Updated: Oct 7
Every person’s emotional world works differently, so no one counsellor is the perfect fit for every individual.
The key is to notice the way you feel when you are with your counsellor. You might be lucky and find the best counsellor straight away but, in most cases, you will have to meet with more than one before you find the right match.
When you start seeing a therapist, you begin a relationship based on mutual trust and unconditional acceptance. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to open up to a stranger about what brings you to therapy as the topics are very personal and often painful.
Therefore, there needs to be a strong a sense of safety and understanding, so that you can feel comfortable to divulge your deepest feelings and concerns and work towards rebuilding your emotional health.
Few things that you need to pay attention to:
A counsellor must have completed a recognized course. This assures that the counsellor has done adequate study and training.
They should have a registration with a counselling association. This guarantees that they have the required qualifications from the association and have kept their certification up to date.
Your counsellor should undertake supervision regularly. This ensures that they are committed to further development and to delivering an excellent service.
Lastly, they should have proof of suitable insurance.
The truth, however, is that none of these will guarantee the success of your therapy. Therefore, you need to trust your instincts and maybe ask friends and family if they have ever attended a counselling session before and if they would recommend the counsellor that they saw.
When I saw a therapist for the first time after arriving in Australia only a few months prior, I had no family or friends to seek a recommendation. I chose to trust the academical achievements of a therapist I found online. My therapist had an imposing resume, and while I won't deny it did help me in some ways, I never felt completely safe comfortable or had the feeling of being "unconditionally accepted”.
During the sessions, I experienced complicated feelings, such as anger and abandonment, but was never told they were normal feelings you can experience in sessions, even toward your counsellor.
I persisted, but after a year of seeing this counsellor, I decided these sessions weren’t giving me the progress I was looking for, I chose to cease our meetings and supposed there was not space for further improvements.
A few years later, I started studying counselling, and I also began to volunteer in different associations. All the associations I was working for recommended we take time to regularly debrief with a supervisor when we felt we came across any challenging situations. Also, while doing my study, I learnt that all counsellors must meet with a supervisor monthly to be a member of any association.
This time my criteria while looking for a counsellor were different. My studies have helped me understand that the most important characteristics to look for in a counsellor are the safe and accepting feeling they give during a session. When I looked for my supervisor, I no longer felt the need to check academic records.
The first counsellor I found and met with was not what I was looking for, so a month later I tried a new one. And that was it.
My conclusions are that therapy is not working for you if:
You didn't feel safe enough to open up
You don’t want to disappoint the therapist
You don’t feel safe to say if you feel triggered during the session
The only way to make the counselling process a positive experience is to feel complete trust for your counsellor and feel safe while you are opening up about fragilities, fears, feelings of unworthiness or shame. Don’t be concerned if you have to have a few appointments and try out a few different counsellors before you find the right match for you. Trust your feelings entirely in this process.
Feel free to contact me for any question.