The stigma that once existed around having therapy has greatly diminished but contacting a counsellor can still feel like a daunting prospect. Finding the right one for you can be confusing, with counselling directories providing pages of therapists all listing an array of qualifications and theoretical approaches. With so many counsellors and therapists to select from, how do you know who to choose?
One good starting point is to look at whether they’re a member of a professional body, such as the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, or National Counselling Society. Registering with a professional organisation means the therapist has agreed to abide by their ethical framework and should practice ethically.
Also, check out their qualifications and training. Have they completed a specialist counselling qualification such as a postgraduate diploma or a degree? If the answer is no, then look elsewhere.
Think about their theoretical approach. This one can be tricky because it’s sometimes hard to know what type of therapy you want before you start. But it may be helpful to read about the different types of therapy that are available to see if a particular approach seems more appealing than the others.
Have a look at whether the counsellor is a specialist in the issue you’re going to therapy for. Many therapists work with a wide range of issues but may have specialist training in a certain area, while others only work with very specific issues. Selecting someone with the right expertise is an important factor in your choice of therapist.
You should also consider your needs and preferences. Would you prefer to work with a man or a woman? Is their cultural background, sexuality or age important? Do they need to be able to speak a certain language? Do you want to have face-to-face therapy or maybe email or telephone sessions? How much can you afford to spend? Do you need an appointment immediately or are you happy to go on a waiting list? Once you’ve decided what you need, you can narrow down your search accordingly.
Check out their website. A therapist’s website should give you information about their prices and where they work, and tell you about their qualifications and training. It can also give you an indication of how professional they are. For example, do they include a photo of themselves that’s cropped from a night out or a holiday, or is it a proper headshot? You could have a look at their social media accounts too, such as Facebook and Twitter.
You may also want to speak to friends and family and ask for recommendations. Hearing glowing, or not so glowing, reviews of a particular therapist may make up your mind.
Finally, talk to the therapist you’re thinking of working with. Picking up the phone can feel difficult to do, especially if you’re suffering from anxiety. But speaking to a counsellor can help you get a sense of what they’re like.
The result of this careful search should be a trusting, supportive relationship with the therapist that’s right for you.