Firstly, congratulations on making the decision to seek help and support. Maybe there’s a little or a lot going on in your life right now, maybe you’ve been through a crisis, maybe you haven’t, maybe you’ve been suffering with anxiety or depression or maybe you just need a different perspective on a long standing issue. Perhaps things are going really well in your life and you want to work on some future planning and goal setting or maybe there’s a career change looming. There can be a multitude of reasons people seek professional support from a counsellor, coach or psychologist. It is rarely an easy decision and feeling confident about the person you see is very important.
It’s easy to get lost in all the choices available. Should I see a psychologist, a clinical psychologist, a mental health social worker, a psychiatrist, a counsellor, a psychotherapist or a coach? And what modalities are best suited to my particular issue? Should I see a male, a female, an experienced therapist or a fresh out of university (and skilled up) graduate? Is charging a higher fee a sign of a successful, good therapist? What if I start with someone and I don’t like them, or they don’t seem to ‘get me’ or understand what I need in therapy? It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the choices and differences in practice orientation.
Having a few points to consider your potential therapist may come in handy. Knowing a bit about what you are looking for is also helpful…
A good Therapist is a good Communicator
Fundamentally, therapists need to be good role models of open and transparent communication embodying a polite, warm and professional rapport who can relate to you as both a client and a person.
Be as clear as possible about what you are looking for in a good Therapist
For example: if you want skills to help you overcome depression or strategies to improve relationships, or a space to explore the impacts of childhood trauma then it’s perfectly ok to state this and to expect and honest response from the person you pose these concerns to. And if you don’t know quite what you are looking for or needing then that’s ok too, sometimes it’s not always clear and you may need someone to help you clarify your aims. If they genuinely don’t have the skills to assist/support you then they need to be clear about this.
Good Therapists won’t tell you they can ‘Fix You’ or claim to achieve extraordinary results
Whilst these people may exist and there are genuine therapists who get excellent results there is a small percentage who are keen to make an impossible commitment to their results which can leave you feeling defeated and inadequate. These sessions can also be very costly. Sessions with these types of therapists are often about the ‘therapist’s agenda’ and not your own.
A good counsellor may allow you to ‘Interview’ them prior to seeing them
Have a list of a few questions that are meaningful to you, eg “how long have they been in practice for’, ‘what models and theories influence their work’, ‘what are their fees’, ‘how they structure their sessions’ etc.
A good counsellor will build a positive relationship with you
The therapeutic/coaching journey is often not an easy one and there may be days you feel resentful with your therapist about issues discussed or gentle challenges they have raised. However, there are also genuine instances when a ‘therapeutic alliance’ & rapport isn’t created; where your therapist’s style and interpersonal skills are not well matched to your personality and your concerns, and other times where it is clearly best that you seek an alternate opinion and terminate therapy.
If you don’t feel the sessions are working for you and you feel ok to raise this with the person you are seeing then that is ideal but because of the power imbalance between client and therapist, clients can feel afraid or hesitant to do so. If you don’t feel validated and supported its ok to change therapists and seek an alternate opinion although if you can let your current therapist know your plans then this can be helpful to you and them. Your therapist shouldn’t get in the way of you pursuing your own choices, however they may recommend a course of action to get your sessions back on track. Ultimately it is up to you.
Be wary of the person who baffles you with their qualifications or conversely the therapist who worries you because they have none!
Whilst qualifications and training are important, good therapists are more than their qualifications and their qualifications sit within their broader framework (which includes their values, their communication skills, their own personal development and possibly their own therapy and their reflectiveness and growth), to inform rather than dictate how they practice.
On the flipside be wary of the therapist who has no formal training… or is evasive about their professional training or even worse misrepresents themselves and their results.
For more help finding a good Therapist
There are a number of professional bodies including The Australian Counselling Association, The Australian Association of Social Workers and The Australian Psychological Society who can help you find a good therapist by providing a list of their accredited members.
To talk about who might be the right therapist for you, visit the Contact Us on the Talkingminds website.