There is a lot to consider when you're choosing a counsellor and most people would agree that you don't just simply pick the first one you find that's nearby or the one that's the cheapest.
Counselling can be life changing so it needs an appropriate level of consideration when deciding who to go with because you want to give yourself the best chance to make that change in your life.
One criteria that I would hope everyone would agree should be in place is to make sure they are qualified. The counselling industry is currently unregulated and the term 'Counsellor' is not protected. This means that anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor and they will be breaking no laws. One way to ensure you are getting a counsellor with recognised qualifications would be to search on the register of a recognised body, such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), where counsellors cannot be listed unless they have passed a minimum qualification that satisfies standards of competency as laid out by the BACP. You may also prefer to search for Accredited counsellors, which signifies a recognition by the body of a counsellor's experience and capacity for independent, ethical and competent practice. You can click here to see my own profile, which is an example of what on accredited counsellor's page will look like on the BACP website.
Checking they are qualified is just the first step, of course. You need to establish whether they work with whatever it is that you are struggling with. Do they mention on their profile that they can help with things like anxiety, stress, bereavement or whatever you feel is your problem?
When all of that is done you're in a good position to contact someone and, hopefully, be given a free assessment, which will be your opportunity to judge how you feel after speaking to them in person.
Then, after all of that, we come to the original question posed for this post. "How do I know I can trust my counsellor?"
Sadly, at first, you don't. Most people trust their gut feeling after the initial contact. Clients regularly report that they have spoken to a number of other counsellors but something 'didn't feel right'. It is absolutely vital that you listen to that message your body is sending out.
If you proceed with counselling you are going to be exploring sensitive, possibly traumatic or upsetting areas of your life. In order for you to open up these precious areas of your mind, you need to trust that the person hearing them is going to treat them with the respect they deserve. You need to feel safe in doing so and that will not happen if the trust is not there.
The trust also works both ways. You have to trust yourself and your instincts to know when it is the right time, if at all, to open up those parts of your life to the stranger sitting across the room from you.
If the counsellor is doing their job correctly, the trust should start to build from the first conversation you have on the phone at your initial enquiry, but only you will know if/when the level of trust reaches sufficient heights in order for you to really explore your stuff.
So, trusting your counsellor is, at first, a bit of a leap of faith on the client's part. It's similar to any relationship where you only start to see how much a person can be trusted when they show you, but they can't show you unless an opportunity presents itself for them to prove it to you.
Any counsellor worth their title should be able to put you at ease, not judge you, show great respect and empathy. This is the bare minimum that the client should expect. Trust is something, however, that the counsellor must earn from his client. But the client has to be the brave one in handing something across the room, hoping that they can trust the counsellor to treat it correctly.
When this happens, and a strong bond of trust is built, that's when the magic can really happen....
For more information about my own counselling service visit www.beyourselfcounselling.co.uk