Choosing the right counsellor for you

Let’s face it. Making the decision to finally pick up the phone and call a counsellor is not easy. For most people, the idea to actually take that step comes quite some time before they finally do it. But where do you start? How do you know which, of the many faces that smile out at you from that directory of counselors is the right one for you? And if that isn’t a difficult enough decision on its own, many of my professional colleagues have not put all that much though into their online profiles (and some seem to put even less into their choice of picture!).

So how do you choose? Well, first of all decide whether you would feel most comfortable with a man or a woman as the person you will be confiding in. Give this some thought though, because its not as easy a question to answer as it might seem at first glance. Most of us have a sense of whether we get along better with those of our own sex, or the opposite, but this is not necessarily the same thing that is important when speaking with a counsellor (or therapist). If speaking with a member of the opposite sex feels a bit challenging, then actually this might be a better choice overall, but not if it feels SO challenging that you might not be able to speak at all.

Once you’ve decided upon a gender, then qualifications and experience come next. Whilst I happen to have over 25 years of practical, clinical experience and many thousand of hours of face to face client work behind me, this was not always the case. At the same time, a relatively newly qualified counsellor, or a part time worker who doesn’t have a tremendous amount of experience should not be discounted out of hand. What matters most is the level of personal/professional supervision any given worker has. In my case, even after all this time I still sit with my professional supervisor once a month for two hours and go through my overall practice, ensuring that I am always at my best in the work that I do. Newly qualified counsellors have the same requirements, but the more conscientious of us will top that up a bit more. Being relatively inexperienced in face to face work also sometimes makes newly qualified counsellors work that little bit harder as well.

Finally, have a think about the professional orientation of your chosen counsellor. Most members of the general public who have made the decision to finally pick up the phone and make that first appointment are not aware that counsellors, along with their ideas and work practices come in many different flavours (or modalities). On one end of the spectrum we find highly Psycho-dynamic (think of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung here) counsellors who see most of the problems you face as being caused by something that is buried deep within your unconscious and needing to be revealed, to all the way over to the other end where we find the people like Drama, Dance and even Primal Scream therapists.

In my own journey of training, I began back in the early 90s where I trained and received my first Post Graduate diploma as a psycho-dynamic counsellor. After working in this way for a number of years, I began to have some philosophical issues with the way I saw the Psycho-dynamic method putting me in the position of “fixing” people – of being the expert. It was not that I had a problem being the expert in the sense of the knowledge that I had about therapy and its methods, but in the way Psycho-dynamic methods placed me in the role of expert in the psyches of those I was working with. I began to have a problem with the idea that at the start of any therapeutic endeavor, that I was supposed to more about what was troubling you than you did, and that my role was to bring things that were buried in your subconscious out into the open by way of a number of techniques designed to make your “unconscious, conscious”.

Because of these philosophical difficulties, I went back and retrained. Obtaining what was now my third Post Graduate diploma in working as a Person Centered Counsellor. In this manner of working, we are working together to bring out and discover those things that are troubling you, and then working to bring out and make the most of those strengths and skills that you already possess, but are currently lost to you for various reasons.

Following that, I went on to obtain two more Post Graduate Diplomas in working with Adult survivors of childhood trauma (such as, but not limited to sexual abuse), and a further Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques for Person Centered therapists.

For me, my training and gathering of experience never ends, and this is ultimately the thing you should be looking for in the person you choose to help you. Do they feel their training is done, or are they continually questing for further knowledge and experience. If you ensure that this is the case, then you should be fine with whomever you ultimately choose. If you’re still struggling however, it might be that you are also unsure about what to speak about with your counsellor. Having a bit better sense of this for you might be helpful in deciding who to work with, and I suggest you read this blog series as you may well find it helpful.

If you would like more information about how I personally work, or have any questions on anything written in this blog, please do feel free to contact me either by email through this website, or over the telephone on 01279 834467.