Finding a therapist
Where to begin ?
When seeking counselling, start by checking the listings of counsellors on the ethical bodies websites such as the BACP. Here you will find therapists who meets certain criteria including:
• Having suitable qualifications.
• Having current indemnity insurance.
• Adhering to the professional body’s ethical code of practice.
• Attending regular and adequate supervision.
• A commitment to continuing professional development (CPD).
Registered members of a professional body will use a logo like this on their listing or website.
10 qualities to look for in a counsellor
1. Highly developed interpersonal skills
A counsellor must be ready to listen to you. Some things you say might be difficult to hear. A good counsellor will be able to understand not just your words but also the deeper meaning for you.
Your counsellor will be able to communicate their understanding of your reality accurately and in a way you can understand.
Feeling heard and understood you are more likely to be able explore those areas of your life you might otherwise be hesitant to talk about.
2. Able to help you build a trusting relationship
Trust is the vessel that holds the counselling relationship. A good counsellor is someone who does his or her best to nurture this trust. Do they do what they say they are going to do and honour their commitments? Does the counsellor relate to you empathically and sensitively? Do you feel you are ready to talk about those things you wouldn’t normally want to talk about?
You feel a little easier about exploring those difficult areas of your life. You know you are with someone who is genuinely interested in you.
3. Readiness to build a therapeutic relationship
The quality of the therapeutic relationship will most certainly impact on what you get from counselling. Are you able to be yourself? Do you get the sense your counsellor is authentic? Are they able to stay present with you even when you might be finding it difficult?
Within a trusting relationship that values authenticity, you feel able to be yourself. You find that even when the ‘going gets tough’ you experience your counsellor as a reliable, willing and sensitive companion.
4. Able to help you make sense of things
Getting in touch with some experiences like trauma and abuse is often a confusing and frightening prospect.? Do you feel supported as you explore and make sense of your experiences?
You are getting a better understanding of yourself and your relationships. You feel supported as you gain insights around your thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviours. You begin to feel more whole as you become more accepting of yourself.
5. Open to reflecting upon and evaluating the therapeutic process
The counselling relationship and the process that occurs between you both will be unique. It is a co-created process and although your counsellor might have some answers for you – he or she won’t have them all. A good counsellor is open to hearing your feedback about your experience of counselling? Furthermore, is your counsellor interested to hear what doesn’t work for you?
You feel free to give feedback thus positively influencing the therapeutic process. This enhances the benefits you gain from counselling.
6. Continuing professional development (CPD)
CPD is also known as ‘life-long learning’. Currently, counsellors registered with the BACP are required to complete at least 30 hours of CPD. CPD helps to improve and broaden a counsellor’s competence, knowledge and skills. This ensures they are doing their utmost to practise safely, effectively and legally.
You are assured that your counsellor is taking the profession seriously. Your counsellor is more able to understand the difficulties you are facing. Your counsellor is more likely to aware of the leading edge of current best practice and counselling theory.
7. Ongoing and adequate supervision
In the UK counsellors have an ethical and moral duty to attend regular and adequate supervision when working with clients. Currently, BACP registered counsellors are required to have at least of 90 minutes of formal supervision per month. Supervision allows a review of the counselling work with an experienced and qualified colleague. Your counsellor is accountable to another professional who is bound to report unethical practice. Feel free to ask your counsellor about their supervision arrangements.
You will know that your counsellor is getting the support they need to practice effectively and safely.
8. Commitment to expanding their self-awareness
Counselling is a demanding profession. A key part of a counsellors work is to remain self-aware as clients talk about themselves and explore their life-experiences. Sometimes this can be difficult to hear because it touches on a difficult part of ourselves. Consequently, a counsellor is challenged to remain present in a way that is supportive of our clients. Thus a good counsellor will be open to acknowledging their own limits. They will go on to seek relevant support or take on specific CPD that addresses those areas the limit their practice.
Is your counsellor able to listen to you? Are you feeling understood? Does your counsellor tend to talk about their own issues or give you advice?
Your counsellor is someone you trust to do their utmost to ensure they stay present with you. You will feel heard and understood even as you explore the more difficult areas of your life.
9. Values your individuality
You are unique and being you has many facets. Be it your ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, religious background, gender identity, political outlook or sense of right and wrong.
Is your counsellor able to accept who you are without wanting to change you? Does you counsellor make assumptions about you? Do you feel that what you bring to counselling is valued?
Your counsellor is open and genuinely interested in what makes you ‘you’ and does not ‘label’ you or try to put you in a ‘box’.
10. A firm belief and understanding of their counselling approach
It is important that your counsellor has a firm belief in the grounding principles of their counselling approach. Furthermore, they must believe the particular counselling they offer is the best option for you. If not then they must be ready to let you know; working with you to find a suitable alternative. Perhaps by referring you onto someone else who can better meet your needs.
Your needs are put first. You know that, to the best of your counsellor’s knowledge – you are receiving the best form of support.