Concern at growing number of unqualified counsellors offering services

There’s concern at the growing number of unqualified people offering counselling and therapy services – especially online.

Experts say using an unqualified counsellor can leave patients at risk from receiving the wrong treatment and having no way to complain about the service.

Laura Johnson has suffered from the condition Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for many years.

She'd had therapy on the NHS but turned to a private counsellor after being approached online. They suggested treatments that became increasingly extreme which led to distressing reactions from Laura - reactions that the therapist wanted recording.

She said: "We were told to video ourselves in order to give all the people help. But that's not really what they were used for.

“They were used as an advert for this person's services which makes you feel violated afterwards when you realise what's happened, that you were at your most vulnerable, at your most desperate and somebody is asking you to act as an advert for them."

The therapist Laura used had no formal qualifications and they charged a total of more than £2,000 for the sessions.

There's a growing demand for counselling in this country. Over the last year, the number of people waiting for mental health support on the NHS has risen to 1.2 million.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy represents professional therapists. The charity’s Head of Professional Standards Caroline Jesper there can be indicators that a counsellor may be fake.

She said: "They might overly give advice, tell you what to do. They might start blaming you for your problems or for not getting better, and their skill set may be limited."

“They might come across as being judgemental, disrespectful, unempathetic. They might be unreliable and coercive, such as asking you to market their services for them. All of these would be warning signs that somebody isn't a trained or legitimate counsellor."

The BACP advises people looking for help with their mental health to use therapists registered with an accredited professional body based in this country.