When deciding to undergo counselling, first you have to understand the process. When you have a issue and you have tried various ways to deal with your problems and situations, but are still unable to solve them, that’s when you know you need a professional help that is, a counsellor or a therapist or a psychologist (the words are interchangeably used since they mean the same).
When you need help getting the right kind of help, you have to be rational in making a decision. But the question arises ‘how do we know who the best counselor is’? When we decide to see a General Practitioner for cough and cold, we rely on factors like whether he is qualified to deal with our problem, whether he is an experienced doctor, whether his location is convenient, word of mouth, etc. Similarly, there are factors you have to consider while choosing a therapist too.
Some of the important factors to consider are:
Degree: Is the therapist well ‘qualified’ to handle your situation/ problem/ issue?
Experience: Does the therapist have enough experience in the field: practicing for how many years; whether she/ he has variety of experience like across personal set-up, schools, hospitals, NGO’s, etc. You could actually call the person and check if she/ he has handled cases similar to yours.
Fees/ Budget: Every counsellor/ therapist charges differently. You should decide for yourself what fees you are comfortable paying and choose a therapist accordingly.
Check online: Most of the therapists’/ counselors’ information is available online. It is very important to collect all the information about the person before you agree to start with them. It would also help you to cross check the information with the therapist when you decide to call them for more information.
Ask your doctors: Often, the general practitioner or your family doctor has a good chance of knowing good therapists and suggesting a suitable therapist for you as he knows your issues.
Keep choices open: It is not necessary that the therapist that you decide to go to will turn out to be the right one. It may still happen that you may not be comfortable with the person you have chosen after actually meeting and talking to her/ him in person. Hence, always have a back- up option. You can always visit a few therapists before you finally settle on one.
Check your comfort: A caveat to the point above ‘Do not go window shopping for therapists’. You will feel uncomfortable sharing your issues with a stranger. So with most therapists you meet, you will have a bit of discomfort to begin with. But you need to decide on the person you feel ‘less’ uncomfortable with. Comfort will come naturally as the sessions proceed.
Proximity: Generally you are asked to visit a counsellor on a weekly basis and the entire process could last for a few sessions (5-6), sometimes stretching to months. Therefore, you should also keep the comfort of location in mind. Choose a counsellor who is close to or conveniently located with respect to your home or work place.
Male/ Female: People are usually more comfortable and open up more easily with a specific gender. E.g, If you are a guy and usually share your issues or talk more to other men rather than women, then choose a male therapist. This is an important factor to keep in mind while selecting a suitable counsellor.
Hunch: Finally, after all the research you have done, you have to go with your instincts. When you speak to your therapist, you will get an instinct about how comfortable you will be with this person. After all it’s important to remember that there is also going to be exchange of personal information as a part of therapy.
At the end of it, the emphasis should be on how much are we, as clients, going to put into the therapy to make it work because ‘the counsellor is only a trainer to help us help ourselves in a more suitable way’.