What do people look for in a counsellor?
Before I started my career as a counsellor I had no idea there were so many different approaches in counselling. Now, if I look for a counsellor, I see so many different theories. But what do we really look for when we’re searching?
So, I asked a few questions, and compiled the answers, along with my own thoughts, in the hope that it will answer some questions.
First impressions count! But where do we see them? Often the first glimpse of a new counsellor is on the Internet, amongst many others and the information first seen can be confusing. Qualifications and theories, do they really mean anything? It is best to look for a membership with a recognised counselling authority such as UKCP and BACP; these mean that the counsellor adheres to specific ethics set out by the governing authority.
Confidentiality! Most people want to work with someone who is confidential and most counsellors will say that this is utmost in their work. Although each therapist should have supervision, and work is discussed, each client is kept anonymous as much as possible. A counsellor who understands, someone who doesn’t just ‘go through the motions’ but really does take an interest in the individual and cares about them. Someone who holds boundaries for themselves as well as the client, but is warm and caring at the same time.
So what do we want to know about the counsellors themselves? Do we want to know that they have had an interesting life, or do we want to know nothing about them? That seems a difficult question, but a little information about the counsellor and their background can be helpful, especially if looking for someone who specialises in a particular area. And is it necessary for the counsellor to have been working for many years and have a lot of experience in many subjects? I think that is a personal preference, as there are many good counsellors who do not have an abundance of years or hours behind them.
Now a decision is made and an appointment is booked. I’d like the room to be peaceful, relaxing without concern about people walking in or making too much noise outside. I want to feel safe. As a client I want to be respected in what I’m saying; don’t judge me; walk with me and listen. I want to know that I’m being heard. I want the counsellor to understand when things are difficult and when I’m feeling vulnerable and be with me in the process, to show their humanity. Don’t give me that ‘psychobabble’, talk to me in English so I understand what you’re trying to say to me.
Challenge me sometimes, to help me understand my decisions and myself. Allow me to express myself the way that I need to without fear of judgment; allowing me to fail and help me within this, enabling me to move forward while learning about myself.
Ultimately, I want someone who is human and has had life experiences and can relate to me on a ‘human’ level. I need to feel confident with the person I am trusting with ‘me’.