How to Choose a Counsellor
It is the most important factor that influences the chances of success in counselling – the relationship between client and counsellor. Without a good rapport, it doesn’t matter what else is used to aid the therapy process, it is unlikely to be successful. With this in mind, here are a questions to ask when trying to choose a counsellor.
1. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist?
While it takes some amount of time to feel comfortable with any therapist and the first visit can be anxiety provoking, within a reasonable period of time the client should feel safe and comfortable in session. As the client, ask yourself if it is easy to talk to the counsellor? Does the counsellor project genuine warmth and regard for you? Does the counsellor’s body language say “I’m interested in listening to you”? Does the counsellor encourage open feedback and questions from you at any time? Is it easy to make small talk? If a counsellor doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, there is no obligation to continue further work. Just be aware that if you react the same way to all counsellors you see, you may have some issues that require perseverance with a counsellor to work through the problem.
2. Can your counsellor accept feedback and admit mistakes?
A healthy counsellor is open to feedback and to learning that something he or she said hurt or offended you. Good therapists are willing to look at themselves, to check their feelings, and to honestly and openly admit mistakes.
3. Does the counsellor encourage dependence or independence?
Good therapy doesn’t solve your problems; it helps you to solve your own. Like the old proverb, therapy is most powerful when it helps people to discover their own resources than rely on another to feed them. If your counsellor provides wisdom, answers, or emotional support without encouraging you to access your own resources, it is more likely you will become dependent on your therapist to help you feel better, rather than learning to depend on yourself. It is also more likely that any problem solving will not be long term as the solutions are not yours, but the counsellors.
4. Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy?
The more experience therapists have addressing a particular issue, concern, or problem area, the more expertise they have developed.
5. Does the counselor have a Master’s degree and who are they registered with?
There are numerous people who call themselves “counsellors” or “therapists” because they have taken a weekend seminar or have learned a certain therapeutic approach. But without a graduate degree in counselling, psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, or another related field of study, such a person lacks the education, training, and skills to provide safe psychotherapy and counselling. People without graduate-level education in a mental health field may lack the necessary skills and know-how to properly diagnose and treat issues, and there is a great danger in misdiagnosing and mistreating. Counsellors should be registered with a recognized regulatory body such as the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors, or the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. As well, counsellors should have liability insurance to ensure their client’s protection and safety.
6. Does the counsellor have post graduate training?
Many new counselors fresh out of graduate school have had excellent book learning but lack enough actual counselling experience to claim expertise and feel totally confident. Willingness to invest in further training to keep one’s self up to date, competent and confident as a counsellor is important for the client’s optimal success.