With so many options on the internet market place, where on earth do you start when choosing the right counsellor? Let’s look at some of the key points to look out for when choosing a counsellor and how to narrow down what is right for you.
1.“Type” of therapy
There are many approaches that counsellors take, which is often referred to as a “modality”. All this means is the theory upon which they are basing their practice upon. You may have come across the following words: Behavioural Therapy, Psychodynamic, Psychoanalytic, Integrative, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Systemic, Gestalt, Family Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Neuro-linguistic programming, Person Centred, Relationship, Solution-Focused, Transactional Analysis, Humanistic, along with others. For more information about what these all mean in more detail- have a look at The National Counselling Society. In a nutshell, each theory has differing ideas about human development.
Although the approaches may be different, there is one common factor, which research highlights as the most important for an good outcome. This is the therapeutic relationship itself. This means how two individuals work together in a room. All qualified counsellors receive training in how to form and build this relationship.
It maybe worth considering what sort of relationship you would like, are you wanting someone to direct you? Or are you wanting to someone to work alongside you? As a “humanistic” therapist, I take the latter approach, by working with you and working together on exploring your world. This does not mean I am non-directive, as there are times, whereby I may ask to look at something said in more detail.
2. Location, location, location: Narrow your options
How close by? Some people wish to travel to see a counsellor. There is something about the journey after counselling that is important. It is a space to reflect upon what just happened. Others may need to have counselling close by due to other commitments. Counselling is usually weekly, so how is counselling going to fit into your week? So what is best for you?
In the modern world of technology, the world has become a seemingly smaller place. Some counsellors offer online therapy, which can be comprised of emails, chat rooms and web cameras.
The advantages of working with a counsellor in this way are: Accessibility- anyone with a computer and an internet connection can access counselling. Convenience- fitting counselling in can be challenging for some, online therapy cuts out the travel. Anonymity- being behind a computer screen offers a level of protection of your identity. Multi-method- for some, writing or typing can be therapeutic.
The disadvantages: Absence of verbal and no-verbal clues- these are the “micro” skills we all use to pick up on who is going to speak next and may reveal how someone means what they have said. With this missing, part of the therapy is missed and it is often harder to form that all important therapeutic relationship (although not impossible). Security- counsellors have a responsibility to protect confidentiality, however with online counselling, it is the clients responsibility to find a confidential space. Technology fails- we have all that that moment when the internet fails us. This may disrupt the counselling.
3.Are they qualified?
Did you know, legally in the UK, someone does not need a qualification to call themselves a “counsellor”. However the “actual” training process takes years (it varies depending on the route you take). Here is a list of organisations verify counsellors qualifications: BACP, UKCP, COSCA, BABCP, BAPCA, BASRT, BPS.
4.Where to access therapy
NHS- depending upon the area you live in, you can either self refer, or your GP maybe able to refer you to counselling. Check out NHS services website for more information. However, waiting lists are often long, you often cannot choose which sort of therapist you see and session numbers maybe limited.
At work- Some companies offer a confidential “Employee Assistance Programme”. Each company is different. Referrals are often made from occupational health.
In education- Schools, Colleges and Universities often have a free and confidential “in-house” counselling service. You could get referred to a counsellor by asking a tutor or teacher.
Charities and voluntary services- Some charities or small organisations offer free or affordable access to talking therapies. It will depend on where you live as to which services are available in your area. Click here for a list of these services.
Private therapists- There are many private counsellors available. Finding the right one for you is important. Maybe ask around? Have you got a friend who might recommend a counsellor? The price of private counselling can vary. It is important to think about how much you can afford. Often private therapists (including myself) offer discounted appointments for those on a low income and students.
For more information click here.
It’s a simple, but important question to ask yourself. Are you going to be more comfortable talking to a male or female therapist. Counselling can cover some difficult subjects. How freely you talk about these subjects may be impacted upon the gender of who you are working with. There is nothing wright or wrong about which gender you choose to work with, however it might be useful to reflect upon why this might be, taking note of any strong feelings of “no way”.
6. Get in touch
Ask questions. You may have some specific questions for the therapist. Not everything you want or need to know will be available on a website. Although it might be daunting, picking up the phone is a good “taster” of what it would be like to work with a therapist.
Useful questions to ask:
Have you worked with this issue before?
What is your training?
Have they had their own therapy?
How long is a session?
What happens in a session?
Can I stop at any time?
Have you got enough experience to work with me?
How can you help me?
Do you belong to a professional body?
What if it’s not helping?
How much does it cost?
When you find the right counsellor…
It is important to feel like you can trust them and that the they could help you talk about your thoughts and feelings. If you don’t then there is nothing wrong about wanting to look for another therapist. Why not visit a few, before deciding on which to work with?