What should you consider when choosing a counsellor?
Sometimes, it can take a long time to decide to go and see a counsellor. This can be for many reasons, including anxiety about sharing personal details that you perhaps have not shared with anyone else. You may feel embarrassed, weak, or ashamed that you are not coping as well as you would like to. Life is sometimes overwhelmingly busy, and you may feel that you don't have the time to look for a counsellor or even know where to begin.
More and more people are looking for help by searching online, and there are numerous directories and websites to consider. Perhaps even this is overwhelming. So much time is already spent online with social media that it can feel difficult to scroll through the profiles of one counsellor after another.
Counselling is a relationship that is different from all other relationships because it is all about you. It is about being intentional in setting time aside in a quiet space on a weekly basis to help you reflect on your life and how you are managing the struggles and difficult emotions that you are experiencing. You may know exactly what you think has caused you to feel this way, or you may feel stuck and unsure about what is wrong and what it is that you need.
If you are going to talk about personally sensitive matters, you need someone you can feel safe with, even if there are aspects of the counselling process which are difficult. Establishing rapport is built right from the first contact with whichever professional you choose to consider working with. As the therapeutic relationship is at the core of the therapeutic work, this is a very important aspect to bear in mind.
It can be helpful to consider what it is that is important to you. You might want someone of the same gender, faith, age, ethnicity, sexuality, or someone who has particular expertise in the difficulty you are facing. Or, you might want to see someone who is completely different to you, but someone whom you feel instinctively is the right person.
Counsellors are trained to work with respect and to value the dignity and intrinsic worth of all people. Their job is to facilitate healing from distress by validating your narrative, listening with genuine interest and curiosity, and a willingness to learn.
Do you want someone who will listen, reflect back, and offer interventions, or do you want someone who says very little and trusts the process that you will find your own answers if you feel safe and accepted? There are many ways of counselling, and often clients are not interested in the name of the psychological theoretical model a professional is using. They are more likely to be interested in whether the professional is able to help them.
It is important to ensure that any professional you are considering is suitably qualified and registered, and possibly accredited with a professional body such as BACP. This will mean that they are working within an ethical framework and are receiving supervision and are accountable to maintain high professional standards.
Here are some possible things to consider as you search for the counsellor who is right for you;
- Do they have an online presence with a full profile?
- Do they have a photograph on their profile?
- Are their qualifications and experience displayed clearly?
- Do they have a particular specialism?
- Do you feel able to make a phone call to them to ask any questions that you may have?
- When you ask questions is the counsellor open to answering these?
- Does the counsellor give you enough information before potentially meeting to help you decide if you want to book an initial appointment?
- If you meet the counsellor, do you feel safe in saying that you don't feel that you want to proceed with working with them?
- Does the counsellor tell you if they feel that they are not the right professional for you?
- Does the counsellor have a good network of trusted colleagues and good resources to enable you to take the next steps?
- Are they GDPR compliant and have a privacy notice that you are able to see and read?
- Do they have a counselling agreement which makes clear their commitment to you and your commitment to the process?
- Do you feel safe with them?
- Do they have professional insurance?
- Have they been recommended to you by someone you trust?
- Do they respond promptly to you when you contact them and leave a message?
- Are you wanting short-term therapy to focus on a particular difficulty in the present, or do you want to work in an open-ended way on something which is affecting the core of your being and ability to establish healthy relationships and coping strategies?
Clearly this list is not exhaustive, but hopefully, it will help as you consider how to choose the right counsellor for you.
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