Tracy Smithers

Step By Step Counselling & Therapies

Carlisle, Penrith and the Eden Valley, North Cumbria


Hello my name is Tracy Smithers, welcome to my first blog post.

I am a counsellor currently based in North Cumbria, although I also offer counselling online and via telephone.
I qualified as a counsellor in 2002, and since then have counselled both privately and on a voluntary basis for different organisations including the YMCA, and University of Portsmouth Counselling Service. I have also worked as a school counsellor both in primary and secondary schools.

Perhaps you have never contemplated having counselling before. Or maybe you are looking to return to counselling having had a break from it. Either way I understand what a daunting and overwhelming task it might be. So in this post, I thought I would explain a bit about what counselling is, and finding the right counsellor for you at this time.

Firstly you might be interested to know that counselling is not a regulated profession, therefore anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor. However, for many counsellors like myself we go through an intense training process. In order to qualify as a counsellor, the standard level for professional counsellors is a minimum of at least a level 4 Diploma in Counselling with many people studying at degree or master’s level. I qualified in 2002 with an Advanced Diploma in Humanistic Counselling, and at this was usually the level of qualification reached by counsellors. However, as time has moved on counselling degrees are more widely available to study. All counselling training from a Level 4 Diploma, includes practical counselling placements which require trainees to complete a minimum of 100 supervised practical placement hours in an approved placement. In addition to this many training providers require you to have your own therapy whilst in training as a counsellor. The academic study also requires trainees to take part in regular skills practice as part of their course work. They also must complete various academic work.

Once qualified many counsellors join a professional body. These bodies require members to have a minimum of a level 4 Diploma in Counselling. Membership bodies have an ethical framework which many counsellors work within to follow an ethical and professional framework to ensure good practice. BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists), ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors), NCS (National Counselling Society), the UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy), COSCA (Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland) are some of the professional bodies in the UK. I am currently a member of the BACP. I should also add at this point not all counsellors choose to become a member of a professional body; this does not always reflect on their professional practice. There are some good counsellors out there who choose not to align to a professional body for a variety of reasons. As a member of a professional body, counsellors pay to belong to that body on a yearly basis.

Something else to be aware of whilst looking for a counsellor is they counselling approach they work within. There many different types of counselling approaches; some of the ones you might have heard of are Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Person Centred, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), and Solution Focussed Therapy. Rather than overwhelming anyone reading this, I won't go into detailed explanations of the different approaches I have mentioned. But will sum them up in a few words below.

Psychodynamic..this model looks at how your past experiences can form your current behaviour or experiences. This model can help you understand your behaviour, and how it affects your relationships now. This model comes from the work of Freud.

Humanistic..this model covers several different theories which include Person Pentred, Gestalt, and Existentialism. This approach looks at enabling a person reach their true potential, and focusses on a person having free will, and their self discovery.This is an area that I trained and primarily work within.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)..this model focusses on exploring your beliefs, thoughts, and actions. It looks at finding strategie, solutions, and coping strategies. Whilst not trained in this area, I do have experience, and draw on some elements of CBT within my work if appropriate.

Some therapists might focus on one approach, and others might work more holistically. For example; whilst I am trained as a humanistic counsellor. I have through my training and experience gained an understanding of other modalities, so depending on clients I might sometimes draw on these if it might be of benefit to my client.

It's important that you find a counsellor that is right for you, and understand that this might seem a little daunting. What I say to the people I speak to is that you know yourself better than anyone else, and that the counselling process is very much about YOU!

In order to help you find the counsellor that is right for you, here are some points that you might like to consider.

1. What do you want to gain from counselling? Or what support do you need? If you don’t know that’s absolutely okay. However, if you do this can help you decide what to look for in a counsellor.
2. Look out for how much training/experience a counsellor has. Also are they a member of a professional body?
3. Are you looking for face to face appointments, or are online/telephone appointments an option?
4. The cost involved. Usually, most therapists will charge between £35 and £65 per appointment. I currently charge £45. The cost not only covers a counsellors time and skills it also covers insurance, professional body membership, room rental and other requirements.
5. Once you have identified a potential counsellor it can be useful to have a chat with them, or meet with them for an initial appointment first of all. This can be helpful with deciding if they are the right counsellor for you. With all new clients, I suggest an initial appointment where we can meet and discuss how I might best support them. It is also an opportunity for them to decide if they would like to work with me further. As someone who has had counselling myself, I understand how important it is to have a good connection with a counsellor who will support you, in a safe environment.

So finally you might have defined what type of counsellor you are looking for, where do you find one! Here are some of the place’s counsellors might advertise.

1. If counsellors are members of a professional body like the BACP, ACC, NCS, UKCP, and COSCA they are often listed on the organisation’s listings page
2. Counselling Directory, is a really great website that carries listings of many different types of counsellors from a range of backgrounds, belonging to a variety of membership body’s. This will give more of a cross section of people within your geographical area.
3. Doctor’s surgeries can have lists of counsellors, or might have one that works alongside their practice.
4. Health Food or other local shops might have adverts.
5. Local parish magazines, or newsletters.
6. Local mental health charities
7. Google

I hope that this information helps you in your search for a counsellor. One thing that I might add is that no matter how many qualifications a counsellor has, their experience is also equally valuable. Also, perhaps even more valuable is the professional connection you develop with your counsellor. Taking that first step is not always easy, however it can be the beginning to a brighter more positive future. I wish you well in seeking the support you need and deserve currently.



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