Choosing your Counsellor is not something you should rush into. Remember this is going to be a person you may be going to share your most intimate feelings and emotions with so you need to make sure you feel comfortable, safe and understood. Many Counsellors offer a free or reduced rate initial meeting. If this is not something that is detailed then ask if there is an option to meet first to see if you are a good fit. Maybe arrange a few meetings so you have a comparison to be sure that who you choose is right for you.
Meeting a Counsellor for the first time can give a sense of relief. Ensuring that you feel respected, valued and that there is a connection with the person will help you to establish trust. This is a very unique relationship and you will come away knowing if your personalities or values were not aligned. Making the right choice from the beginning will assist in the progress you make on your therapeutic journey.
Research has evidenced that the most important aspect of Counselling to achieve a positive outcome is the Theraputic Relationship. This means that your Counsellor has the ability to create a trusting, boundaried, healthy relationship. This element is more important than the skills or Theoretical Approach they may be using. For me this is a felt sense that you will experience through your initial communication and first meeting with your Counsellor. If something does not feel right for you, listen to your senses and continue your search.
It is good to have some questions prepared to ask when making contact with perspective Counsellors. The Counsellor may ask for some information around your experience and expectations of Counselling or if there is a particular way you were hoping to work together. If you don't feel you have the answers a good Counsellor will be able to assist you in exploring what Counselling looks like or means to you.There is no right or wrong answers, everyone is individual and will have their own experiences and preferences. Finding someone who meets you with warmth, empathy and who is genuine is an important factor. Look for the way they respond to you and how that makes you feel. It is natural to feel nervous or uncomfortable the first time you sit with a Counsellor but notice how your feelings change as you talk with them. Ask yourself are you going to learn something and do you feel understood in your experience?
On a more practical level check that the Counsellor is qualified and a registered member of one of the Counselling Professional Associations. This will ensure that the Counsellor is legally accountable, fully insured and governed by an Ethical Framework. If you are not sure ask your Counsellor which Professional Association they are a member of. Cost may also be something to consider. Counselling sessions are generally 50 minutes long once a week. The cost, frequency and payment methods can vary. Some Counsellors may offer a concessionary rate for students, people on low income or those who have retired. If information around fees, frequency and payment is not clear ask so you know what the expectation and ongoing commitment is.
Check out your Counsellors experience. Where have they worked before. What are their Specialist areas and what their Theoretical Model is. If you are a visual person it may benefit you to work with a counsellor who offers creative ways of working rather than just talking therapy. Counselling doesn't have to be sitting in a room talking. Some Counsellors now even offer walking therapy where you can have your sessions whilst walking outside.If you are not able to get out or have issues with transport you maybe able to find a Counsellor who can offer you online Counselling through a video link. The options of ways to work are extensive so explore whats on offer that feels right for you.
Your Mental Health and Wellbeing is precious so take time to make sure you select a Counsellor who meets your needs. This is a person who will walk with you through your dark and challenging thoughts so feeling safe and respected is vital. Most importantly if you are unsure of anything, Ask! There is no such thing as a stupid question.