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First steps: Here are a number of options for people who want to attend counselling

Counselling is often the first step for people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. There are a number of options available for people who opt to attend counselling.

HSE services:

The HSE runs a Counselling in Primary Care Service (CIPC) for medical card holders over 18 who are suffering from mild to moderate difficulties.

It is suitable for people who are battling with the following issues: depression, anxiety, panic reactions, relationship problems, loss issues, stress.

In 2016 there were 17,079 referrals to the service (referrals can be made by GPs or other members of a person's primary care team).

Almost 10,000 people attended the services last year around the country.

It is understood that there are a number of reasons for the number of referrals outstripping the number of people seen including waiting list delays and people opting not to use the service after an initial referral.

There are eight sessions available to people who are accepted as CIPC candidates, although waiting lists can be long.

In February of this year for example in one area of the country there were 593 people waiting for an appointment.

Private counselling:

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There are hundreds of private practitioners offering counselling services throughout the country.

Prices in the private sector vary from €30 per session to €80 per session, however many private practitioners confirmed to Independent.ie that they offer a sliding scale for clients who may be in a position to pay less.

Currently counsellors and psychotherparists are unregulated in Ireland, although work is underway in the Department of Health to introduce regulation.

Both the Mental Health Reform campaign and professional bodies such as the the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have called for greater regulation to protect clients from poorly trained practitioners.

A nationwide list of counsellors registered with the IACP can be found on their website: http://www.irish-counselling.ie/.

Low cost community counselling:

For those who need affordable counselling but do not qualify for a medical card there are a number of low-cost community counselling options available throughout the country also.

Fees can be waived or can start as low as €5.

Counsellors are either fully trained or at an advanced stage of their education and are fully supervised.

Demand for low cost community counselling has increased in recent years and many centres have expanded their services.

The Oasis Counselling Centre which operates in Dublin 1 is one such organisation.

Last year some 8,000 clients were seen by the service, which was set up by the Sisters of Charity in 1996.

There are a number of other options available to people in need, your GP can advise you on services of which you might avail. If you are affected by any of the issues in this article you can contact the Samaritans helpline on 116 123.

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