Musings

Choosing a Counsellor

Choosing an appropriate counsellor for ourselves takes a bit of work, thought and intuition. It may not usually be as crucial a decision as choosing a life partner, a career or where to invest our life savings, but, I reckon there are instances when it can be. As in other areas of our life, we learn just how important a decision was only after the fact, especially when we’ve made an unusually good or bad decision. How things eventually turn out in such cases leave us in little doubt as to whether we made the right or wrong choice.

Counsellors are human beings, and quite apart from the skill, training and experience they have, all of which is important, there is always a factor that can not be expressed in a simple listing in the Yellow Pages or an internet directory. What I mean is that they will tell us very little about how well you or I are going to “click” with a particular therapist? A helpful counsellor for you may be a waste of time and money for me. How can we as prospective service consumers and clients know beforehand? In addition to that issue to deal with, we could be faced with what may be an intimidating number of counsellors in the area to choose from. In the Southern Highlands, for example, there are in the neighborhood of fifty listings offering counselling services.

Let’s start with the easier, more describable aspects of this investigation. Looking for a counsellor or psychologist in your area usually begins by consulting your local phone directory, the internet or someone you know who has seen a counsellor. The latter option, if it’s available to you, is often the best place to start. It will usually provide you with the most detailed and relevant information, and hopefully, if you know your informant well enough, you’ll be able to sort out what aspects of their description might be true for you and what may not be. Clearly, the more you trust their judgement the easier you’ll feel in basing a decision upon it.

Making use of a phone directory or internet search engine tells who’s offering what services. Rarely will it tell you enough to allow you to feel confident in the choice you need to make. However, it will provide you with details that may be important to you if cost is an initial and serious consideration. In that case, you want to search for listings that state that medicare or private health fund rebates are available. Just remember, though, that cheaper is not always better. In the long run, it may not even prove to be cheaper. I’d recommend not stopping here and basing your choice solely on monetary considerations. Also, it is not unheard of that counsellors who are not eligible for government or private health fund rebates will offer reductions or negotiated fees for clients who are not able to pay the full price.

Unless a counsellor is recommended by a very trusted source (even then it’s preferable to do your own, independent inquiries) it is worth your while to find out as much as you can about the counsellor you’re considering. Check-out their website if they have one. Sometimes you can get a feel for the person him or herself and a sense if this is a person you would feel comfortable sharing intimate material with. Following that, phone and talk to the counsellor. Ask him or her questions about how the counselling session is run, especially if you’ve never sought the services of a counsellor before. Also, if you feel comfortable with it, share whatever hesitations you may have about seeing a counsellor. And if you’re seeking marriage counselling ask that your partner share his or her concerns. A person’s hesitancy may either be based on having no previous experience or unhelpful experiences with counsellors in the past. The response of the counsellor to your misgivings may well give you some clues as to whether this is the counsellor you want to work with.

Having thoughtfully deliberated upon some of these different considerations, it is important to trust our intuition–and to continue to trust it during and after our work with the counsellor. It is arguably the most healing power available to us.

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