Welcome to blog 3 of 2022. Each month we focus on a topical theme of counselling therapy, which I hope will help you in your decision to seek therapy and support you in your journey.
When you opt for private counselling, you're paying for accessibility, flexibility and an opportunity to choose. But how do you get the counselling you want? This and next month's blog outline some key points to consider when searching for private counselling.
1. Identify the Issue
This may not be easy but try to identify what's bothering you: whether it's anxiety, low-mood, self-confidence, work-related issues or your relationship. Then aim to choose a counsellor specialising in this issue. This is even more important if you're wanting support for such issues as addiction, debt, disordered eating, domestic violence, to name a few.
If you're finding it difficult to identify a specific issue, try naming your feelings instead.
If you're finding it difficult to identify a specific issue, try naming your feelings instead. Describing feelings of confusion, overwhelm or loneliness, for example, should be enough for a counsellor to know how they may be of help to you. Part of the process of counselling will involve helping you to understand what underlies your difficulty.
You may be aware that your issue is multi-layered. Low-self esteem, due to your working environment and difficulties in your relationship, could be an example. In which case, it would be beneficial to seek a counsellor who can confirm that they have experience of working with all of these areas.
2. Choose a Modality
The main umbrellas of counselling therapy in the UK are psychodynamic, behavioural and humanistic, but there are many types of counselling and it can feel tricky deciding which modality would best suit you and the issue(s) you wish to address. You can seek advice from your GP or local mental health service provider. Advice and information is also available from the NHS, mental health charities and online networks.
Psychodynamic counsellors aim to help you identify patterns in your behaviour that are linked to past experiences and affect the present. Psychodynamic counselling is rooted in psychoanalysis. Dream Analysis and Free Association are techniques used in psychodynamic counselling. Therapy is usually medium- to long-term (25-50+ sessions).
Behavioural counsellors aim to offer techniques to help you change problematic behaviours. You will be supported in setting goals for yourself and there will be tasks to complete. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) are examples of behavioural therapy. Therapy is usually short- to medium-term (5-20 sessions).
Humanistic counselling focuses on your unique personal experience and perceptions. The counsellor aims to be genuine in their offer of empathy and acceptance, whilst supporting you through a process of change. Person-Centred and Gestalt therapy are examples of humanistic counselling. The counsellor and client may agree on a time-limited therapy or open-ended.
3. Do your Research
You can find counsellors via online directories, counselling bodies, health and wellbeing centres, mental health networks, local magazines and advertising, and recommendations. Experience, modality and qualifications all matter. If a counsellor is registered with a counselling governing body or reputable directory, you can check their credentials. It pays to do your research - take the time to read through counsellors' profiles carefully.
It pays to be thorough in your research - take the time to read through counsellors' profiles carefully.
If you can, make an initial enquiry by email or phone. If it is not evident that a counsellor is registered or you do not feel you have sufficient information, ask for details. Many counsellors offer a free consultation or an introductory session at a reduced-fee. If a practitioner does not offer a consultation, it would be wise to do your homework before committing your time and money to a first session.
Like it or not, presentation matters and how a counsellor presents could be a deal breaker.
Like it or not, presentation matters and how a counsellor presents could be a deal breaker. What do you make of a counsellor's profile? Is there a photo? What of their expression and demeanour? If they have a video, how do they sound? If the counsellor has a website or webpage, check it out. What do they reveal about their way of working and would this suit you? Can you imagine confiding in them?
4. Go for the added Extras
Despite the sub heading, some criteria may crucially affect your choice of counsellor, such as gender, race, sexuality faith, etc. Speaking with a counsellor of similar identity can sometimes feel reassuring. Or you may have reasons for choosing a counsellor who is dissimilar, in age or background, for example. Don't be afraid to prioritise your preferences and search accordingly.
You're going to be sharing difficult material in counselling; if you feel drawn to a counsellor early on, it will make things easier for you.
Remember: this is your therapy - get the counselling you want.
Be sure to re-visit for part two in blog 4.