Once you have met one counsellor…..you’ve met one counsellor.
Every counsellor is different; they bring their own approach and personality to their work and so provide counselling in different ways. This is really important as every person looking for counselling is different, too. Counselling can be an intimate and emotional experience, so it is important that you find a counsellor that you click with and feel comfortable working with.
But where do you start?
Qualified and Ethical
First, make sure that your counsellor is suitably qualified. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement to have any qualification to set up as a counsellor, so someone can advertise themselves as a counsellor without appropriate training. You can make sure that your counsellor is suitably qualified by choosing one who is registered with a professional membership organisation.
There are several membership organisations that qualified counsellors can join. The organisations check that a counsellor has had appropriate training before accepting them. This means that there is also a route for registering a complaint or concern if you need to, and an ethical framework or code that holds the counsellor accountable for working safely.
Some of the organisations that hold accredited registers are: The National Counselling Society (NCS), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
I am a member of the National Counselling Society and work to their Code of Ethics.
If you look for a counsellor on Counselling Directory or Psychology Today, you can be assured that all of the counsellors are qualified to a professional standard as they only accept listings from counsellors who are members of registers accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.
Short or long term
Most counselling through the NHS is short term, solution focused work. It is often based on a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) style approach. This can be great for finding ways to cope with a particular problem. For example, finding ways to cope with anxiety, or coping with phobias. Typically, between 4 and 12 sessions are offered.
Some people want to work on exploring the root cause of their issues, or spend time gaining a greater self awareness. Longer term counselling can be helpful for a counsellor to really get to know you and how you experience life. There are lots of different types of long term counselling. Find out more about the different types by clicking here.
Many counsellors are trained in a number of approaches and integrate them to work flexibly to suit your needs. If a counsellor works integratively, you might want to ask them how they work and what that might look like in the sessions.
I work integratively and suggest an initial block of 6 sessions when we will then review how the counselling is going, and re-contract to continue working long term if you feel that is appropriate for you. Find out more about the way I work here.
Some counsellors specialise in a particular area. This might be an issue they have a lot of experience in, or it might be an area they have had additional training in. If you are looking for a counsellor who specialises in working with a particular issue, eating disorders, for example. You should check which additional qualifications and training they have that makes them a specialist.
Although finding a specialist might be helpful, research has shown that the key factor in making counselling “successful” is the relationship between the counsellor and the person having counselling. If you click with a counsellor when you meet them for an initial session or assessment, you may find they don’t need to specialise in the issue you want to work on for the therapy to be effective.
Try before you buy
Most counsellors offer an initial session or assessment before you book in for regular counselling sessions. Some counsellors offer this first meeting free of charge to support you to “shop around” and find the right counsellor for you. This first meeting is a chance for you to explain why you are seeking counselling, ask questions of the counsellor and see whether you and the counsellor feel you could work together.
Counsellors generally expect you to try a few people before deciding on who to work with. We are a cooperative bunch and should be able to suggest alternative counsellors for you should we feel they might be better suited to what you want or need from counselling.
Contact me to book an initial session and find out if I’m the right counsellor for you.