Five questions to ask if you're considering counselling
People often turn to counselling when their distress becomes unbearable. In amongst this turmoil, taking the step to find a counsellor can feel overwhelming. If you’re considering counselling, here are five questions it might be helpful to ask yourself to focus your search.
1) What do I want from the experience?
Generally counselling has a better outcome the clearer you are about what you want from it. Focusing on the change or difference you want to feel will also help your potential counsellor assess if they can help you. ‘Feeling better or different’ goes without saying, but can you narrow that a bit further? What feeling don’t you want any more? What situation would you like to see change?
2) How urgent is my need to change or feel different?
It sounds like a silly question. Of course if we are in pain we want that to go as quickly as possible. Some issues can be supported and transformed quickly in counselling, with as few as six or 12 sessions. Does your prospective counsellor work with brief therapy or in a solutions focused way?
Other issues are much more deeply rooted and will take longer to address. Do you have the will and patience to stick with the experience, even if it takes longer than you originally thought?
3) What kind of counselling will suit me best?
If you are looking for relatively quick ways of dealing with difficult thoughts, feelings and behaviours, perhaps a Cognitive Behavioural approach will suit.
If you feel you need help to find your own resources to work your way through your difficulties, a more person centred approach might help. Both these approaches deal very much with the ‘here and now’ of your distress.
If you have a sense that your past may have impacted your present and you have unconscious ways of being in the world which are holding you back, perhaps a more psychodynamic approach would help.
If you have a more spiritual yearning for meaning, connection with your potential, then perhaps a transpersonal approach could be helpful.
These are very brief summaries of approaches. You'll find more information on this website. However, the most important factor is that you feel comfortable with whoever your choose and that’s true for all approaches.
4) Do I feel more comfortable seeing a man or a woman or does it not matter? And what about other questions of identity?
There’s no right or wrong here. Gender might be important to how safe you feel with your counsellor. You may feel more comfortable talking about certain issues with someone of the same sex; or the opposite might be true. Equally, for example, seeing someone who identifies with your sexuality, your ethnicity, or your disability might be important to you. Or not. Being mindful of your choice and who you are drawn is worth noticing as part of your search.
5) How committed am I to the process?
Counselling isn’t about someone else giving you the solutions to what's hard in your life. If you feel ready to deepen your self-awareness, to look at what holds you back and drives you forward, counselling can be very helpful. In general, you get back what you put in. Readiness, willingness, openness and patience can all be very helpful to make this profound investment in yourself worthwhile.
Finding the time and space to reflect on these questions will both help you with choosing a counsellor and when you meet them, will help your potential counsellor to ensure you have made the right choice too.
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