up to 6 sessions, which, in my opinion, is not enough time to do much more than scratch the surface or put a ‘sticking plaster’ over the client’s concerns.
If you want to go deeper and are ready to explore what might be going on in your life and how to cope in the longer term, then counselling without a time limit can be very much more effective.
Are there any other low-cost counselling options?
Some charities offer counselling at a low cost. But be wary of this option, as, sadly, it is very common that charities recruit counsellors to work for free to save money. They will usually have been granted funding, but will often use this to fund the administrative side of the counselling service by paying counselling managers and admin staff.
If you choose to access low-cost counselling through a charity it is very likely the counsellor you see is not being paid, leaving them living in poverty.
Charities not paying counsellors is exploitative and back in 2017 Counsellors Together UK was set up to raise public awareness and campaign to put an end to unpaid work within the counselling profession.
Most counsellors working for free in charities tend to be on placement seeing clients to gain experience whilst they are training to be a counsellor. If your issues are complex you might be matched with a qualified counsellor if the charity have any in their team.
Qualified counsellors who work for charities tend to be doing so to build their experience after recently qualifying, so they may also lack the experience needed to fully support you.
There is often a long waiting list to see a counsellor through a charity, as well as there being a limited number of sessions. Furthermore, you don’t get to choose which therapist you see, so it can be a bit of a gamble as to whether you and your counsellor will be a good match, and whether they have any knowledge or experience of the LGBTQ+ community and the issues you would like to explore.
Do any private counsellors offer concessions?
Yes, some private counsellors do offer concessionary rates for folks on a low income.
This is more common among counsellors who are newly qualified, when it may be harder to find clients who will pay the going rate, and the low fee can attract more people to book sessions.
Counsellors who offer low-cost sessions often have a limited number of slots available at these rates so it’s likely you may have to wait for a low-cost slot to come up and there may be a time limit on how long you can have this discount, in which case you may have to end sessions before you are ready.
I used to offer concessionary rates but stopped doing so as, with no funding, it was difficult for me to cover all my overheads and make sure I would earn enough to take sufficient rest when I needed to.
Offering lower rates and concessions inevitably means that a counsellor has to see many more clients each week. As this impacts on the quality of support we can offer, I decided to increase my fees so I could see fewer clients and offer a more professional specialist service. I write more about why I made this decision in my blog ‘9 reasons why my fees are high’.
Is it worth paying to see a counsellor?
If you are struggling with something and want to work out what’s at the root of how you feel and find a way to cope then counselling could be the answer.
Maybe you want to understand yourself better and live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Perhaps it’s impossible for you to speak with family or friends, or you may have tried and found that there’s only so much they can listen to, or that they have limited knowledge in how to help you.
Counselling offers you a professional and supportive ear as it helps you dig deep to unravel the reasons causing you to have difficulty coping.
If you are thinking about having some private counselling, you can read more about me, and my counselling experience here to help you work out if I might be a suitable match for you.
I have specialist knowledge and experience working with LGBTQ+ clients online. You can dive deeper into learning more about my knowledge and experience in my other blogs here.