At Nottingham Counselling Service, it is believed that good mental wellbeing should not be restricted by circumstance or background. It promotes emotional health and wellbeing through inclusive and accessible counselling at a cost that reflects the economic circumstances of the client.

Nottingham Counselling Service (NCS) is an independent charity, established in 1977. The organisation offers BACP Accredited counselling services and therapy for people aged 16 and above living in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands. ‘Our ethos is that good mental health and wellbeing should not be limited by a client’s circumstance or background. We employ an ethnically diverse counsellors and therapists workforce, offering a wide range of therapeutic approaches and a pricing structure that allows the client to pay according to ability,’ says Executive Director Leslie McDonald.

The organisation provides an excellent environment for its clients and counsellors, providing approved placements to those working towards their qualifications and volunteering opportunities to qualified and experienced practitioners who want to give back to the community. ‘All counselling and therapy services offered at Nottingham Counselling Service are accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and our counsellors abide by the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Profession,’ states Leslie.

The service itself is all based around the needs of the client, its approach is people centric: those interested can self-refer to the service, not needing to consult their GPs. Leslie states that, ‘in response to client feedback, we removed any limit to the number of counselling sessions available to an individual. This means that people get support for as long as they and their counsellor feel it is beneficial to them.’

NCS is committed to diversity, equality and inclusion, recognising that people from Black and Asian backgrounds may have different cultural needs and the approach to counselling is considered in a culturally sensitive way. The service can match clients to counsellors with relevant backgrounds, starting from the initial assessments where all needs and issues are taken into consideration before matching client to counsellor.

Nottingham Counselling service recognises that consistent and continual care with the same counsellor is key and provides open ended therapy support until no longer required - there is no upper limit on the number of sessions available to clients unlike the NHS and other mainstream commissioned therapies. ‘The business ethos is to bring the benefits of counselling to all, regardless of circumstance, income or ability to pay. We offer an unquestioned ‘ability to pay’ pricing structure enabling those with little or no disposable income access to our services,’ states Leslie. The organisation does not receive any government funding to deliver its services and mainly relies on charitable donations and relevant contributions and provision from other self-generated activities.

The services offer a wide range of counselling and therapy approaches and can provide a tailored therapy programme for clients presenting with complex/multiple issues using a blend of different approaches and expertise. Since the onset of COVID-19, the organisation has delivered its services online and this has widened access to support to some clients who may not have found face to face therapy accessible for a variety of reasons. ‘We will continue offering this approach when we resume to our normal method of service delivery. Since the lifting of restrictions, we have seen significant increase in demand. For example, our website analytics are showing a 73% increase in new users for the year to date. We anticipate this trend to continue for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19 and the impact of the restrictions on people’s mental wellbeing,’ states Leslie.

As a BACP accredited service, all its counsellors follow the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions. In 2018, Nottingham Counselling Service achieved accreditation to ISO 9001:2015 - Quality Management Systems which provides a robust framework for consistency and efficiency of the delivery of services and BS 76000 - Valuing People Management Systems which ensures the continual development and nurturing of staff and volunteers. Leslie states, ‘we provide clinical supervision which meets the BACP requirements and offer access to CPD support to all practitioners. The internal environment is a major factor in our high retention rate for the workforce of almost 60 counsellors and makes us an attractive approved provider for those seeking placements as trainee therapists/counsellors.’

NCS is breaking down barriers by working in partnership with other organisations that can provide complementary services and/or whose clients need this type of support but do not meet the threshold for mainstream services.

Seeking counselling is a daunting prospect. ‘There are many barriers that potential clients put in place to avoid making the decision to seek help. The barriers can be based on fears, based on factors in their own reality (financial, racial, sigma, shame, etc.) and based on generic myths around the subject of counselling and mental health. Each set of barriers are unique to the user, as unique as their DNA. At NCS we offer a universal counselling service which is open to all.’ Leslie states.

Going forward at NCS, its guided structure and overall dedication to its clients and counsellors will continue to play a role in maintaining its excellence. The organisation is not only helping people break down the barriers within themselves, but the stigma that can go along
with counselling and mental health and it is doing it all without any government funded help. NCS succeeds only if its clients do, and that circle of life is what keeps NCS at the top of the industry and ensures clients keep returning or referring.