Counselling is a relationship between two people as well as a healing and learning process. Both the counsellor and the client need to be ready to work together and hopefully will be able to like each other. Here are 8 Top Tips for getting the most out of Counselling so you do not waste your time or money and ensure a healthy result.
1. Practitioner Counsellors should be at least Master's levels qualified. Check out the Counsellors qualification(s) and affiliations in the country of origin of their degree. Some practitioners may refer to themselves as a 'Child Specialist', but do not actually have counselling or psychotherapy qualifications or additional specific training to work with children and teens. If they are working with your children make sure they have a 'Criminal Records Check', 'Sexual Convictions Records Check' or equivalent in place in their country of practice.It is important to understand what you or your child will be receiving so be sure to ask. Most counsellors will be trained to work with anxiety, stress, managing transitions, work-life balance and similar queries but many do go on to get specialist training for older or younger groups, for couples and similar, be sure to watch out for these specialities if you feel that they may be more suited to your needs.
2. Ask your counsellor what type of therapy they practice.Some refer to it as a 'modality' and many practitioners work with more than one. The most often quoted therapeutic stance is 'Cognitive Behavioural Therapy' or CBT, but there are more. There is also ACT or Acceptance and Committment Therapy, there is Play Therapy, Sand Tray Therapy, Art Therapy, Drama Therapy, Emotion-Focussed Therapy, Addictions Counselling specialists, Marriage Therapy, Family Therapy, and much more. Do a little research for yourself and make sure this seems right for you.
3. Counsellors should ideally be insured with Professional Indemnity insurance. Some are under their company policy, some may be under a group policy, others may go whole hog and get their own policy. This protects them from a number of potentially tricky aspects of profesisonal practice that do not usually come up in routine daily work, but more than anything else, tells you that they are practicing with a higher level of ethics in mind as most learned societies will require listed practitioners to have this before they are granted any form of membership.
4. Agree a fair market price. Counsellors are (should be) trained professionals and offer a range of services for a range of fees. Many may have set up on their own and have huge rents to cover and so may have few years of practice but high fees. Call around to a few providers and assess what scale suits your budget, or your insurers. You will need to feel that you are receiving a fair service for a fair price but keep in mind that when there is no financial investment in the process you may feel equally less emotional and/or cognitive investment and come out with little more than a bit of insight into the process. A good practitioner will earning their keep; if it is free, ask why.
5. Find out what their holiday and sick policies are so that you are preapred if the worst happens, both for you and for the counsellor. Many practices will make a charge for session missed and sessions that have been cancelled without more than 24 hours notice. This may not seem fair if you are genuinely unwell, but proof that you were sick and not avoiding the session often can clear the need for payment. Some counsellors may take extended holiday periods seasonally If this is not the sort of schedule you keep then find out what their plans are for locum coverage, most have a plan for this and will have a qualified and trsuted colleague to work with you in their absence when necessity calles for it.
6. Scope out the location of their premises and make sure you are comfortable with the area, the set-up internally and you feel safe and comfortable. You will be in the room alone with your counsellor for 50 minutes at a time and for up to 24 sessions should the need arise - be sure you are alright with the surroundings and you can get there easily enough to be on time for y our appointments. It hopefully goes without saying, you are well advised to try to avoid sessions that might be offere in a coffee shop.
7. You will get out of it what you put into it, don't be shy. You will need to be honest or this relationship is not going to work. Counselling should be a confidential, protected and non-judgmental space, just for you, but you will only get out of it what you put into it. Counselling is not an advisory service or a place where anyone should be telling you how you should live your life. So long as you come to the table with all relevant details, a professional counsellor will be your reflective guide. They should never divulge the details of your sessions to anyone else, unless legally requested to do so, or in the course of regular supervision, which would be anonymised - and they should never even share whether or not you are a client - confidential means confidential, enjoy the freedom.
8. Last but not least, make sure you like the person. If you are not comfortable with the counselling or anything in the mix make it known to them so they have a chance to answer your queries. If you can't put your finger on it but just don't feel comfortable, you are not obliged to continue where you are seeking private counselling services as a privately paying citizen. You of course would need to follow the cancellation policy for any upcoming booked session, but you should have the right to cancel at any time. Equally, you should not be coerced into purchasing any 'packages' that you cannot have the right to cancel at a later date should you really find that counselling, the person or any other part of the mix is just not for you.
We hope that is a helpful starting place for thinking about counselling. Here are a few Counselling Association websites so you can get ahead of the curve - happy counselling...