If you’ve made the decision to seek support via counselling, then firstly, congratulations. A successful counselling relationship is a precious thing and can be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
However, the path to finding the right counsellor for you can be a tricky one. For starters, the terminology can be confusing. Do you need a counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist?
Let’s talk about counsellors, seeing as that’s our domain! Counsellors can be qualified by diploma, bachelor degree, post graduate studies, or masters qualifications. Regardless of their education and experience, one thing to look for in a prospective counsellor is a membership with a professional body such as the ACA (Australian Counselling Association) or PACFA (Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia). This means that no matter the qualifications of the counsellor you’ve chosen, you can be assured they have a strict Code of Ethics to adhere to and responsibilities to their clients to provide a level of best practice. A professional body will also ensure it’s counsellors engage in regular professional development and supervision to guide their practice.
The most important advice I could give in looking for a counsellor is to find one who is a good fit FOR YOU. Most of the success that counselling can make in a person’s life comes down not to the amount of education or experience the counsellor has but the strength of the therapeutic relationship between counsellor and client. One of the first things I tell my clients when meeting them for the first time is that if you feel I am not a good fit for you, that’s OK! It doesn’t mean that counselling is not a good fit for you. It just means you might like to try someone else, as we all have different styles of counselling and ways of relating to others. It’s also helpful if you can discuss with your counsellor at the start what it is you’re hoping to work on, or how you hope the counsellor will respond to you. For example, do you want to be challenged? Or do you just need some space to process some emotions? That way both you and your counsellor have some clarity about what expectations you may have.
It can be a scary step to make that call to a counsellor for the first time. But your future self will thank you that you did.