Is typing ‘Counselling near me’ into Google (other search engines are available) really the best way to choose your Counsellor? In this day and age we use the internet to help us find anything from our nearest takeaway to the opening hours of the supermarket. You can even check your symptoms when you have an illness – you know you have done it! The question is, is it really how you should start an intimate relationship such as Counselling?
There is always more than one way to do most things. I am not going to teach you how to suck eggs but here are some hints and tips on choosing the right Counsellor for yourself.
Choose a Counsellor for yourself
That being the first tip – always choose your own Counsellor! The fact is, the most important part of your therapy will be your relationship with your Counsellor. No matter what model of Counselling they offer, you need to feel you can build a trusting relationship with this person. Whilst using the ‘Counselling near me’ approach is a good starting point, take the time to look at a few Counsellors websites. Read their blurbs and bios to see who you are drawn to. Ask yourself, do you like the way they present? Do they speak to you in their web content? Does the content feel genuine, congruent and empathic? .
Just because your partner/friend/dog likes this person, it does not mean they are right for you, making your own choice is important. Does the Counsellor remind you of someone from your childhood that was mean or cruel to you? If so, it is unlikely that you are going to forge a trusting bond with them. Reminders of that music teacher that shouted a lot or threw things at you is not going to help you open up!
What experience and training has your Counsellor got?
No Counsellor is ever going to have life experience of every issue that every client has to bring to Counselling. Believe it or not, this is not as important as people think. What is important is that your Counsellor is empathic enough to understand what you are going through from your perspective. Being able to walk alongside you in your journey, without judgement, is key to your sessions. A good Client/Counsellor relationship should be open and honest. You need to be able to say what you want without fear. Your Counsellor needs to be able to ask any questions to help them understand the difficulties facing you right now. The Counsellor should be able to learn about you from you – you are the expert on you after all.
A Counsellor that has specific training or experience in your issue, isn’t always necessary. A Counsellor with a broad mix of experience in their work is most likely to be enough – specialism is not essential in most cases. Counsellors are usually bound by an ethical code that says they should not work with any issue/client outside of their competence. If a Counsellor feels they don’t have the right training or knowledge to support you, they have a duty to say so.
Is your Counsellor registered with a recognised professional body?
Counselling is still unregulated unlike other professions such as Physiotherapy or Osteopathy. Technically anyone can set themselves up and call themselves a Counsellor – scary right? A conscientious Counsellor will be registered with one of the main governing bodies such as British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or something similar.
Both of these bodies have been working closely with the Government and NHS for years, to try to regulate Counselling and eradicate poor unethical practice. These organisations have voluntary registers that Counsellors can sign up to as evidence they have met their standards to be a Counsellor. Each have an ethical framework which sets out how they expect their Counsellors to conduct themselves. Both offer an element of protection for clients in the event that one feels they have been subject to unethical practices.
Personally I am an Accredited Counsellor with BACP. To attain this position, I have engaged in personal therapy myself so I know what it feels like to be ‘sat on the couch’ so to speak. I have submitted written case work to evidence my capabilities as well as having studied for my diploma. I had to deliver 100 hours minimum of face to face Counselling to be considered for accreditation. Every year as part of the BACP framework I undertake continued personal development (CPD) to enhance my skills and knowledge . There are a number of registered bodies now and a number of training schools. Not all will have required your Counsellor to have experienced personal therapy themselves, so they may not know what it feels like to be so exposed in this way. I guess it depends whether you feel this is important or not?
What model of Counselling is your Counsellor trained it and how important is this?
There are a number of models of Counselling such as Person Centred, Integrative, Psychodynamic and many more. Again no model of Counselling is any better than the other as all will have their place. Feel free to do a bit of research into the various models and see which you may be drawn to. Always bare in mind what I shared at the beginning – the relationship is the most important aspect of your Counselling no matter what the model. Be mindful that the NHS is currently only really approved to recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) at Primary Care Level. Whilst CBT has its place it may not be right for everyone – afterall one size does not fit all, again make your own choice.
Should I go by personal recommendation?
Yes of course, if your friend or someone you know recommends a Counsellor that can often be a good sign. If your friend gelled with a particular Counsellor then you may well do so too, but it is not a given – see all of the above! You may also want to look at testimonials that have been given by other users. Counselling ought to be a completely neutral place for you. Your Counsellor should have no prior knowledge or preconceptions about you. With this in mind, it would not be a good idea to see the same Counsellor that your partner or another member of the family has seen. A friend of your mum/dad who is a Counsellor would not make a good match either for example. The temptation to ‘filter’ what you say ‘just in case’ could be quite strong if you know what I mean.
What about where my Counsellor is based?
Some Counsellors work from rented rooms and others may work from a room in their home or garden. It depends whether you prefer the more formal situ of an office building or the discretion of someones home office. Getting there and parking with the least stress as possible is probably the most important part of the location aspect.
In essence, starting with a ‘Counselling near me’ search is fine, but the location is not the only consideration when choosing your Counsellor. I hope this has helped you think about how to choose the right Counsellor for yourself and if you have any questions at all do feel free to contact me.