Getting to the stage where you’ve decided you need to see a counsellor is a really big step and then trying to find the right counsellor is the next big thing in the process. If you’re anything like me, you may start with a search in your area hoping to find a face or a description of a counsellor that jumps out at you, or, if you’re lucky, you may be able to speak to a close friend or colleague who can recommend someone who could be the right fit for you. I’ve even been advised in the past to go “shopping” for a counsellor, but who has the time or the emotional energy to do that particularly when you’re feeling low, fragile and vulnerable.
Most of us will only talk or email our ‘potential’ therapist before meeting them for an initial consultation, the tone of the email or phone call can sometimes be enough to decide if you would like to meet them. Most ethical therapists offer an initial session for free and it’s at this point that you can really make best use of the time to see if the counsellor is right for you. I know it’s a bit like going into a shop when you’re the only person in there and you feel obliged to buy the top you don’t want, but rather think of the initial session as a “look and see” and helpful to you and the therapist. Therapy can only work if you feel comfortable with your counsellor.
Here’s a good post I found on ‘GoodTherapy.org’ that runs through the important steps of “How to Choose a Counsellor or Therapist“. Although one or two of the questions are a little more formal that I would normally go, they are certainly worth taking a mental note of, and, cushioned with these and your sense of ease with the counsellor, they could help you find the right therapist in your time of need.
The 14 steps it elaborates on are:
- What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist?
- What’s the counsellor’s general philosophy and approach to helping?
- Can the counsellor clearly define how he or she can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy?
- Does the counsellor seek regular peer consultation?
- Can your counsellor accept feedback and admit mistakes?
- Does the counsellor encourage dependence or independence?
- Has your counsellor done his or her own therapy?
- Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy?
- Does the counsellor make guarantees or promises?
- Does your counsellor adhere to ethical principles in regard to issues such as boundaries, dual relationships, and confidentiality?
- Is the counsellor licensed?
- Does the counsellor have a graduate degree?
- Does the counsellor have postgraduate training?
- Have any complaints been filed with the board?
I believe this is a very valid check-list and a process worth considering when selecting a counsellor.