Counsellors: How to find them and what makes a good one?

I am often curious about why people have chosen their counsellor. Sometimes it is something that they read on the website, a photo, a recommendation, or it may be just the first person that came up on a search. If you have decided that you would like to work with a Counsellor then it is important to find someone that is qualified and that you feel comfortable with. After all you will be spending time with this person discussing things you may have never told anyone before so it’s pretty key that you feel comfortable with them. There are as many different types of therapists and therapies as there are grains of sand on the beach and it can feel quite daunting, especially when you may not feel at your best.

You may be able to access therapy through the NHS, often there is a long waiting list or your workplace Employee Assistance Programme. Through these you will be allocated someone who you can be confident will be qualified but you may or may not feel comfortable with. You can ask to change but that may feel awkward or difficult.

If you decide that you want to choose a private therapist, and that can be a hard decision, the process can be daunting. As a profession counselling is not regulated and anyone can choose to call themselves a counsellor.

  • Location: Since Covid 19 most counsellors have been offering online therapy. This is just as effective and may suit some people more. If that is the case then where they are won’t matter to you, if you prefer face to face with someone then you will want someone accessible. It is worth considering if you prefer someone very local or a little outside of your area. Therapists and very careful not to break your confidentiality and would not shout greetings at you if they saw you in the supermarket but you might prefer to totally avoid that and drive a few miles away.
  • Gender of Therapist: You may or may not have have a preference, it may not be important to you but it could be a key element to how comfortable to feel.
  • Type of Therapy: There are a huge number of types of therapy and research constantly backs up the fact that the relationship with the counsellor is more important that what the theory they trained in is. It may be important to you to find someone who works in a certain way for example you might be experiencing panic attacks and have heard that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would help, in which case then that would be something to take into account.
  • Searching for someone: There are a number of ways to do this. Maybe recommendation from someone you know (although a good therapist wouldn’t see you as well as someone very close to you), an online search will help find someone in the area you are looking for. There are also online advertising search platforms and each Professional Body has its own ‘search for a therapist’ section.
  • Qualified and Registered or Accredited: Professional Training is lengthy and rigorous and so ensure that they are members of a Professional body. There are three main bodies British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and National Counselling Society (NCS). Not all counsellors advertise through these organisations but they will state on their website which one they belong to and you can check this online. By doing this you will ensure they are trained and insured. If you are still unsure ask where they trained and what experience they have, they should be happy to answer this for you.
  • Fees and Availability: Therapy is an investment so try not to choose just based on cost, unless that is very important to you. Likewise the assumption that someone cheaper is not as good and someone more expensive is better is not necessarily the case. It is worth shopping around if possible to find the right person at the right cost. The fact that they need to be available when you are is also important. Not all counsellors list their times online so you may have to get in touch to ask.
  • Your Issue: To get the best out of the work you will do together, find someone that works with the issue you would like to talk about. You will notice that most therapists work in a lot of areas and this is normal and part of their training. If you have something very specific for example you are in a Domestic Abuse situation then finding someone who understands is helpful.

Once you have settled on one or maybe a few counsellors get in touch with them, some offer a free short initial consultation and some do not, but most will happily correspond with you online answering your questions or on the telephone to help you choose a person you feel happy with.

You may feel disappointed if, after one or a few sessions, you are not connecting with them or you feel you are not getting what you need. Please tell them, I am always happy when someone is honest with me and it helps me to learn about them and gives me an opportunity to adjust how I am working to suit my client. However, if you still feel that it is not working then always look for another counsellor and if you can, just let them know. Counsellors are used to people searching for the right person and we would much prefer that you were with who you were happy working with and get what you need from the work.

If you find a great Counsellor they will be someone who will listen carefully, help you to feel safe and free from judgement but will also point out behaviours that are holding you back and may challenge how you see things. Good counselling is about not encouraging you to to be dependent on the counsellor but helping you build your self awareness, skills and resources to live without the baggage, pain or sadness that is holding you back from living your life.

A good therapist will also maintain a professional relationship with you, they are clear about what they can offer, they do not offer advice or take part in your life outside of the therapy room but will walk beside you on your journey empowering you to make changes, hearing what you have to say and truly seeing you.

Contact me, Jane Hancock, on jane@eastdevoncounsellingservice.co.uk to either make an appointment or find out if I can help.

August 2020

Published by janehancock

I am a Counsellor with nearly twenty years experience working with Individuals and Couples. I work both from home and walking by the sea. I have also spent over ten years teaching other Therapists and am a Senior Accredited Member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

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