Has there ever been a time in your life when the weight you were carrying upon your shoulders became so heavy and burdensome, that you knew you needed to find a way to lighten it, to share it, to find another way to carry it? Or perhaps you had arrived at a crossroad and you weren’t sure which path to take.
Sometimes, life throws unexpected events at us such as a death, a break-up, or a trauma, and we need help with the healing process, or to find a better way forward. Then there are the times when nothing dramatic happens at all, it’s all same old same old, but instead of your usual take on things, comes a rising panic or a descending black cloud, or just a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
It is at times like these that many people turn to a counsellor or therapist. But how do you know who to turn to, and if you're choosing wisely?
It has been said that most people put more care and attention into choosing a pair of shoes than they do into choosing a counsellor or therapist.
This is not surprising really, because the trouble is, when you're in the midst of difficult times or a crisis, your thinking may not be as clear as it usually is, and taking a rational approach to ‘shopping around for a counsellor’ is not going to be all that likely.
Adding to the confusion is that currently, in the UK, there is no statutory regulation for talking therapies, so anyone is free to call themselves a counsellor or a therapist if they want to. So, it's important to make sure the practitioner you choose is a member of one of the established self-regulating professional organisations, and check on their qualifications. (See contacts below).
Getting a referral from your GP or a professional body, or a personal recommendation from a friend, is the route most of us take to find someone. You can also now self-refer to talking therapies through the NHS website.
This isn’t a bad start, but it involves a degree of luck that you’ll end up sitting in front of someone you feel comfortable enough with, to open up to and work with. For whatever a therapist’s model of working, research shows that the one most important factor in successful talk therapy is the relationship you have with the therapist. And like any relationship, what may be your friend’s (or your GPs’) cup of tea, may not be yours.
It’s a personality thing, and while you may hit it off with the first person you sit in front of, you may not. Sometimes you need to meet more than one counsellor to find the one you want to get stuck in with.