A-Z of Glossary

Here you will find definitions for many of the most regularly used terms associated with counselling and psychotherapy.

  • A
    • Accreditation/Registration

      BACP Accred’ indicates that the therapist is an accredited counsellor or psychotherapist, trainer or supervisor, with BACP.

      This means that the therapist has achieved a substantial level of training and experience that has been approved by BACP.

      Other organisations such as the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) may use ‘Registered’ to refer to their members with this level of experience.

    • Assessment

      Establishing the client’s condition at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship.

  • B
    • Boundaries

      The initial set up of the therapist/client relationship so that each party is both clear of their role within the therapy sessions, and the professional limits that are created.

  • C
    • Client

      The person who makes the appointment to see the therapist.

    • Commitment

      A commitment is required from the client for the hard work and pain that can be involved in the working through of issues. Appointments need to be kept and time keeping is important. Therapists will also make a commitment to ensure and maintain their practices.

    • Confidentiality

      All discussions that take place between a counsellor and a client are treated with respect and discretion. An agreement is usually made during the first session about confidentiality. If exceptional circumstances arise, where there is a need to involve someone else, your consent should be sought for a change in this agreement.

    • Contract

      The contract is the initial agreement between the client and the therapist. Practical considerations that need to be confirmed include:

      • appointment time
      • location
      • cost of session
      • duration of appointment

      A written contract is the best idea, because you can go back and look over it if situations come up in the sessions that you are unsure of. You should feel free to ask questions about the counsellor’s professional background.

  • D
    • Disclosure

      The telling of information by the client to the therapist. Under specific circumstances, a counsellor may need to disclose information to another, but this would be discussed at the beginning of the sessions. In most situations, your permission will be sought before this happens.

    • Distance learning

      Distance learning is training that has been completed online, by phone or by post.

      Distance learning is not usually counted towards the training required in order to reach the BACP standard of ‘BACP Accred’, as this requires face to face training on a college course.

  • E
    • EAP

      Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide therapy and other welfare services to employees of organisations. Some are delivered in house, while others are offered by outside agencies. Most offer time limited therapy.

    • Ending

      The ‘ending’ refers to the final part of any course of therapy which can occur for many reasons. Usually, the specific problem that the client came to therapy for has been resolved. Whatever the reasons for finishing therapy, a proper ending is very important to bring the therapeutic relationship to a satisfactory close.

    • Ethical Framework

      The BACP Ethical Framework gives guidance on the standards expected of a BACP member.

      A full copy of the Ethical framework is available in Useful Resources.

    • Evaluation

      The assessment of the therapy, carried out by the therapist. Some therapists ask for feedback from clients on how they have found the process.

  • G
    • Group counselling

      Counselling conducted in a group setting, which can also be referred to as group therapy.

  • L
    • Life coach

      A life coach works to solve problems and promote life skills, rather than deliver therapy. Whereas therapy is non-directive, a life coach can help a person direct their life.

    • Long term counselling

      Some forms of therapy do not have a specific end date. In these instances, a client would see their therapist until a conclusion is reached, no matter how long that takes.

  • M
    • Mental wellbeing

      Mental wellbeing enables an individual to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others, and contribute to their community.

    • Modality

      This is another term used to describe the different theoretical approaches to therapy / types of therapy.

  • O
    • One to One counselling

      A session between one client and one therapist. This term implies that you are meeting face to face.

    • Online counselling

      The provision of contracted counselling over the internet. Sessions are conducted via email, forums (both asynchronous), chat rooms/instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP – online telephone services) or some practitioners use webcams so that the client and therapist can see each other during the session.

      This format of therapy can be beneficial for some clients, especially those who have difficulty in accessing traditional face-to-face services or who would prefer not to use them.

  • P
    • Placement

      Trainee therapists offer their services voluntarily in return for gaining experience in a counselling environment. Clients should be made aware if they are being counselled by a trainee on a placement, however in this situation a therapist should be supervised by a more experienced therapist.

    • Professional Conduct Procedures

      All BACP members follow the BACP ethical framework. If a client has a problem with their therapist, who is a BACP member, they can use the BACP professional conduct procedure to bring a complaint against the therapist.

    • Psychiatry

      A branch of medicine that treats disorders of the mind. A psychiatrist is medically trained (a fully qualified medical doctor) and can treat and prescribe medication for a range of mental health issues.

    • Psychology

      The study of mind and behaviour.

  • R
    • Records

      The notes a therapist keeps as a record of the sessions. These are usually short factual records of the session that has just taken place and can be used as a memory aid for future sessions.

    • Referral

      A potential client can be referred (sent) to a therapist by their doctor. Alternatively, people can refer themselves to therapy if they decide they want to see a private therapist.

  • S
    • Short term counselling

      Short term counselling is usually for a specific problem that may only take a few sessions to address. In a few situations one session may be sufficient.

    • Supervision

      Supervision is also known as consultative support and is a confidential process undertaken on a regular basis, which allows counsellors to discuss their client work with someone else who is experienced in counselling. Supervision is designed to maintain adequate standards of counselling to protect and ensure the best interests of clients.

  • T
    • Telephone counselling

      Counselling that takes place over the phone between a client and therapist.

    • Theoretical approach

      Both counsellors and psychotherapists work from a variety of theoretical approaches with their clients. These different types of therapy include:

      • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
      • Psychodynamic
      • Person-centred
      • Humanistic
      • Integrative

      Different approaches work better with different problems or clients. It is important to find the one that is right for you.

      See Types of therapy for further information.

    • Therapeutic relationship

      The relationship between the therapist and the client.

    • Therapy

      The act of being in counselling or psychotherapy.

    • Time limited

      This refers to therapy that is designed to last for a specific length of time. This would be contracted for at the beginning of the sessions. This could also be called Brief Therapy.

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