Counselling is a highly personal experience and it is important you feel open and safe in your counselling relationship.
Most people look for a therapist when they are feeling overwhelmed, unsure about their life path or need extra support. Sometimes when we are in the grip of a crisis, we want to get rid of our suffering and tend to rush our decision making process. This is when we might overlook some factors that can determine whether a counsellor is the 'right fit' for us long term. It is recommended that if possible, 'shop around' or start your search for a therapist when you are not in the middle of a crisis to allow yourself enough time to evaluate its effectiveness. Here are some factors to consider as you go through your search:
1. What are you feeling? Can you identify your symptoms?
Understanding what you are feeling or struggling with can help narrow your search. For instance, are you feeling symptoms of depression? PTSD? Eating disorder? Anger? Do you want individual therapy, a support group, a life coach or group therapy? or are you interested in trying a specific healing modality? Do they need to be licensed? Covered by insurance?
All these questions can help narrow your search for the kind of support that will fit you best. It is not encouraged to self-diagnose or google your symptoms since a lot of mental health symptoms tend to overlap, but knowing what you need help with can offer you insight into what specialty to look for in a counsellor.
2. Trust your ‘senses’ and ‘gut feeling’
Search for counselling clinics in your area or search therapist directories, such as Psychology Today, BCACC, www.counsellingbc.com. Set specialties or other filters based on your preferences as you read through their bio’s. Do you feel connected to their words? Notice how you feel when you read their view on mental health, suffering and healing? How do your senses react? Do you feel disheartened or do you feel curious and slightly energized?
Most counsellors offer free consultations, and an opportunity to ask questions that can help you make an informed decision about whether they can support you in your journey.
3. Is it convenient?
Is the location of the office accessible to you or will you have to block off your entire day to make it to the appointment? The more barriers to counselling, the less likely you are to continue therapy. If this is the case, consider virtual counselling- phone, text or video sessions if the convenience and flexibility of remote sessions will increase your chances of attending sessions.
4. Ask for recommendations
Word of mouth is a powerful and common tool of referral. Talk to people whose judgment you trust and ask for referrals, whether be a friend/ physician/ pastor/colleague etc.
5. Notice your perfectionism and withdrawal tendencies
Do not be hasty in writing off a counsellor after one session unless they are clearly incompatible. Notice if you feel the need to withdraw after you become vulnerable during your first session, or the need to find the 'perfect' counsellor. Let there be some room for you and your counsellor to explore and create a therapeutic dynamic before you judge the effectiveness of therapy.
Lastly, if you don’t ‘click’ with a therapist- keep searching! It does not mean that therapy is not meant for you. Sometimes it takes time to find a good fit. Stay open and let the process surprise you!