How to choose a counsellor

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Choosing a counsellor is pretty hard and so I thought I’d give some suggestions as to what I think is important when making your decision.

The location

There are many different ways to receive therapy. The most common ways are by telephone, online (usually by something like zoom), face to face or whilst you go for a walk. Telephone, online and walking therapy have become more usual since the pandemic hit and I think these options are now here to stay.

Clients have told me that telephone counselling is effective for them for a number of reasons: they can pace while they talk; they can call from their (stationary) car, ensuring a confidential space and it removes the need for travel time, making it easier for example, to fit quality counselling into a break at work.

Online counselling gives clients the comfort of choosing their own space and again they do not need to travel to their sessions. They get to see the counsellor and the counsellor sees them. Some clients worry about setting up the computer – however therapists are happy to help people with this (normally by phone) and often have a “how to” guide.

Walking counselling depends on how you feel about going for a walk – and being exposed to the elements! Walking is a great way to soothe the mind anyway and so can have an additional benefit.

Some counsellors will allow you to mix and match too. Perhaps you want to do the first session face to face to really see your counsellor – but are happy to do others online or any other combination.

Make sure you have a qualified counsellor

Counselling is an unregulated industry which means that anyone can call themselves a counsellor. You will be trusting your counsellor with your inner most thoughts and feelings – I’d recommend therefore that you choose someone who is trained to deal with them.

Qualified counsellors will be registered with a professional body – normally in the UK either the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Many counsellors include their registration number on their contact details. Searching the sites will not show you all qualified registered therapists – just those who have a particular type of membership. A quick email to the professional body will confirm if your preferred counsellor is qualified.

Do you think you can get on with them?

Your counsellor needs to be someone you feel some sort of connection to. Someone who you think you can get on with. Look at whatever documentation you can find on them and choose some that you like the look of …. and then contact them in person. I’d always suggest you speak to more than one before you decide who to go with. A counsellor will not be offended if you decide that they are not your right match. We are all individuals and we know that the dynamics need to be right for counselling to be successful.

Similarly, if at any point during the counselling process you decide that your relationship doesn’t feel right – please be honest and speak up. It may be that another counsellor is better for you.

I wish you well on your journey.

Sam Hughes
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