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Frequently asked questions - clients


Why have a Register?

We want you to be confident that the counsellor or psychotherapist you choose will provide you with a quality service.  Our Register only lists therapists who have met our standards.

How does the Register protect the public?

The Register supports public protection by: 

  • setting and monitoring standards
  • ensuring all registrants are signed up to a professional conduct process and ethical framework
  • following best practice and having a 'lay' governance – none of our Register Board Advisory members are counsellors or psychotherapists
  • producing guidance to help you understand the professional conduct procedure and when it is appropriate to make a complaint
  • employing dedicated staff to help you come to a decision about the best place to take your concerns 

What happens if I want to complain about a Registered member?

If you have concerns about your therapy or therapist, you may find it useful to contact our ‘Ask Kathleen’ service first. Where appropriate, we will see if we can help you resolve the dispute by raising your concerns directly with your therapist. 

If this fails or is inappropriate, you can raise a formal complaint through our professional conduct procedure. Your complaint will first be passed for consideration by a pre-hearing assessment panel which will decide whether it is serious enough to warrant a full professional conduct hearing.  

All complaints are considered by independent panels comprising both lay and counselling and psychotherapy professionals. This ensures that complaints are understood within the context of counselling and psychotherapy whilst also ensuring that the wider public interest is served. 

Why would a counsellor/psychotherapist say they cannot work with a client after one session?

There are several reasons for an assessment session and but mainly it is for both client and therapist to decide whether they can work together. The therapist must decide: 

  • whether the work is within their competence
  • whether there is any prior knowledge of the client that might influence or affect the process of therapy
  • whether there are dual relationships or crossed boundaries in relation to people that a client may be related to, work with or are friends with
  • whether both client and therapist feel they can work together 

If there is any reason why a therapist decides not to take you on as a client, they need to be professional in their response whilst keeping confidentiality. Your therapist may be able to provide details of other therapists/organisations that you can contact but this is not always the case. 

If you feel you have been treated unfairly or unethically, you can complain through our professional conduct procedure or contact BACP to discuss the situation.

My counsellor charged me for sessions that I have missed although I let her know. Is this ethical?

This depends on what the initial contract with the therapist included. It is good practice for counsellors and psychotherapists to inform clients at the beginning of therapy what the charges are, if they have to pay if they cannot attend or what length of notice is acceptable. Some therapists will put this into a written contract while others will go through the terms verbally.

My therapist talks a lot about herself and says it is to help me get a perspective on my own situation. I don't think it helps and it takes up too much of the session. What should I do?

The counselling sessions should be about you. If you have to listen to your therapist’s problems, this is a reversal of roles that is considered a 'boundary issue'.  You could ask the therapist to put time aside in the next session to review how the therapy is going and how you are feeling. If they are not willing to do that, and you feel you are not moving forward in your therapy, it may be appropriate to contact your therapist's professional body to discuss the options available to you. You may find our information sheets helpful.