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How do I choose the right counsellor?

Finding the counsellor that's right for you is not a simple of matter of typing 'good counsellors near me' into a search engine. Deciding to go for counselling is an important step and you want to do all you can to ensure that it is a successful one too.

You may have a friend that recommends someone that they found worked for them, and although this is not a bad place to start, it's not a guarantee that the person will be right for you too. It's not the same as recommending a tradesman. If your friend has had a new kitchen fitted and you've seen the results, there is every reason to think the same fitter will do a similar job for you.

When you pick a builder or plumber you don't need to give much consideration to his personality and whether you feel you can connect with him on an emotional or psychological level. You don't need to feel that your plumber understands, on an empathic level, just how you want your kitchen sink to look or what it feels like to have a leaky washing machine.

Most counsellors should be offering you the chance of some sort of initial consultation, often free of charge, where you can meet up and 'get a feel for them'. A massive part of effective therapy is trust and if you meet a prospective counsellor and get some sort of gut feeling that you're not sure you can trust them or that something just isn't quite right, then you should acknowledge that feeling and look for a different one. Other times you may find that you feel instantly at ease and almost as if you could tell them anything, right from the start.

The counsellor/client relationship is an intensely personal one. A vast majority of people that report that they have had what they would classify as effective therapy will, at some point, have shared some very intimate and private details about themselves. If you accept that effective therapy requires that level of opening yourself up, you have to completely trust the person you're talking to.

Even though contacting a recommended counsellor does not guarantee they'll be compatible with you, it's certainly a better approach than looking online and picking the first one that's nearest to where you live. They are not 'all the same' so you can't just go for the cheapest. Likewise, paying a high session rate does not mean you're getting some sort of special, fancy counselling that cheaper therapists don't have.

As a general rule of thumb you can expect to pay around £40 per session for an effective, ethical, qualified therapist. Some choose to charge a little more and others a little less but it's a pretty good benchmark.

Important consideration to help you choose would be: (in no particular order)

- Qualifications

- Are they a member of a regulating body? (e.g BACP)

- Type of counselling they offer (Person Centred, CBT, Couples counselling, etc)

- Experience in the area you feel you need help (Stress, depression, trauma, motivation, etc)

Even taking these factors into account is still likely to leave you with many choices. Your financial situation may mean you have to discount some of the counsellors on the list and if you know that you will only talk to either a male or female that could narrow things further.

So then who do you pick?

Well that's when you have to trust your judgement. Most counsellors will have a profile picture to see and we all know that this can influence who you may or may not contact.

The final step is to arrange one of those initial sessions where you can finally meet for the first time and it's only then that you will have an idea as to whether all of your efforts in narrowing down your decision have been successful.

Most importantly of all, you must not be afraid to admit if it doesn't feel right. It doesn't matter what the reason is. Maybe they remind you of someone at school that bullied you? Maybe they're 'too nice' or 'over confident'. They might not even smell right.

Choosing to go to counselling could be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. In fact, some people may reflect back that their life depended on it. With a decision this big you have to be as sure as you can be that you make the right choice.

And when you realise you have made the right choice, the results can be life-changing.

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