What to consider when choosing a counsellor
For many individuals, the point at which they choose to begin counselling is also the point in their lives when their thinking is not as clear as it would normally be. This may be due to a trauma, crisis, depression, or any other factor that led them to make the decision to seek support.
However, it is at this point when taking a step back and considering the counselling options available to you could really tip the balance between a positive experience and one that is not so positive. Getting a referral from a friend, colleague or a healthcare professional is a route that many people take when choosing which counsellor or therapist to work with. Whilst this is a good place to start it does involve a degree of luck, as the type of counsellor your friend, colleague or GP found useful might not work for you.
The information below gives some practical information to those considering seeking counselling for the first time, as well as for those who have had a negative experience in the past.
- Check out professional memberships. At present in the UK, there is no statutory regulation for any of the therapies. This means that anyone is free to call themselves a counsellor or a therapist if they want to. Whilst this is going to change in the next couple of years, make sure in the meantime that the person you choose is a member of one of the established professional organisations, and check out their qualifications.
- Consider the type of therapy most suited to your needs. No one can answer this question for you as there are a range of therapies available to you which all take a different approach to the types of issues you bring. However, each therapy has at its core that the relationship between the counsellor and client is ultimately what enables change to happen. Counsellors will always list the theoretical approach that they use. Try doing some research on the types of approaches and pick the one you feel suits your needs the most.
- Confidentiality. All sessions are strictly confidential between you and your counsellor. Your counsellor may discuss your case with their supervisor, to discuss best practice and the ways in which they can best support you, however your privacy will be protected and full names are not used. The main exception to confidentiality is when, through your disclosures, the counsellor believes that there is a serious risk of harm or danger to yourself or others.
- Boundaries. Do not accept social invitations from your counsellor. This is considered to be an unethical breach of boundaries. If you have any doubts about your counsellor, discuss them with the professional body that he or she belongs to.
Counselling requires both a time and financial commitment from you, and so it helps to think ahead and decide what you want to get out of the experience. Below are a couple of points you might wish to consider.
- Preparation. How often would you like your counselling sessions to take place? Usually, sessions take place weekly at first to enable the counselling relationship to build, and after a while (and through discussion with the counsellor) this can change to fortnightly. You may also need to consider how you will fit the sessions into your schedule and what arrangements you might need to make – perhaps in terms of work or childcare.
- Finances. What can you realistically afford? Are there any resources available which will help with the cost, such as workplace counselling schemes, or insurance provision?
- First Contact. Once you have found a counsellor in your area who you want to work with, you might wish to have a brief chat on the phone to set up an initial meeting to see how you might get on together. In the first session it is likely that you will discuss the fees, frequency and estimated duration of the work you will do together, as well as the reasons that brought you to counselling. You can use this first session to ask any questions about their therapeutic approach, and their skills, experience and qualifications.
All Hope Street Centre counsellors and therapists follow a strict code of professional ethics and belong to one or more of the professional bodies listed below. If after reading this article you are still unsure of the best way to progress, then contact The Hope Street Centre to discuss your options.
BACP - British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
BABCP - British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
UKAHPP - UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners
UKCP - UK Council for Psychotherapy