There can be a lot of worry and apprehension mixed in with the decision to start up counselling, and wondering how to choose a Counsellor can add to that. If you do a Google search of Counsellors in your area, it is likely that a lot of names will come up. So how do you decide which one to work with? In this blog, I’d like to share some questions you can ask the Counsellor you are considering working with, to ensure you are making the right choice for you.
- Check out their Website. You can learn a lot about a Counsellor’s education, experience, and expertise by reading their website, so that can be a great starting point.
- If you have coverage for counselling through you Employee Assistance Program (EAP), consider giving them a call. Some EAP’s have a list of Counsellors which they have pre-approved, so start by checking in with your policy. Some policies might specify the credentials of the Counsellors they will reimburse you for, such as a Psychologist, or a Master’s level Counsellor. It can also be helpful to get a sense of how many sessions will be covered.
- Is the Counsellor Registered with a Governing Body? It is important to make sure the Counsellor is registered with a college or governing body. These are designed to regulate the professional practice of Counsellors. They accomplish this by certifying credentials and ensuring the Counsellor has obtained a high standard of professional preparation, education, and supervision requirements. They provide a Code of Ethics and Standards of Clinical Practice which the Counsellor must practice within. It also means the Counsellor must engage in continuing education and supervision, pass a criminal records check, and carry liability insurance. Being registered often helps clients relax in the knowledge that they are in the hands of a competent professional. Click on one of the the following links to learn more about the governing bodies for Counsellors in British Columbia: Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association, BC Association of Clinical Counsellors, BC Association for Marriage & Family Therapy
- Here are a few additional questions that you will want to know:
- Does the Counsellor have a wait list, or could you start up right away?
- What is the cost per session?
- What is the length of each session?
- How frequently will the sessions be?
- Where is the office located?
- Is their wheelchair access (if it is needed)?
Will the Counsellor be a Fit for you?
Once you have a couple candidates for whom you think you might like to work with, consider asking these additional questions to help you firm up your decision.
- What is the Counsellor’s therapeutic approach in counselling: A therapeutic approach is basically the philosophical way a Counsellor approaches counselling, understands problems, and attends to the resolution of those problems. Often a Counsellor will post this information on their website. I always recommend asking in person because any questions you have can be answered on the spot. As you learn about the lens through which the Counsellor will be working, make sure it feels like a fit for you and what you want to work on.
- What formal education and training does the Counsellor have AND What is their experience in the field of counselling? You chose to start up counselling likely because you are struggling with something and you want help with it. Asking about credentials enables you to ensure the Counsellor is qualified and competent. Asking about their experience enables you to ensure they are skilled in what you want to work on. For example, I frequently receive referrals from couples wanting to work on their relationship. However, I am not trained or experienced in this area, so it would not be ethical or helpful for me to work with them. Therefore, I have a list of highly skilled Counsellors who are experienced in couples counselling, which I provide to those inquires.
- What is their confidentiality policy? You need to know that your personal information is going to be treated with the utmost respect to your privacy. Most Counsellors will share this with you during your very first session. If they haven’t, please take a moment to ask how your privacy will be maintained.
What is your Gut Feeling?
Let’s not underestimate the importance of hearing your intuition. When you meet with the Counsellor you have selected, do you feel comfortable in their counselling space and in their presence? When you talk with the Counsellor, does it feel collaborative, like you will have an equal role in the therapeutic relationship, goal setting, and direction of the work? Do you feel heard, respected? It can be intimidating to start up counselling, and some nervousness is to be expected. But overall, for counselling to be successful you need to feel safe, heard, and relatively at ease in the counselling room.
Take your time in finding the right fit for you, so that you get the most out of your counselling experience. If you have found a Counsellor and asked some questions in your selection process that I didn’t list, please add them to the comments.