You’ve made the decision to reach out for help, but what comes next?
Finding the right counsellor can be a challenging and somewhat daunting process. Therapy is a journey that takes courage, and which can involve disclosing very personal, and sometimes painful, experiences. In order for this to be done safely, and work well for you, it is vital that you are on this journey with the right person, as it’s a collaborative endeavour, with the relationship between client and counsellor being highly important.
While searching for the right one can feel like a minefield, there are some things you can be sure of when deciding if the counsellor you have chosen (or are considering) is for you. Here we’re outlining five ways the right counsellor should make you feel.
1. Free to ask questions
The right counsellor should enable you to feel comfortable enough to ask any questions you have, whether this be about their training, membership bodies they belong to, or how they work as a practitioner in general. This could be at any point in your therapeutic journey – it may be at the beginning of your search, or in the midst of your sessions. You are perfectly within your right to ask questions, and a good therapist should enable you to feel free enough to do so.
It is vital that you feel safe with your counsellor. Starting therapy takes a great deal of bravery – you are speaking with a complete stranger at the end of the day! Your counsellor should provide a safe enough space for you to feel as though you can disclose your feelings and experiences with the knowledge that everything you disclose is confidential, and you’re not being judged. In a practical sense, your counsellor should meet you in a quiet, private place. If you are meeting on Zoom or via telephone, your counsellor should be alone, with no other person in earshot.
Your chosen counsellor should enable you to feel respected at all times. This may be in terms of what you are willing to share during the sessions – for example, there may be things you have experienced that you are not ready to disclose, and this is completely fine. A good counsellor should respect your discomfort, and should never leave you feeling under pressure to disclose more than what you are ready to. They should also be respectful of your time – while life happens, and a counsellor may be running late for a session, or may be unwell and need to cancel, this should be clearly communicated to you.
4. Listened to
Throughout therapy, it is important that you feel heard, and your feelings validated. It may be that, at times, your counsellor does not understand a point you are trying to make, or they may misunderstand you. This is to be expected; counsellors are still human at the end of the day! However, in this instance the counsellor should be open to exploring this with you, so they can gain a greater understanding of the meaning or thoughts that you were trying to convey.
They may ask you for clarification about something you have said, and check-in with you that they have understood you correctly. A good counsellor should never leave you feeling as though you were not listened to, or what you shared with them was invalidated.
You are equal to any counsellor you choose. An ethical counsellor does not paint themselves as the expert with all the answers to your problems. They may have a PhD or a master’s degree. They may have undergone specialist training in a certain field, for example, attachment issues or bereavement, which may result in you gaining new-found knowledge and insight into your feelings and behaviour. However, the right therapist is able to meet you on level ground. You should always feel as though you are equals. You are the expert of your own life!
Victoria Jeffries is an integrative psychotherapeutic counsellor, working in both the public sector and private practice. To get in touch, or to find out more about counselling, visit counselling-directory.org.uk