How to Find a Counsellor
You have taken the first step and decided to find a counsellor. So, where do you start?
You may be lucky enough to have a word of mouth recommendation. Perhaps your GP can suggest some suitable candidates. Otherwise, you will probably use a search engine.
Type in "find a counsellor near me" and it is likely you will be sent to a directory such as the Counselling Directory, the BACP Therapist Directory or Psychology Today. You will also be presented with individual counsellor websites. This is an important decision, so how do you know who the 'right' person is?
How do you choose the 'best' person for you?
First of all, think about your own needs and preferences. What do you want to get out of counselling? Is there a specific issue such as anxiety or bereavement, or are you looking for a more general benefit? You just feel like things aren't quite right. Do you have a preference for a male or female counsellor? How far are you prepared to travel (bear in mind you will probably be going weekly)?
Answering these questions may narrow down your choices.
How do you know your counsellor is qualified?
There are many different counselling/psychotherapy qualifications - diplomas, bachelor's degree, masters, doctorate. But don't assume that someone with a catalogue of qualifications is therefore a better counsellor. Many counsellors choose to join a professional body such as the BACP, NCS or UKCP. These all have standards counsellors must meet for membership. They also have an ethical framework/code of conduct that their members work to. In my opinion, this is the best indicator that the counsellor has trained to a suitable level and is committed to working professionally.
What kind of counselling will suit me?
Like many professions, counselling is full of jargon. Don't let this put you off! Here is a quick flavour (very simple) of some of the types of counselling people may offer.
With its Freudian roots, psychodynamic counselling works with the idea that past experiences affect your current behaviours. By using techniques such as dream analysis, free association and transference, we work to understand how our unconscious might be driving us.
The person-centred approach is based on the idea that we are all 'programmed' to strive towards our full potential; however, the way we see ourselves can get in the way. In being fully accepted and valued by the counsellor, we can explore how we are in the here and now. We are in control of our own destiny. This allows us to accept ourselves, rediscover our self-worth and make positive changes.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT focusses on current problems and challenges; the thoughts that affect our feelings and behaviour. CBT helps to break down habits and negative thought patterns. This can be particularly helpful for anxiety, OCD and phobias as well as many other issues.
Transactional Analysis (TA)
TA works with our three 'ego states' (parent, adult, child). It looks at how our personalities have been formed from experiences throughout our life, but particularly in childhood. We develop patterns of behaviour and negative thought patterns which through TA we can be made aware of and therefore change.
Integrative counsellors usually have an approach they are grounded in (e.g. person centred) but use different elements of other approaches for different clients or for particular issues. Integrative counselling works on the basis that no one type of counselling can suit all clients all of the time.
My counsellor looks good 'on paper' but how do I know this is the one?
Pick up the phone and call them. This will give you the chance to ask questions and to see if your first impression 'feels right'. Your first session will also give you an opportunity to gauge if this is a person you can work with. You should feel heard, valued and not judged. You should feel your counsellor is focussed solely on you. You should feel you can be totally honest. Finding the right person is so important because you really need to trust your counsellor. The relationship between you and your counsellor is probably the most important factor in determining if counselling helps you.
My final piece of advice is use your intuition - go with your gut feeling. Don't hesitate to change counsellors if the relationship isn't working for you. The right counsellor could help you to change your life.
Have you chosen your counsellor? I would be interested to know how you made the choice.
If you would like to find out more, please feel free to contact me.