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How to find a counsellor

You can:

  1. Go to your GP, explain how you are feeling and ask what counselling services are available in your area. Your GP may need to refer you, or you may be able to self-refer – it depends what is available.
  2. Find and pay for a counsellor privately.

“My counsellor helped me to make a connection between having a disabled sister (and how that had impacted on me) and experiencing depression and anxiety later in life, particularly after becoming a parent. She helped me to understand my own behavioural traits better” – Adult sibling

Finding a private counsellor

The terms ‘counsellor’, ‘therapist’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are often used interchangeably in the UK. It can feel a bit daunting searching for someone to begin with, so take your time and read up on what you need to.

  1. Search online using accredited directories – such as the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
  2. Narrow down the search with words like ‘family’, ‘relationships’, ‘disability’, and ‘autism’ if these are relevant for you. A counsellor with a background in these areas may be beneficial.
  3. Search by postcode and consider the distance you are able to travel. You may feel a bit worn out after a session, so it is worth thinking about the time and distance you’re prepared to go.
  4. Read more about the type of therapy someone offers on the UKCP website. You can also call the UKCP for further advice.

“Earlier this year, I made the decision to have Talking Therapies CBT as well as counselling to enable me to process the traumatic memories I have relating to my brother’s mistreatment in the first ever residential placement he ever lived in (he lived at home until he was 39 years old). I found both the CBT and counselling very helpful. Each day now,  I practise worry time regarding any practical and hypothetical worries I have for my brother.” – Adult sibling

What to ask a private counsellor

  1. Most counsellors offer a short, free, phone consultation. Make use of this, and ask as many questions as you would like. Everyone is different and it’s important to find someone you feel comfortable with and who is a good fit for your needs.
  2. Always ask a counsellor about the training and qualifications they have. There is no legislation that regulates counsellors – anyone can set up a website and decide to offer this service. Training courses can vary, from a few months to a few years.
  3. Ask them about their experience of working with siblings or more generally with families where a person has a disability. If they don’t have any experience in this area – it’s not necessarily a barrier to you seeing them. What’s important is that they are willing to listen and to understand. It may help a counsellor to read pages of the Sibs website or our eBook to understand sibling issues more widely and to have that context.

It is OK to try out a few counsellors before finding one to have ongoing sessions with. Every counsellor is different, and it’s important that you have someone you feel comfortable with.

“Having counselling has had a beneficial impact on how I think and feel about my family relationships, and allowed me to move forward in terms of dealing with my feelings of guilt, sadness and loss associated with my brother’s disability” – Adult sibling

If you need urgent support:

  • To talk about anything that is troubling you, call Samaritans on 116 123 any time of day or night or email
  • Prefer to text? Use the ‘Give us a shout’ text service. Text ‘Shout’ to 85258 to talk about your feelings, at any time of day or night
  • CALM (for men). Phone line 0800 58 58 58, open 5pm – midnight. Webchat service here


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You can download this page as an information leaflet to print out here: Sibs - How to find a counsellor.