Choosing a Counsellor: A few tips
For a first timer choosing a therapist can be quite daunting as there appears to be many considerations. For example, what do all the abbreviations after a Counsellor’s name mean? What do I say is ‘wrong with me’ or how do identify my ‘issue’? What will it cost? How long? And so on.
First things first!
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with you, everyone has mental health. Some people cope with life’s ups and downs, while others find it more difficult, especially when the downs appear to be more frequent than the ups!! Some people who attend counselling sessions don’t have an ‘issue’ at all. They simply wish to explore their thoughts and understand their self better, such as ‘why do I act this way when I’m in a certain situation’? Or ‘why do I get so angry when I see my Mother in law’? and so on...
Now a few tips to help you with your choice.
Yes it’s important to check out the therapist’s qualifications and experience, usually that is demonstrated by the designated letters (abbreviations after the counsellors name) E.g PhD MSc and BSc refer to the level of degree studied.
Affiliations otherwise known as ‘member of’ or just ‘M’ refers to attachment to a professional body. Counsellors and Psychotherapists pay an annual membership fee to belong to the body and to enable them to uphold a high level of ethical practise, through further development, contribution and awareness of the profession. Signs of such affiliations are usually shown as ‘MBACP’ ‘BPS’ ‘BPsS’. (There are many other affiliations but I’m sure you get the gist)!
Accreditation or (Accred) according to BACP ‘enables clients, employers and colleagues to recognise proven, competent practitioners’. This means that the selection of a counsellor or therapist can be based on an informed choice rather than speculation. Counsellors have to demonstrate the capacity for independent, competent, ethical practice. BACP counsellor accreditation is awarded to members who meet the standard for accreditation. (Sourced Nov 2010)
How do I identify an ‘issue’?
Rather than worry about applying a label to yourself just state (say) how you are feeling. For example rather than saying ‘I think I have (insert word)’, try telling the counsellor, ‘I have noticed I feel sad, upset, anxious, confused’ etc. This way you are not tying yourself to a specific ‘ailment’ or ‘disorder’. You are a human being and how you feel today might not be how you feel tomorrow!
Why do Counsellors charge different rates?
Fees may reflect on the counsellor’s qualifications, experience, reputation, location or philosophy. Some counsellors have trained for years for example and want to reflect their high degree of dedication, learning and expertise to the profession, in their fees. Others believe that counselling should be available at a low cost to attract those who may be on a low income. However, there are voluntary organisations which offer counselling for free (sometimes a small donation) if you would like a number for such a service you should be able to find one in your local listings for your area.
Meeting your chosen Counsellor:
Many counsellors offer a ‘meet and greet session’ of around 20mins for free. This enables you to ask questions, see the counsellor’s credentials and to see the room etc. More importantly it gives you time to see if you could ‘click’ or relate to the Counsellor, before spending your hard earned money!
What if I get there and feel ‘judged’, embarrassed, awkward, upset... if you feel this way don’t be afraid to say it! A well trained and experienced Counsellor will support you and help you to work through these feelings...However if your dismay is in regard to the counsellor and you think , ‘I just don’t feel I will be able to open up to this person’ then tell them or simply end your sessions. If you would prefer another therapist, the counsellor may be able to suggest a colleague. It is important that you feel comfortable. The Counsellor will not be offended!!
Finally, how long will I be in therapy?
Some people find a few sessions is enough; others wish to attend weekly until they feel they have a better understanding of self. You can decide!
Tips to be aware of: some counsellors assume ‘with agreement’ a series of six sessions. Some suggest a week to week decision; others allow you to book in a way that suits your needs and your pocket, say once every two weeks. The tip is to state your needs. YOU can end at any time, although notice to the therapist is usually appreciated!!