Over the Christmas break, I heard the belief expressed that in Ireland generally we have to wait for months to access any mental health service. That prompted me to write this blog post, as I wondered if there was a conflation of the terms psychotherapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist at play there. If someone is not in need of a clinical diagnosis, or does not require clinical psychological or psychiatric treatment and support, it may be that psychotherapy would be a useful option.
I know there are much more psychotherapists working in Dublin city and county than there are in the west of Ireland, and that is certainly one part of the problem. But I suppose another part of the reason why people may not know how to access counselling and psychotherapy services is these are not yet regulated professions in Ireland and so are not organised under one professional body. Prospective clients may not know a) how to find a therapist; b) if therapists are professionally trained; c) how much sessions can cost. It appears that legal regulation of the counselling and psychotherapy professions is planned for Ireland in the near future. This will bring its own advantages and drawbacks but in terms of giving clients more certainty about the training and professionalism of therapists and how to find them, it is a positive development.
In the meantime, anyone looking for a counsellor or psychotherapist can check the website of IACP, IAHIP, IAPTP, ACI…….. so many different accrediting bodies and how is someone looking for help supposed to make sense of these choices. By the time someone gets to the point of looking for a counsellor, they may have had weeks, months or years of stress or distress – and really not have the energy or patience to process all that information.
Just from talking to other therapists over the years, I know that some of us are also confused about or more happily unaware of the amount of organisations, subscription advertising directories, and accrediting associations that exist – some of which can appear to claim they are the best source of information on how to find a counsellor or psychotherapist in this country.
Your GP is a good place to start when trying to figure out how to access any health service, including the private practice therapists. You could ask if s/he has names of any counsellors or psychotherapists in the area.
There may also be a fear that going to see a private psychotherapist instead of waiting to see a HSE appointed therapist, will be very expensive.
For information on fees per session with a therapist, check out their listing in their accrediting organisation webpages, or check out the therapist’s own webpage if they have one and look for fee information there. Some therapists will have their fees listed clearly, some will have something like ‘Fee Negotiable’ or ‘Fee €60.- (negotiable)’. This word ‘negotiable’ can be a way of saying that the fees are not fixed in stone, for people who genuinely have severely restricted access to money for whatever reason for example if in an abusive relationship, on a case by case basis. It is not an invitation for everyone to start negotiating over the fee.
Low Cost Counselling services are sometimes set up with two aims:
a) to help student / newly qualified counsellors and psychotherapists work with clients firstly to meet their training course requirements for practice hours, and secondly to meet the requirements for post-qualification professional accreditation;
b) to offer affordable counselling for people on low income. Low Cost Counselling services can be run by a training college, or by a training college in cooperation with a Community Development Group for example, or by a therapy service with student / newly qualified counsellors working at no cost or low cost.
Part of the healing in therapy comes from the therapist working to create a safe space where the client can talk about what is causing distress, and where the therapist listens in a non-judgemental, respectful way. As with any profession, increased ability and expertise comes with time and practice for the therapist. However anyone authorised by their professional training course to see clients should be able to hold a respectful confidential practice that would be a useful resource to anyone needing a space to talk and who cannot afford to book sessions with a therapist in private practice.
An additional quality control would be to check if the student therapist’s course is itself accredited with one of the accrediting organisations in Ireland – IACP, IAHIP, etc. (more information on accrediting organisations is included below).
Also, some qualified and accredited therapists, if they are running a full time practice, are able to offer one or more appointments per week at low cost for people on very restricted income.
Check for accreditation
At the moment, pre-regulation, registration for counsellors and psychotherapists with an accrediting body is voluntary, and each accrediting organisation can have different criteria for membership. Still, membership of an accrediting body is some guarantee that the therapist will have reached a minimum level of training, have a commitment to working professionally and ethically and a commitment to continuing their professional development.
However, very rarely does a client say they found me through the webpage of IACP, the association with which I am accredited. This makes me wonder that if the general public does not know about IACP, IAHIP etc, then do they also not know they should check if their therapist is trained and accredited (or working towards accreditation).
Here are some of the accrediting associations. This is not a complete list, the range of associations and organisations in counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland is wide and varied. Each association lists only the therapists who are subscribed to them, and there is a plethora of different associations:
- IACP (iacp.ie) – Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy - website has a drop-down menu to facilitate a county-by-county search;
- IAHIP (iahip.org) – Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy - website has an interactive county map to facilitate a county-by-county search;
- IAPTP (iaptp.ie) – Irish Association for Play Therapy & Psychotherapy - has a drop-down menu to facilitate a county-by-country search;
- ACI (addictioncounsellors.ie) - the Addiction Counsellors of Ireland association - does not have a drop-down menu but has a search facility on its webpage which you can use to search by county;
- The Irish Council for Psychotherapy (psychotherapycouncil.ie) has a search page which you can use to search for a particular therapist or search by area of interest or area geographically.
The HSE has a useful website which has a drop-down menu where you can search for mental health supports by county: yourmentalhealth.ie. This website also lists organisations that give telephone, online, face to face or group support. It does not list private practice counsellors and psychotherapists but gives the link to Counselling Directory.ie. The Counselling Directory is a voluntary advertising service to which therapists sign themselves up, so it may well not have all the trained and accredited therapists in each county on their list.
The HSE provides a service called Counselling in Primary Care which their website states is ‘for people with mild to moderate psychological difficulties. It is a short-term counselling service that provides up to 8 counselling sessions with a professionally qualified and accredited Counsellor/Therapist.’ You must be over 18 years of age and have a medical card to access this service, at the time of writing this blog post. Their website is hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/Mental_Health_Services/counsellingpc.
The HSE runs The National Counselling Service, for adults who experienced abuse whilst in the care of the state as children. Their website is hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/Mental_Health_Services/National_Counselling_Service.
There are also a number of smaller organisations that may not be listed by the HSE, for example one I was involved with a few years ago was The Rise Foundation, which works to support family members of people in addiction. Your local GP or Citizens Advice Centre would have information about these smaller support organisations in your area.
Pleasetalk.ie gives a list of the supports available for students at the various third level institutions in Ireland.
If you are at immediate risk of self harm or suicide, Pieta House has several locations around the country, working with people at risk of suicide or self-harm, and giving support to people whose family or friends are at risk of suicide or self-harm. Their website is www.pieta.ie.
So there are a variety of ways to find a therapist and most importantly a trained therapist. I would advise a) ask your GP, b) look up the different accrediting organisations IACP, IAHIP, IAPTP, ACI, or c) look up the HSE website yourmentalhealth.ie. If you find a counsellor or psychotherapist from any source other than their accrediting organisation, eg from an internet search for therapists in your area, do a quick check that they are listed on the website of the organisation with which they claim to be accredited.
Also remember that it can be better to wait a bit and try out different therapists until you find a practitioner with the right approach and skills to help you, than to stick with someone you just don’t feel is the right therapist for you. If a therapist does not have any appointments available, you can ask if they operate a waiting list. A therapist in private practice can have clients starting and finishing up throughout the year, so an appointment may become available in the next week or two. I hope this has been helpful in explaining some of the ways to find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist in your area.
All websites listed are valid at the time of posting this article.