How do I choose a counsellor?
This is a question I am consistently asked by students, friends, colleagues... and remember struggling with myself, so these are my top tips!
- Think about whether your needs would be best met by accessing counselling through an agency set up to support a particular 'issue' or a private therapist.
- Think about what it is you want from counselling - do you have something particular you want to process with the aid of a professional, are you looking to meet your course criteria, do you just want to get to know yourself better?
- Think about anything else that may be of influence - do you have a particular time-frame in mind? What could you afford to spend on a weekly basis? What availability do you have weekly? How far are you prepared to travel... and how - does your therapist need to be easily accessed by public transport? Do you have a preference for working with a male or female counsellor? Does your counsellor need to be of a specific orientation?
With all of this in mind start to look at profiles - the counselling directory has them obviously, as does the BACP website, and find all of the therapists in your area. Then bearing in mind all of the above start the elimination process and begin to form a shortlist. Money is the one thing that is probably not worth eliminating for, as most counsellors will offer some concessionary appointments.
If all of your questions aren't answered in the profile, maybe make contact with the therapists on your shortlist by phone or email to get more of a feel for them and have your queries answered - this may eliminate some more, it may not.
Then I'd advise making some initial appointments. Some counsellors offer this for free, some don't - but perhaps it's not worth eliminating those that don't just for that reason - you may have eliminated your ideal counsellor! Having a few appointments especially if you have never had any counselling before will really give you a feel for the different ways people work, who you might like to work with and hopefully who you definitely wouldn't! Most counsellors will be absolutely fine with you telling them you are looking for a counsellor and therefore booking a number of initial consultations... if any are not that may tell you more about their issues than yours!
After your consultations you should have a firm understanding of what you want from a therapeutic relationship and what you liked and didn't like, (arguably) relationship (between client and counsellor) is the most important factor in whether or not counselling is effective... so you've probably chosen your counsellor by now.
If not, what's going on for you? Were they all seriously impossible to work with for professional reasons (in which case I'd advise going back to the beginning and starting again), or is this whole process just really uncomfortable for you? And if so, what do you think the reason is?
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