Why is it a good idea to see a counsellor/therapist, and how do you choose the right one?



If you are physically unwell, have a cold, flu, headache, stomach-ache or any physical injury, you don’t hesitate to see a doctor to get help. However, why do many people hold back from getting help if they are feeling emotionally or psychologically unwell?


There are several common reasons why people hesitate to seek counselling.


1. Belief that you need to have a serious mental health condition to seek therapy.

Therapy is not just for treating mental illnesses, but also serves as prevention of mental illness. Therapy can help improve your resilience so that you can cope with adversities in life; develop a positive mindset; enhance your self-esteem and self-worth; promote emotional intelligence; and most importantly it can lead to deeper self-awareness.


2. Worry about sharing personal issues with a stranger.

It can be quite intimidating to share personal issues and revealing a vulnerable part of you to someone you don’t know. A fear of judgement or fear of criticism could be underlying this worry also. The most important aspect of successful therapy is the relationship you build with your therapist. Counsellors are trained and skilled at engaging with you, hearing your story with empathy and without judgement to support your healing and growth.


3. You would rather talk to your family or friends.

It is great that you have supportive friends and family that you can talk to. They may listen, support, and give you advise, but therapy is quite different. A therapist is a skilled listener, who can pick up on your thought and behaviour patterns, and your underlying belief systems that may keep you stuck in your problems. Thus, in therapy you gain deeper self-awareness and gain skills to address future issues also. It is also important to note that the information you share with a therapist is confidential and private unless your therapist is concerned about your or someone else’s safety.


4. Uncertainty about what to expect in therapy.

Not knowing what is involved in therapy, or how long it will take can make you anxious to engage in it. When you engage in therapy for the first time, your therapist might ask you a few questions to understand the problems you are currently dealing with. You will be asked why you are seeking counselling, and how long you have been dealing with your current issues. You might be asked if there is anything you have tried already, what worked and what did not work for you. Your therapist will try to explore the context of your current problem, including your family history of any trauma, losses, drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues or any other relevant issues. In a first session, most therapists try to get to know you as a person, to develop trust and connection, so that you can feel safely held by your therapist.


The duration of therapy depends on several factors. It depends on what your issues are, and how you want to address them. Some clients only want to learn strategies or skills to manage their current distress, others may want to explore their unconscious beliefs and gain deeper self-awareness. Thus, depending on your unique needs and what outcome you hope to achieve from therapy, it may take anywhere from a few sessions up to several months or years.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A THERAPIST

Once you come to the acceptance that you may need therapy, the next big task is finding the right therapist for you, which can often be overwhelming given many different types of therapists out there.

There are number of ways you might search for a therapist that will work for you. You may get a referral from a GP; you might do an internet search or ask your friends and family. Recommendations for therapists from friends or family is great, as they may suggest one that they have had a positive experience with. It is still a good idea to explore further, whether this therapist will be the right fit for you.

You might check the therapist’s website to see their credentials, registrations, and any experience they have in working with the issues that you are struggling with. Most therapists also offer a free 15-minute telephone chat to discuss your needs. This is also your opportunity to ask them any questions and get a sense of whether you can trust or connect with them.

Research has shown that higher levels of outcomes are achieved in therapy through the therapeutic relationship than through any particular treatment method or intervention. The therapist achieves this connection with the client through the essential qualities of accurate empathy, congruence (genuineness), and unconditional positive regard for the client.

So, it is most important that you find a therapist that you can trust and be open with, feel heard and not judged.

Despite having done all your research, sometimes after therapy starts you might find that you are not compatible with your therapist. If you sense this, you have no obligation to stay with the current therapist, you can look for another therapist who will be a better fit for you.


If you want to have a free 15-minute chat with me to see if I will be the right therapist for your needs, call me on 0434 947 255.