Need psychological help but confused about where to go or who to trust? Read on for a brief background of the present situation in Ireland (December 2020).

There are plenty of private counsellors and psychotherapists currently available for appointments in Ireland. However, if you need psychological help and are shopping around to find a professionally trained person to work with things are not so simple. The aim of this article is to give you some overview of why it is so confusing.

If you want to see a doctor or a dentist you can be confident that any person using these titles are qualified to a certain standard. That is largely because these professions are regulated. What this means is that according to the law it is illegal to practice as a doctor or dentist unless you have the correct qualifications and have been certified accordingly by the State. The problem with counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland is that it is not currently regulated by the State. Government has been talking about it for a long time now but here we are at the end of 2020 and state regulation does not currently exist. The consequence of this is that anybody can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist and set up a practice. Some are qualified to a very high standard but others are not. So the problem for the consumer in need of psychological help is how do you weed through who is safe to go to and who is not?

There are professional organisations who examine the qualifications of counsellors and psychotherapist. The problem with that from the perspective of the consumer is that a little bit of research reveals that:

  • There are a number of different organisations that sound to offer much the same service
  • These organisations are self-regulated and run mainly by colleagues and funded by members subscriptions
  • There is no obligation on a person offering counselling or psychotherapy to join any association

So if you are in need of psychological help it is essential to shop around. The best way to do this is to try to identify what it is you need from meeting a therapist. When you phone around to enquire about what is on offer you should reasonable expect your questions to be adequately responded to and to be given an outline of what to expect if you proceed and make an appointment. You should feel the freedom to ask questions and speak your mind to a professional therapist. There is a lot more that could be said on the topic but for now my best advice if you need psychological help is to:

  • Search online and ask friends / colleagues / local clergymen / doctor for recommendations
  • Check that the names of therapists you end up with are accredited by some professional organisation
  • Consult the organisations website to inform yourself on what their standards are 
  • Shop around by phoning and speaking to potential therapists yourself
  • Trust your response 
  • Don't give up till you find someone professionally trained who is willing and able to answer your questions
  • Therapy can be difficult at times, so a little time spent choosing as best you can at the beginning can be very worthwhile

To conclude, below is an outline with links to of some of the documents / discussions that have taken place to date (December 2020) about statutory regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists in Ireland.

  • A 2019 update on the process of statutory regulation may be read HERE.
  • A Government press release (March 2018) on statutory regulation may be read HERE.
  • In June 2018 a Government of Ireland Oireachtas Joint Committee discussed the future of Mental Health Care "Prevention – Early Intervention and Talk Therapy" The proceedings can be watched on Oireachtas TV HERE 
  • In attendance were representatives from the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP). In March 2018 the ICP submitted a paper to government entitled: The Role of Psychotherapy in a Healthy Ireland.


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