Guidelines for Clients


Most approaches are based on talking things over with the Counsellor in confidence but Counsellors work from a variety of theoretical approaches with their clients. These approaches range from the type of psychoanalysis originally practised by Sigmund Freud, and other forms of analytic psychotherapy, through to the behavioural therapies, often used for addressing specific phobias and anxieties, to humanistic and transpersonal therapies, based on personal growth and self development. You will find more details about those approaches and an explanation of some of the terms and abbreviations used by individual counsellors on the ‘Terms and Abbreviations’ page.

Counselling can assist in developing some understanding of your problems, recognition of and drawing on your own strengths, in order to make sense of your unhappiness and to develop insight into your troubles.  It can also guide you from feeling a victim of circumstances, towards seeing an overall picture, and offer the opportunity to begin an approach to your life in a fresh and more resourceful way.

Counselling is not about giving advice, making judgements or imposing moral or other values.


When might I need a Counsellor?

Counselling is often requested by people facing changes in their lives, or with choices that appear baffling or frightening.  As a result they may feel confusion, unhappiness or distress.

At times all of us feel worried or depressed – we find ourselves saying ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I don’t know which way to turn’, or ‘I feel so alone’. 

These feelings can be caused by a wide range of situations, such as the death of a loved one, not getting on with a family member or partner, problems at work or in education. There are times in our life when we don’t know where to go next or find we are repeating patterns of behaviour that cause unhappiness.

You may feel that you would prefer not to speak to family, friends or neighbours for a range of reasons – perhaps so as not to burden them.  This may be a good time to talk to a counsellor. 


How much counselling do I need?

Counselling can be short or long term.  The individual client’s needs and the type of counselling will determine how long this should be.  Sometimes deep-rooted problems may take longer.  Usually you will attend regular sessions over an agreed or open-ended period. Some clients prefer a few sessions then a pause followed by a few more.  Low cost counselling is sometimes limited to a maximum number of sessions. Individual sessions are usually 50-60 minutes.


How much will it cost?

Fees in Suffolk vary from about £25 – £70 per session with most counsellors charging about £35 – £40 per session. Generally speaking counsellors with less experience charge less than more experienced counsellors and many counsellors offer some lower cost places.

Many GP Practices in Suffolk offer counselling that is free to the client, provided through the Primary Care Trust. This is usually limited to a maximum number of sessions and there is no choice about who provides the counselling. Some agencies, trusts and colleges offer low cost or free services. These organisations usually use volunteer and sometimes trainee counsellors. The SAC Directory lists charges for individual counsellors and agencies, and each entry also gives you some idea of the level of experience.


Finding the right Counsellor

Finding the right counsellor will be based on what approach you need and practicalities such as location, accessibility and cost. Most importantly it also needs to be based on how you feel about the counsellor and whether you feel comfortable in openly telling him/her about yourself. The relationship between you and the counsellor is critical and remember, however unhappy you feel, it is you who chooses.

Most counsellors offer an initial meeting, which may be free of charge, to give you an opportunity to ask questions and to assess whether you feel comfortable with him/her. You may then agree to try a few sessions or continue looking for the right counsellor.

Ask questions and find out as much information as possible before you start.

  • Ask if the counsellor deals with a specialist area which is important to you (eg relationships, drugs or alcohol, HIV/AIDS, bereavement). You may prefer to work with a woman or man or someone with some understanding of your culture or sexuality.
  • Ask about the counsellor’s training, experience, supervision, their personal experience of counselling. Ask if they subscribe to a code of ethics and belong to a professional organisation.
  • Ask about anything else you feel you need to know. Making the ‘contract’ like this is a fundamental part of most counsellors’ training and will help to make the sessions mutually clear and explicit. You may want to ask about: fees or charges including the policy for cancellations or missed appointments; how often and how long will you have sessions; where and when you will see the counsellor; what about confidentiality; how you will be counselled.


What if the counselling isn’t going well or doesn’t ‘feel’ right?

If you feel that the counselling is not going well you might be able to talk to your counsellor about your concerns and review how things are going. You may then be able to make changes to the way you are working together.

At any time you are free to change your counsellor and you should check your contract, or with your counsellor, about how to end the sessions.

If you think your counsellor has breached their code of ethics you may wish to make a formal complaint to the professional association or organisation to which they belong. All counsellors listed in the directory are required to state the professional associations to which they belong and to whose ethics they subscribe. Please note: SAC itself is not such an organisation.



Several hundred thousand people see a counsellor each year. Many of us will visit a counsellor at some time in our lives and find the process useful.

We hope that you find the information in the Introduction and the Directory useful and that it will assist you on your journey.