Choosing a good counsellor or psychotherapist can be a daunting task. How do you know when you have found the right one for you? What factors can you look out for when you first meet? And what about after the first few weeks of working together?
I’ve had personal counselling and psychotherapy with several therapists over the years. And I’ve also met many new clients who’ve come to see me at my practice in Brighton and Hove. Generally, I’ve found that choosing the right therapist online (i.e. without a personal recommendation) takes a number of stages:
- picking out suitable profiles from online directories or from searching the web
- meeting face-to-face at an initial consultation
- spending the first 6-8 weeks working together
You will probably know why you are seeking counselling or psychotherapy and what you would like to talk about (e.g. bereavement, a relationship issue or difficulties managing anger) and this will help to narrow the field from a list of therapists from an online directory. You will also have an idea of where you are prepared to travel to for sessions and at what time of day. Perhaps you have thought about whether you would like to see a male or a female therapist. You might also know a little about different approaches to therapy – some of which appeal to you, and others do not. In my opinion, the real test comes when you meet a therapist for the first time.
The first few seconds of meeting anybody new in our lives are often important when assessing whether we feel comfortable with a person. Questions to ask yourself after a first meeting with a therapist might be:
- Did this person greet me properly?
- Were they pleasant without being overly familiar?
- Were they professional without being overly distant?
- By the end of the session, did I feel more at ease? Or relieved?
If you decide to go ahead with a particular therapist there then follows a few weeks of getting to know each other. As a practitioner, this is the time I suss out how someone wants me to be with them. Do they want me to be very challenging? Or do they need me to mostly listen to what they have to say? Some people need a slow pace and others have reached the kind of place where they are ready to move quite quickly through what is troubling them. Although I have experience of assessing what individual clients need from me and when, I do not profess to be a mind reader and as such I will often check to see how things are going and hopefully after the first few weeks are up will have found a rhythm to the therapy that we are both happy with. After this initial period, more in-depth work can begin. Everybody’s needs are different – some will choose to stay in therapy for a couple of months and others for upwards of two years.
Finding a counsellor or psychotherapist with whom you feel ‘comfortable enough’ is the best way of ensuring a successful therapy outcome. Listening to your own gut feel at an initial session will give you a good idea of whether this therapist might be the one for you. The first few weeks together should reinforce this. If you find yourself feeling, for example: misunderstood, interrupted, irritated, rushed or dismissed by your therapist, try talking about it and if this doesn’t resolve matters, it might be time to leave and find someone else. Bear in mind that therapy is not always a comfortable experience. A good therapist might not necessarily be able to give you all that you want, but they should be able to give you a large part of what you might need in terms of a secure and safe place in which to think about and potentially transform difficult aspects of your life.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to counselling and psychotherapy interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.
Copyright: Caroline Clarke, help with panic attacks in Brighton and Hove
Image courtesy of Elwood W. McKay III at FreeDigitalPhotos