Counselling is a process where, by talking to a professional about how you’re feeling, you can work out, or try to change, the things that cause you distress.
A good counsellor will work with you to find a solution to your problem, even if that solution just means accepting that a particular situation cannot be changed, and helping you to cope with this.
Where to find one
Counsellors often work at schools, health centres, youth health centres, colleges, crisis support organisations, or family planning clinics. Some may also work privately. Your doctor can tell you about counsellors in your area or you can look up Counselling Directory for details of a service near you.
Going to see a counsellor can be a big step and it’s normal to be nervous or feel a bit embarrassed. But loads of people of all ages and backgrounds see counsellors for all number of reasons. You might only need a couple of sessions just to get you back on track and feeling better, or it might take a little longer, but either way, it’s a really good thing to do if you’re dealing with a problem.
Every counsellor is a bit different and will have their own approach to helping you. Some will do more talking or ask more questions, and some will want to just let you talk. Finding someone you’re happy to talk to is really important. The first counsellor you see might not be the right one for you, but don’t let this put you off. Try someone else and don’t give up. For more information about finding a counsellor that’s right for you, see getting help.
Making an appointment
Usually you need to make an appointment to see a counsellor. To find a phone number you can look up the Counselling Directory website for a list of counsellors near you. You could also search Golden Pages online for ‘counsellors’, or you can also ask a doctor to refer you to a counsellor. If you’ve made an appointment but want to talk to someone now, lo-call the Samaritans on 1850 60 90 90.
Free sessions with your counsellor/psychologist through the HSE
The HSE community mental health teams in Ireland offer a range of services, and a variety of professionals can be accessed through referral from a GP or hospital. However, counsellors can also generally be accessed through self-referral – meaning you can just ring them up and ask for an appointment.
The specialist psychology services can only be provided to people with ‘an assessed mental health problem’ (as assessed by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist) and that are directly referred from a psychiatrist or a paediatrician (for treatment of a child).
Ask about your privacy
It’s a good idea to talk to the person you see about keeping your information private. In most situations, unless you say so, counsellors have to keep what you tell them confidential. For more information, see confidentiality.
After speaking to a counsellor for the first time, it’s normal to have a mixed reaction. You might feel calmer and clearer about your concerns, but it’s also ok to feel confused, angry or upset. The session might’ve brought up some scary stuff for you, and it might take a few visits to your counsellor to deal with this stuff. If you’re feeling like this, talk to your counsellor about your reactions and the best way to manage them.
Other people to talk to
Samaritans (1850 60 90 90) provide a 24-hour confidential helpline that offers listening support. You can also have a look at the rest of the face-to-face help section to find out about other services, or look them up in your local phone book. Your counsellor can also tell you about other people you could talk to.