Starting a Counselling/Psychotherapy Service

  • Price: £5.99
  • Published: June 2015
  • Type: Business Opportunity Profile
  • Format: PDF
  • What qualifications and skills are required?
  • What are the key market issues and trends?
  • What are the main trading issues?
  • Legislation
  • Further information

Counsellors in private practice provide therapy for people with a range of emotional and psychological conditions, for example depression, anxiety, stress, addictions, phobias, eating disorders or trauma. They also provide support for people with relationship problems, or who have experienced sexual or domestic abuse. Counsellors typically specialise in one or more types of 'talking therapy', including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and in particular fields such as trauma therapy.

People seeking private therapy usually contact counsellors directly or are referred to a therapist by their GP or other healthcare professionals. Some employers pay for their employees to receive counselling and psychotherapy, while many private health insurance providers offer cover for counselling and refer policyholders to counsellors and psychotherapists when necessary.

'Counselling' and 'psychotherapy' are not currently subject to statutory regulation and anyone may use the title 'counsellor' or 'psychotherapist', although the Regulation of Health and Social Care Professions Bill 2015-16, which was introduced in the House of Lords in June 2015, may lead to statutory regulation of the profession. However, most reputable counsellors belong to a professional body and hold accredited qualifications. There is also a voluntary system of registration for counsellors and psychotherapists via accredited professional bodies which is maintained by the Professional Standards Authority (

The status of a counsellor or psychotherapist differs from that of a 'practitioner psychologist' which is a protected title that also covers the role of 'counsellor psychologist' and is statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. However, practitioner or counsellor psychologists often deliver therapies to treat the same emotional and psychological conditions as counsellors and psychotherapists do, and typically also promote themselves as providing counselling services.

This profile provides information about starting up and operating as a counsellor in private practice. It describes the skills required, the training available, the current market trends and some of the key trading issues. It also explains the legislation that must be complied with and provides sources of further information.

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