How do I choose the right Counsellor / Therapist for me?

The NHS and Government are in the midst of their initiative – Improving Access to Psychological Therapies which is pretty much as it sounds.  It was found that there are a number of barriers to people gaining the support and help they may benefit from such as lack of NHS counsellors, long waiting lists, lack of awareness of what is available and the perceived stigma attached with seeking psychological support.  Read more …..

Seeking any kind of therapy is a very strong and courageous choice and there are a number of reasons for seeking therapy, mainly all geared to improve your life in some way.  You may admitted that there is an issue (or number of issues), that you may benefit from having another person help you and that you are ready to face the issue to move forward in your life.  You may be wanting to gain a greater sense of self and discover your unconscious processes.

Fundamentally, the relationship you have with your counsellor is very important and has a big effect on how you work together and ultimately, influences the benefits you gain from your sessions.  It is therefore worth investing a little time to choose the right therapist for you.

Where do you go and who do you choose?

The internet is great place to start and google searches or using established directories such as Yell or Thompson are good place to start.  The major counselling organisations such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) have directories on their website for their members to advertise.  Telephone directories or advice from doctors can also be good pointers.

In terms of seeking counselling, therapists work in different ways using different psychological theories to underpin their ways of working.  Below is a brief description of the more common approaches that therapists use.  Hopefully, this brief insight may equip you to choose the right therapist for you.

Person Centred or Humanistic – This approach assumes that as human’s, we are self actualising which means that we are always looking to improve ourselves to ultimately be all that we can be.  It also assumes that when we are free of defences, we are constructive, genuine and trustworthy, indicating that our defences can cause many unwanted behaviours and ways of being.  This kind of therapist will primarily seek to create the right kind of environment so that you can begin to realise and achieve your potential.  It’s non-directive as all of the answers will come from you, therefore, if you’re not looking for any guidance, but are looking to offload and find you own way, then this might be good for you.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This is based on the assumption that feelings and behaviour come mainly from thought (cognitions) and is a more directive approach than the Person-Centred way.  By understanding and changing our thinking, we can begin to alter how we feel and our behaviour.  This kind of therapy looks to understand how we interpret our world and events and identify distorted thinking and to consequently make changes.  This approach assumes that behaviour is learnt and the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world (which can often be mistaken or limiting) can pay a significant part to how we think, feel and behave.  CBT tends to be a shorter term therapy than Psycho-Dynamic and Person-Centred.

Psycho-Dynamic – Freud was the founder of this approach and it believes that human’s are motivated by inborn forces that drive our mental and physical behaviours where psychological malfunctioning comes from an imbalance between pleasure and displeasure.  This type of therapy is concerned with past experience to identify the inner you and how this has created your current self.  ‘The child is the father of the man’ – Freud.

Integrative – This approach integrates the 3 main schools of psychology (listed above) in a structured manner to fit the client.  This approach assumes that People are capable of change, Behaviour is purposeful, The therapeutic process has a beginning, middle and end (to explore, understand and act), The individual is the expert on themselves, People want to realise their potential (links to the self actualising tendency) and Each individual is unique.    Working Integratively means that the therapist can utilise a range of therapeutic tools and skills to match your needs and requirements, rather than being restricted to just one way of working, meaning your therapy is often tailored to you.

Solution Focused – This approach is exactly as it sounds.  It is concerned with looking at what is going right in your life, building on your strengths and helping you move forward.  This way of working feels that focusing on the problem will allow you to re-experience it and often dramatises it, and although it acknowledges the past, it is more about looking at the here and now and seeing what needs to happen for the first steps to be taken.  As a directive approach, it has links with CBT and is often termed as a brief therapy.

Tips to remember when looking for a Counsellor –

1 – You may want to choose a therapist who works in a way that you’re drawn to.  Each therapist is likely to state how they work on their website or when asked.

2 – Gather information – look at their website or do they advertise in a directory that provides information about them.

3 – What are you thoughts about how they present themselves.  How you feel about this will give an indication about how you may feel about them.

4 – You may want to call and talk to them.  This can give a valuable insight into how you may feel when you’re with them.  If you do not feel they are right for you, then move onto the next therapist.

5 – You may want to email them as again, this may give an insight into whether you feel you’ll be able to work together.

6 – Ensure they are qualified to a minimum diploma level. 

7 – Ensure they are members of a reputable organisation such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).  The organisations ensure that therapists work within a strong and comprehensive framework for ethical practise.

8 – Ask all the questions you want – via telephone or email.  Remember, your therapy is for you and it’s important you have all the information you require to make the choice that’s right for you.

9 – Do they offer a free consultation – if so, you may want to book one as this will allow you to meet them and gain a feel for them.

10 – Never feel obligated or feel pressured to book an appointment.  Book when you feel the time is right for you.

11 – Have a try – You’ve nothing to lose by trying a few different therapists to see which one fits for you. 

12 – Do not give up.  If you’ve been to counselling and found it to be of little help, it may mean that the therapist didn’t fit for you or their approach didn’t fit.  Don’t give up though and try to find another.

Write a comment