Navigating the many options for counselling is not easy! While there is no magic equation for finding the right person for you, there are some important things to think about.
Are they a member of a registered body?
If you are Googling for therapists then it’s important to know that the profession is not regulated, which means that anyone can call themselves a counsellor or a therapist and set up practice.
But working with someone who is a member either the BACP (as I am) or the UKCP means they have completed years of training, continue to work on their professional development, and work in accordance with an ethical code. Both organisations have directories of their members on their websites.
Do you have a sense of what sort of work you want to do in the counselling room?
If you are looking into finding a therapist for the first time then you may well be wondering what can be so different between the hundreds of types of talking therapy.
Both the BACP and UKCP offer the ability to search by modality (the different ways of working), and there’s a handy guide to different modalities on the BACP website.
These range from open-ended approaches to the goal-orientated cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) so you can pick a style that fits how you want to engage in the process.
I’m trained as a humanistic counsellor, and you can find out more about what that means here.
But lots of people looking for therapy find that no one modality jumps out at them. If that includes you, then this next point is really important…
Do you feel a connection to the person you want to work with?
While I’m very proud of my modality and training, research has shown that the most important factor in effective working is a strong relationship between the counsellor and client. Therapy is a very personal experience and so finding someone who you feel understands you and with whom you can explore difficult issues is paramount.
That’s why initial appointments are so important. They offer a chance for you to test out how you feel with a counsellor and see if they feel right for you — it’s why I offer a free half-hour initial appointment in case you are meeting several potential counsellors.
I’m sure other people have more serious issues than me. I’m not even sure my problems are significant enough for counselling.
No two clients are the same, but there are repeating themes. The idea that one person’s problems are not as important as other people’s is a very common one.
But if an issue feels important enough to investigate counselling, then it doesn’t matter how big or small you may feel it looks through others’ eyes — what matters is that it feels significant to you. It's another reason why that initial appointment is so important to make sure can feel comfortable sharing.
I’m not even sure what feels uncomfortable or why I am looking for counselling.
While some people know exactly what they need to bring to counselling, it is a common experience to feel muddled. Often there will be a jumble of issues around work, relationships and life, any one of which feels liveable, but taken together feel overwhelming. It’s quite common to use the counselling room as a space to clarify what is important, and to separate what you want to deal with in counselling and what you feel you can deal with in your own life.
How do you want to work?
In person, over video calls, on the phone, through instant messaging: therapy is delivered in all sorts of ways.
While meeting for face-to-face sessions in a counselling room is what most people imagine, a lot of therapists have moved to carrying out sessions via online platforms like Zoom, particularly because of Covid-19.
The vast majority of training for therapists is based on working face-to-face, so if you want to work in a different way, then do check they are trained or experienced in doing so.
Still not sure how to pick a counsellor?
The BBC have a great seven-minute video on choosing the right therapist for you that is also worth a watch: