Counselling is a term which can be used to mean different forms of help. Here we are referring to psychological or therapeutic counselling, rather than counselling which might be provided by a medical professional, for example when discussing the result of a scan or test, a diagnosis or prognosis or other information related to the health of a baby or other pregnancy issue.

At ARC we provide emotional support and information based on many years’ experience of talking to people who have been given worrying news about their pregnancy, who have been told their baby has a serious condition or anomaly, who are making difficult decisions about the future of their pregnancy and who are coping with the devastating loss of a much-wanted baby. We do not provide formal therapeutic counselling.

The BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) provides the following definition:

Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing.

Not everyone who goes through the distressing experience of a prenatal diagnosis and the loss of a baby will want or need counselling or therapy. Many people come through this devastating experience with the support of family and friends and/or from an organisation such as ARC, which provides them with the opportunity to make contact with people who have been through similar experiences and who can provide empathy, understanding and hope for the future.

There is no right or wrong way to cope with the normal emotions of your bereavement. Counselling will not take away the pain of the loss or speed up the grieving process. However it can be helpful in providing a space in which to talk about complex, painful emotions, feelings and thoughts that it may be difficult to share with others, either because you don’t want to burden them or because you feel you may be judged.

It is thought by many bereavement professionals that it can be more helpful to begin counselling some weeks after a loss. Attempting to analyse or ‘unpick’ difficult emotions when you may still be in shock and these feelings are very raw may not be beneficial. However it may be helpful for some people to have a private, confidential space in which to offload their grief, especially if this is not available elsewhere.

Accessing counselling and therapy

Places which provide counselling including GP surgeries, some hospitals, places of work, and some voluntary and charitable organisations.

There are a number of crisis pregnancy centres around the UK which provide post-abortion counselling. While we have heard from some ARC members that some of their individual counsellors have been helpful, many of these centres come from an anti-abortion background. There have also been reports of some crisis pregnancy centres providing misleading or incorrect information to women who are considering ending a pregnancy.

You can find a private counsellor or therapist through the BACP and the UKCP, both organisations which set standards for counselling and psychotherapy in the UK.

Probably most important when deciding whether or not to work with a counsellor is whether or not they are someone you feel safe with, that you can imagine being open with and sharing intimate details of your life, or some of your deepest, darkest thoughts. It may take a few sessions to decide if counselling or a particular counsellor is right for you.

The BACP has set up a useful website providing general information about counselling and therapy called ‘It’s good to talk‘ with sections on different therapeutic approaches, how to access counselling and other things to think about.

If you are trying to decide whether counselling might help you, you are also very welcome to call the ARC helpline to talk things through. Although we are not trained and qualified therapeutic counsellors, we have many years’ experience of supporting bereaved parents and are familiar with some of these issues.