I was recently saddened by a comment made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's post ''If you’re home and feeling bored, during the ongoing coronavirus crisis doing short online training courses to become a counsellor' These comments are dangerous and have the potential to cause harm
In the UK counsellors are not under statutory regulations meaning there are no laws to prevent people without skills and training calling themselves counsellors. Many online courses can be used to fool people into thinking when these are completed they can work with people who are feeling particularly vulnerable.
Therapists/Counsellors adhere to high ethical and practice standards to ensure they help their clients to improve their psychological wellbeing
1) Do your research
Check any therapists/counsellors you've come across are a Registered member of an awarding body. You may have noticed a few logos BACP and ACTO who are the awarding bodies I belong too. The BACP and ACTO have registers you can use to check this out. It can provide reassure and comfort that you are in safe hands.
2) Ask questions about qualifications
In the UK a counsellor should have gained a degree or at a minimum, a level 4 diploma.
3) Ask about the length of the training and what it entailed
If the 'therapist/counsellor' was able to gain their qualification within 10 minutes it is not enough. Most reputable courses have minimum requirements and standards to meet before achieving the qualification. I had therapy myself for almost 2 years (the length of my training) to make sure I had processed anything going on for me. I also had to complete 100 client hours for my diploma course.
4) Check they have regular supervision
This is really important and forms part of ensuring clients the best possible care and support, that counsellors are working in the best interest of those they work with.
All therapists/counsellors should have monthly supervision with a qualified supervisor to make sure that they are working ethically.
5) Are they working within their competency level?
When people decide they are going to access counselling it can be for a range of reasons, bereavement or self-harm for example. You might want to find out about any additional training or experience they have in any areas they could be connected to what is bothering you.
All therapists/ counsellors should be committed to developing their skills and knowledge, Many awarding bodies state a minimum number of hours continued professional development they are required to complete each year.
If they don't have experience or training in an area that you are struggling with it does not mean they won't be able to support you but allows you to decide what feels right for you and make an informed decision.
6) Find out how they work.
I work face to face offering a confidential, safe environment as well as working online via webcam or telephone
There is no need to decide on one rigid approach or way of working, it is about meeting your needs so if life demands get in the way of you attending face to face, if you feeling unwell, like you could do without travelling then we could combine the two
I work short term and on an open-ended basis.
7) Don't feel pressured to make a decision right away
The decision to seek counselling can feel scary and unsettling, Finding a therapist/ counsellor that is the right match for you is really important.
It is, for this reason, I offer a free 20 - minute consultation over the telephone to give you the chance to answer any questions you might have. It gives both of us a chance to get to know each other better. A quick chat over the phone means you can see whether you feel a natural 'click'.
Don't feel pressured to decide right away take as much time as you need. Take the time to speak to at least 2 - 3 therapists initially so you have a good point of comparison to work with and who you feel most comfortable with.
8) Trust your instinct
Research has shown that taking note of your gut feeling and what feels right for you is paramount. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to defining a connection. Sometimes it’s there, other times it's not, so trust your gut as much as you can
The relationship between you and the therapist/counsellor influences the success and outcomes of the process.
The relationship with your therapist /counsellor needs to be based on trust. It's important you feel comfortable sharing time and space with them each week. It also means feeling comfortable enough to tackle the painful stuff too.
In my view it's a privilege when someone chooses me as their therapist, trusting me during those times they are feeling immense personal pain.
9) Read your contract
The contract between you and the therapist/counsellor sets out important aspects such as confidentiality, privacy policies and what happens if you can’t make a session. Make sure you read this carefully and ask any questions that you need to in order to feel comfortable going forward.
1O) Be wary of therapists/ counsellors that offer too many reassurances or guarantees
There are no guarantees with counselling! You should discuss goals and your counsellor will explore with you your hopes and where you would like to get too. One of the questions I ask in the assessment looks at this, something to consider from the outset, however, these may change throughout the process but no one can offer you a guaranteed outcome.
You may not feel you need to ask all of these questions, there are no set rules but the most important thing is that you feel that you can. Remember that there is never any obligation to continue with a counsellor, if at any point you feel unsafe or uncertain you can bring it to an end. You should feel empowered and able to take charge.