As you read this short article, it may be that you already have some curiosity about counselling and the world of talking therapies. But I can't really know what your motivation to read this is and I don't make any assumption.
What I can relate to however, through my own personal experience of therapy and that of many of the clients I have worked with, is just how hard sometimes it can be to take what is quite a big step towards counselling. Below are some common concerns around looking for a therapist along with of my own brief thoughts in choosing a counsellor. These may or may not reflect some of your own thoughts.
For some, the prospect of talking with a complete stranger about things that are really personal is pretty scary: ‘What if I'm ‘made' to say or think about things that I don't really want to?'
For others there is perhaps the anticipation that if they start to talk about stuff going on in their head, they will be seen as weak when they should be able to cope: ‘I've always just got on with things and now I'll have to admit that I need help... ‘
Often there is the question of who to work with. Are things like gender, nationality, age, ethnic background, therapist qualification important? ‘How am I supposed to choose the right counsellor for me?'
Men don't ‘do' emotion! ‘It would be impossible for me to show feelings, let alone cry in front of a stranger.......'
And then of course what type of therapy would be most helpful? Do models such as Gestalt, Cognitive Behavioural, Humanistic Psychotherapy or Brief Solution Focussed Therapy mean anything? ‘Will I have to lay on a couch or is it going to be all touchy, feely, ‘getting into myself'?'
On a more practical level, there can be issues about accessibility, type of premises, available appointment times and costs: ‘Which would be better for me- seeing a counsellor at their home or having sessions in an office based setting? And are daytime or out of office hours appointments possible?'
These are just a sample of what some individuals may be experiencing in considering ‘going to therapy'. There are undoubtedly other perceived barriers to counselling, some of which may be common to many and some uniquely held by individuals.
Any of these thoughts, feelings, anxieties that you are holding are valid.
They are expressions of where you are right now.
And that's OK.
There are two crucial first steps in the therapy process:
•∑ Self acknowledgment that things are not quite right in your life- only you can know this.
•∑ Your desire to bring about changes to achieve a sense of your own well being and set about ways to achieve this- only you can do this.
The concerns listed above are perfectly natural yet may still seem a challenge to your personal comfort zone. So if you think you might feel intimidated working with a male counsellor- then choose a female one. If your issues are around sexual identity- choose someone who you feel can identify with you.
Looking into counselling can be a daunting prospect but you don't need to know about counselling to choose a counsellor. You might be about to commit to a lot of time, emotional energy and money to seek a very personal goal which right now may be rather vague. So speak to two, three or four therapists. If they offer an initial consultation, take them up on it. Use email to get information if this works better for you. Check them out on the Web. Do you know anyone who could give a personal recommendation?
Any counsellor will take time to explain how they work and what they can offer you. If after the initial contact you feel you can work with this person, then go for it!
And remember- This Is All About You.
By Stefan Kelly MBACP
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