Letter: Talking cure

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Sir: One basic problem with the research on counselling to date is that the researchers are not always clear as to the nature of counselling or as to who or what is a counsellor ("What's so special about psychotherapy?", 9 December). Nevertheless, the special ingredient of counselling and psychotherapy is in the quality of the therapeutic relationship. It is not surprising that it is so popular with patients and GPs in medical centres where the GPs' time is at a premium.

What did Jeremy Laurance expect to be the outcome of the research? That counsellors were more effective than GPs? The fact that they are at least as effective may well disturb GPs, considering the length and expense of their training. Certainly many of them welcome a counsellor as a colleague to assist in bearing the burden of the emotionally disturbed patient.

Counsellors and psychotherapists are not unaware of the need to "sharpen up" their professional skills and are collaborating in research. Perhaps the best evidence to date is the huge demand for counselling and patients' preference for the "talking cure" rather than drugs.


Vice-Chair, Counselling in Medical Settings Division, British Association for Counselling

Rugby, Warwickshire