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There are many great things that come up during conversation when I talk to people about what I do. Most people will talk about an experience they have had with therapy. I’m often surprised by how many people have had therapy and how they recall the experience.
One subject that almost always comes up in the conversation, is how much the person paid for their therapy. It is no surprise that those who had a good experience has a high value on their therapy despite how much they paid per session. I have spoken to people who have paid more than £200 per session and although they thought it was a lot, they also saw it as a great investment in themselves.
On the other hand, someone who didn’t report a positive experience of therapy, could have found £20 a session as a loss.
Counsellors rates vary between:
- Free services for those who absolutely cannot afford sessions (this is often through a charity and is mostly short term solution-focused therapy or trauma therapy).
- Low-cost counselling provided by services like MIND and Headstrong (which is offered by trainee counsellors who need to meet a minimum specified number of hours to become qualified or accredited where sessions can range between £15 - £25).
- Medium cost counselling provided by qualified counsellors ranging between £30 and £60.
- Higher priced counselling ranging from £60 - £150.
Any fee over this limit is usually charged by counselling psychologists – which basically means that the professional has done a PhD.
But what are the factors that influence the fees?
Education and Training
On average, counsellors train for around six years before they become qualified. The average age at which a counsellor starts their training is later than in most other professions. A lot of counsellors had other careers before training in the field of mental health, although there are also many who train at a younger age. For instance, you will see more people training for counsellors in their forties than you would see people training in dentistry.
This is because life experience has often led people to this point. Given this information, counsellors are usually highly skilled in other areas outside of mental health and have a wealth of life experience that helps them when it comes to practising in the field of counselling.
They would also have invested a lot of money into their training and would have worked for free for many hours to obtain their required hours for qualification and accreditation. If you are looking for low-cost counselling, I would highly suggest contacting low-cost counselling organisations who have trainee counsellors on placements. They can usually offer a great variety of counselling models and rarely have long waiting lists.
There are also places who offer small group therapy at a lower cost than they would charge for an individual session.
There are more benefits to seeing a trainee counsellor than just a lower fee. Trainees must have more supervision hours for the number of clients they see and usually invest more time in preparing for each client session. They usually see around 3-5 clients per week, which means they are often better able to retain client information, better at keeping notes and are less likely to have suffered a burn-out.
Some counsellors are trained in a few models (integrative counsellors) and can use these various models to adapt to the client or patient’s needs. This will often mean that there is a higher fee per session.
As is the case in most fields of expertise, the more experience you have, the more you are likely to charge. Counsellors who have been working in the field for a long time, will also have invested more into their continuous training and can help in delivering better results in a shorter space of time. This does not mean fixing someone’s problems through magic though. The process takes time and even highly skilled counsellors still value building up a good rapport with their clients. It often takes time for clients to gain insight into their own world and to bring change to patterns that have existed from childhood.
Some organisations can offer low-cost services delivered by highly experienced counsellors. It is often also worth looking into group therapy with more experienced counsellors if their individual fees seem out of reach.
It is understandable that counsellors in central London will be charging higher fees than counsellors in the outskirts of London. Counsellors must pay for room hire and often hire a room per hour. This is also one of the reasons they need as much notice as possible if a client cannot attend. Although a room is booked per hour, they often must pay for the room even if it is not used for that hour.
Some counsellors see clients from home which enables them to charge a lower fee. This isn’t an option for all counsellors.
Online or telephone counselling may bring with it a lower fee. Face-to-face counselling is not the only way to receive therapy, so it is worth considering if this option may be suitable for you.
In addition to room hire, counsellors are almost always seeing a counsellor themselves. This is one of the requirements by professional bodies to ensure that they themselves are mentally healthy and stable and that they can separate their own experiences from those of their clients.
In addition to this, they are in supervision where they can basically debrief and ask for help and guidance from a higher qualified mental health professional on where they are stuck. This is really a massive benefit for the client although they are mostly unaware of what goes on behind the scenes.
There are these two people who make sure that the counsellor is operating ethically and professionally, and that the client gets the treatment they need. I would highly recommend asking your counsellor if they are seeing someone themselves and if they are in supervision. It’s like an extra safety net for the client.
Counsellors also must pay membership fees to their professional bodies they belong to and often pay to advertise. Although most clients might feel the financial pinch when they first start going for therapy, they often see it as great value and investment in their own mental health. Not many people can afford a high fee for long term therapy, so depending on your needs, I would suggest finding a counsellor who offers sessions at a fee that you can afford over a long period if that is what you need.
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