What factors influence a client’s choice of counsellor or psychotherapist in a private practice setting?

  • Julie May

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study considered how a client chooses a psychotherapist/counsellor working in
    private practice. It emerged from a desire to know whether clients made informed
    choices, which factors influenced their selection and the extent to which they were
    aware of the regulatory status of the profession. 22 participants including ten
    psychotherapist/counsellors, ten clients and two other professionals were
    interviewed using semi-structured interviews. This qualitative study was underpinned
    by pragmatism, and data was analysed using thematic analysis.
    The findings suggested that the primary selection factor was third-party
    recommendation, and where this option was either absent or undesired, selection
    was made based on internet searching using location, experience of the presenting
    issues and the perceived ability to relate to the client. Clients assessed these factors
    using the photograph and rhetoric on the therapist’s website or directory entry, as
    well as during the first face-to-face meeting, largely relying upon unconscious
    projection and ‘gut instinct’. Factors of limited importance in the selection process
    included qualifications, professional standing and modality. There was an
    assumption that the profession was already statutorily regulated and that these
    factors would be obligatorily in situ, before a therapist could practise privately. The
    findings suggested little awareness that the responsibility to validate a therapist’s
    professional standing or credibility rests, with the client. A lack of information for both
    clients and recommenders was highlighted, together with an increased risk for
    exploitation affecting private practice clients, because of unprotected titles and an
    absence of minimum education standards for the profession. Recommendations
    from the research included an increase in public education, urgent debate within the
    profession of the issues highlighted and support for statutory regulation.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorDiane Waller (Supervisor)

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