Accessing Therapy in Ireland

Accessing Therapy in Ireland

There are many choices available to people who are thinking about beginning therapy. There are so many that making a decision can be confusing and frustrating! This blog article will try to outline what kind of psychotherapies are out there and how to access them.

Many people who go to a GP are looking for help with issues around stress, anxiety, depression or other issues which are causing them some mental distress. People can also find therapists by the recommendations of friends or by searching the internet (we recommend you make sure your therapist is accredited or working towards accreditation if you use the internet),

 The World Health Organisation has estimated that about a quarter of people will experience some mental distress during their life time. GPs can often be a first point of contact when looking for help with these issues. It has been suggested that over a third of patients going to GPs are there for mental issues. Very occasionally GPs who are trained in therapy will work with their patients to explore and address their distress. However more often, based on how the GP assesses the severity of a patient’s mental distress the options open to GPs include:

referring or sending patients to someone trained to give counselling or psychotherapy
treating  the patient with medication and wait to see how the patient responds
occasionally working with patients to see if the GP  can treat the problem
engaging in what is known as “watchful waiting” to see if the patient gets better with time, or
referring patients with very difficult issues for psychiatric treatment
The level of medication being given to patients in the US and other countries is of increasing concern to many in the mental health sector. While medications can help people get a break from their distress and may help some people in the long-term with chronic conditions, not all people need to be on medication for a long time.

The following are the types of referral that at GP can make, or that you might come across on the internet or from other sources of advertising:

Counsellor or Psychotherapist

This term is a general term and can be used to describe many of those providing therapy. There are a growing number of people who are trained to provide counselling and psychotherapy services who do not come from a psychological or psychiatric background. These psychotherapists are trained to work with the client rather than diagnose their problems. PCI College is involved in training therapists who work in this way. The training provided by PCI College meets the recommended training requirements of the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) which is one of the main accrediting bodies for psychotherapists and counsellors in Ireland.

Training for a counsellor or psychotherapist will focus on the relationship with the client and the counsellor’s own response to life. These professionals are also required to engage in personal development and therapy during training. The counselling process does not involve a focus on diagnosis but on the unique set of issues that each client presents with.

Counselling or Clinical Psychologist

A counselling psychologist is someone who has also been trained about the therapeutic relationship with the client and will usually have received personal therapy during their training. They will also have undertaken research in the area of psychology. They are trained to diagnose problems and will sometimes administer psychometric assessments to assess the patient’s issues and abilities. They also provide psychotherapy or counselling.


A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor who has also completed a specialisation in psychological and related medical treatments. He/she is permitted to diagnose patients and prescribe medication. While psychiatrists increasingly prescribe medication they may also provide psychotherapy for their patients. Often a psychiatrist will deal with more severe cases of diagnosed mental distress.

What is the process of psychotherapy?

Research has suggested that the vast majority of those who go for therapy improve. Therapy can be more effective in the long term than medication alone or no therapy at all!

Another consideration for potential clients is around what kind of psychotherapy they want to receive. Whatever approach to therapy you might prefer, it is our view that clients should go for therapy with a therapist who is working towards accreditation with one of the main accrediting bodies in Ireland. These can be found by searching the internet or looking up the various accrediting organisations’ websites. These usually have lists of accredited therapists available.

There are many different approaches to providing psychotherapy. If you are in doubt ask your therapist to explain their approach. The basic approaches are outlined below. There are many more!

Humanistic and Integrative Therapy

The underlying assumption with this kind of therapy is that the client is expert on their own lives and the therapist is there to facilitate the client in meeting their potential. The relationship is key to this kind of work and it is focused on helping the client become more aware of their own needs in how they live.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The approach believes that how we think about things and how we behave can make us unhappy. It looks at ways to challenge and change how we think and behave. This therapy will quickly come up with practical ways for a client to change the way they think or behave and very often the client is given exercises to carry out in their life, outside the therapy room.

Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Therapy

This approach assumes that many of our decisions and reactions to life are based on unconscious processes that can be partly brought into awareness through therapy. The approach looks at past and present relationship dynamics to try and understand how the client has arrived at where they are.

Couple and Family Therapy

This process involves looking how couples or families interact. It provides a space for people or members to be heard in the context of relationship.

This is just a general introduction to what kind of choices are available to people in Ireland. Here at PCI College we provide low cost counselling which is given by trainee counsellors who are working towards their accreditation and usually work in an integrative way. They are insured and attend supervision regularly.

Good luck with your therapy!

Finian Fallon

Finian Fallon is a faculty lecturer at PCI College. He is currently completing a Doctorate in Psychotherapy at Dublin City University (DCU) where he is exploring the process of GP referrals for mental health issues.

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