What is counselling?

Counselling is for anyone who wants to invest in getting their life on track.

Typical problems that people bring to counselling include low-mood, depression, feeling stuck or trapped, anxiety, stress, feeling unhappy at work, eating issues, over-doing drink, drugs, gambling or computers, relationship issues (work or personal), identity issues, family problems, bereavement, career uncertainty or dissatisfaction, life-stage issues (eg mid-life crisis, retirement), a sense of something being ‘not quite right’ or a desire for greater well-being or personal development.

Through listening to you and talking with you, the counsellor aims to facilitate your personal development. Counsellors rarely offer advice, but instead will work collaboratively with you to help you look at your situation with fresh eyes and experiment with new solutions.

Many people feel that their problems are not important enough to warrant counselling. Others worry that counselling may not help – or that they are in some way ‘abnormal’. In all cases, a trial initial appointment will enable you to explore what you can get from counselling – and what you can’t.

The best-regarded professional registration bodies in the UK for counsellors are: UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy), BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy), BABCP (British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies) and the BPS (British Psychological Society). We strongly suggest checking directly with any counsellor or psychotherapist you are considering, whether they are registered with one of these bodies. There are some people who claim to be counsellors in the Cambridge area who are advertising and practising without being registered and others who are registered with bodies that, although they appear credible, do not require the same level of in-depth training, personal awareness and professional and ethical accountability as these organisations require of their registrants. All counsellors at Cambridge Counselling Service are registered with either UKCP or BACP. Most have masters degrees in counselling or psychotherapy.

What happens in the counselling room?

The counsellor will be curious about you and your life.

The counsellor will listen to you, ask questions and will want to create a trustworthy and supportive relationship with you. They will be keen to understand the world from your point of view.

The counsellor will also want to work in a way that suits you – that helps you get the most from the session and that means you feel in control of the work being done.

Typical questions could include:

  • How do you feel about that?
  • What do you need right now?
  • It sounds as if you might have a pattern of ….?

In the context of understanding you and your situation, the counsellor will then seek to collaborate with you to create experiments, options or windows of opportunity for you for doing things differently or approaching things differently in some way. The aim is that any changes you make fit with what you want to do and are in manageable steps.

To do this well takes a good knowledge of psychology on the part of the counsellor. It typically takes several years of training and on-the-job experience to qualify as a counsellor.


What happens in the initial sessions and how long does individual counselling last?


People usually do one or two (depending on the counsellor) initial sessions. Individual sessions are 50 minutes long. These initial sessions are an opportunity for the counsellor and client to get to know each other and to explore whether they are likely to work together well.

Typically, the counsellor will also want to ask a set of questions about your background (eg family history, previous counselling and so on). There should also be an opportunity to ask the counsellor about their qualifications and experience, about how they work as a counsellor and to say something about what brings you to counselling. You can pay for the initial session/s on the day by cash or cheque.


At the end of the initial session/s, the counsellor and you will decide whether you will continue together or not. You may then book a series (eg 3-6) more sessions, at the same time each week, for more in-depth exploration of your problem/s and your situation. Many people get a lot of value from these few sessions – and some people stop at the end of these sessions.


Often, people will then book a series of further sessions to work through the issue/s they have identified in a structured way. Scientific research shows that a significant number of people experience improvement in 10-20 sessions in total – and stop after this.


Some people choose to have more counselling than 20 sessions – and it is not uncommon for some people to invest in counselling for a year or longer or to have an ‘open ended’ contract that lasts several years.

Does it work?

“There is unequivocal evidence that, on average, psychological therapies have a positive effect on people’s mental health and well-being,” says Mick Cooper, professor of counselling research at the University of Strathclyde. And further scientific evidence shows that just under 8 out of 10 individuals who participate in counselling, improve more than someone who does not.

However, it should be noted some people will not benefit from counselling and some people will be better served with a referral to a specialist or to another counsellor or psychotherapist outside Cambridge Counselling Service.

How much does it cost and how do I pay?

Sessions typically happen weekly at the same time each week and last 50 minutes each. Most clients pay by direct bank payment to the counsellor’s bank account (although some also take bank cards, cheque or cash).

Each individual needs to weigh up this investment against the potential current value and potential future value of counselling to them across their lifetime, in terms of improved well being, mental health and personal development. Reduced fees are also available in some cases.

Details of the terms and conditions of counselling at Cambridge Counselling Service can be given to you during the initial session.

What is Cambridge Counselling Service?

Cambridge Counselling Service is a network of private-practitioner counsellors from the Cambridge area, who are all interested in helping widen access to counselling and in helping people get their lives on track. We are the largest private counselling service in Cambridge.

Cambridge Counselling Service works with people across Cambridgeshire.

Our mission is to widen access to counselling, as we believe the availability of counselling is a key support for a flourishing local community.

We have a private, comfortable and light-filled consulting rooms, with views of trees and sky, near Stourbridge Common in Cambridge. All our offices have been designed and built especially for counselling. We have a large comfortable waiting area, toilets, plenty of free parking space and easy access by car, bus, by foot or bike. The office is about 12 minutes walk from Midsummer Common, 20 minutes walk from the Grafton Centre, 5 minutes cycle from North Cambridge train station – and a couple of minutes walk from the River Cam. Click here for directions. Unfortunately, our offices are not wheelchair accessible.

We offer individual and couples counselling and supervision for counsellors and psychotherapists.

Other places to look for counselling and support:




kensingtoncounselling.co.uk  (London)

http://www.pimlicocounsellors.co.uk/ (London)

www.cbpc.org.uk (Therapeutic massage and body work)

Free counselling:

https://www.lawrencewaycounselling.org/ (free NHS counselling service – you can self-refer)

http://centre33.org.uk/ (for young people under 26)

https://www.choicescounselling.co.uk/ (for victims of childhood abuse)