A guide to counselling

Written by Hayley McAuley

February 7, 2024

A guide to counselling

Seeking counselling can be a valuable step towards personal growth, healing, and overall well-being. However, finding the right counsellor who understands your needs and provides the support you require is crucial. This guide aims to provide you with answers to some questions that you may have and to help you find the right counselling for your specific needs.

What is counselling?

Counselling is a form of therapy where a trained and qualified counsellor, provides support and a safe space for a client to talk through anything that is troubling them in their life.  Counselling comes in different forms and I will discuss the different types in a later section but essentially the objective of all types of counselling is to enable the client to gain insight, develop coping strategies and make positive changes in their life.  Counselling can address a wide range of concerns including trauma, grief, anxiety and stress, depression, relationship issues and self-esteem issues, to name but a few.  Counsellors work in many different sectors, such as the NHS, schools, within corporate companies, in private practice and they work with individuals, couples, families or groups.


Do I need counselling?

This is a question that only you can answer but there are factors to consider when deciding if you would benefit from counselling.

  • Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious a lot of the time?
  • Do you find dealing with day to day activities a struggle?
  • Are you feeling stuck in life?
  • Have you experienced something traumatic in your life and are you struggling with the effects of this?
  • Do you have conflict within relationships?
  • What is your relationship with yourself like? Do you struggle with low self-esteem?

These are just some of the factors to consider when deciding whether to engage in counselling.  A medical professional could also offer some guidance on whether they feel counselling would be of benefit to you but ultimately the decision lies with you.

What are the different types of therapy?

When looking for a counsellor, it can be difficult to understand the difference between the ways in which counsellors work.  Counsellors will have trained in a variety of modalities and will use a range of techniques in order to support you through your difficulties.

Some of the types of counselling you might see are discussed below and this glossary may help you to decide which type of therapy would be more suitable for you.

  • Person-Centered Counselling – this approach emphasises the need for empathy, unconditional positive regard and a genuine desire to help clients develop self-awareness and personal growth. This is the foundation to the working practice of all counsellors, regardless of what type of therapy they favour or specialise in.
  • Psychodynamic Counselling – this approach explores the unconscious thoughts and past experiences. By understanding what has gone, we can begin to understand what is now.  This way of working looks very much at getting to the root of the issues.
  • CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy – this modality focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to emotional dysregulation. It is a very solution focused approach dealing with the issues in the present rather than the past.
  • Gestalt therapy – this approach is very experiential and often uses role playing exercises and empty chair work in order to encourage self awareness. The counsellor works relationally and mostly in the present time, working with how the client is currently experiencing their difficulties.
  • Existential therapy – this approach will explore questions regarding meaning, purpose and personal responsibility to help clients find direction in their lives.

These are just some of the terms that you may encounter during your search for a counsellor.  It’s always advisable to speak to a few counsellors to find out how they work and what approach they use in their service.  This will enable you to make an informed decision.

How do I find the right counsellor for me?

When you have decided to engage in counselling, you might wonder where to start looking. There are numerous ways to start this process.  Word of mouth and personal recommendations are always a good place to start, although it is important to remember that we are all individuals and will interact and engage differently with different people.  I would always suggest speaking with recommended counsellors first, to assess if they could be a good fit for you.

Other ways of finding a counsellor are through an internet search for counsellors in your local area, if you are wanting face to face sessions, or search for online counsellors if this is your preference.  There are also directories where you can find counsellors, such as:



When you have found some counsellors that you feel may be able to help you, having an initial consultation will enable you to see if you feel some rapport with the counsellor.  It’s important that you feel safe in their presence and this meeting also gives you an opportunity to ask any questions that you may have before you commit to working with the counsellor.  You may feel that a counsellor who specialises in your area of concern is more suitable, or you may feel that you would prefer to work with a particular gender.  Consider all of the factors that important to you and then focus you search based on these.


What happens when I attend Counselling?

This will differ slightly depending on whether you are receiving counselling within a service or a private counsellor and also depending on what modality the counsellor works within.  However, generally the process will begin with an initial consultation where a detailed history will be taken, you will get the opportunity to talk about what is troubling you at that current time and how it is impacting your life.  The counsellor is likely to ask you what your expectations of therapy are and what you would like to achieve during your time with the counsellor.  This is an important part of the process as it allows you to think forward, to a time when life will be more manageable for you.


I hope this guide has been helpful.  Therapy is a journey of self-discovery and deciding to engage in counselling could just be one of the best decisions you make.


Best wishes

Hayley McAuley


Curious Counselling & Psychotherapy

Published : Feb 7, 2024