Finding the Right Counsellor

October 07, 2011  |   Blog   |     |   15 Comments

Finding the Right Counsellor

By Vickie Kampe M.Ed., RCC

When we are looking for counselling and support, we are often in a vulnerable state, overwhelmed and confused, and feel a need for trust and safety. It’s difficult to know where to start looking for a therapist – the yellow pages? a Google search? ask a friend? the counsellor center downtown? a therapist recommended by a doctor? When selecting the counsellor to best help you three important considerations should be made: registration and licensing, relationship, and referral source.  Taking care through this process will ensure your dignity, emotional safety and privacy.

 

Registration & Licensing:

The first consideration is a counsellor’s qualifications. Did you know that in Canada the government does not formally regulate the counselling profession? This means anyone could identify themselves as counsellors. Buyer Beware is an important caveat while considering a counsellor. There are ways to ensure your counsellor is professional and trained. Formal counselling associations have been created to preserve the integrity of this field. Counsellors pay membership fees to become members and the associations ensure counsellors have a minimum of a Master’s Degree, continued participation in professional development, and ethical conduct is regulated by providing standards of practice. These regulatory bodies are British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors, British Columbia Association of Social Workers, College of Psychologists of BC, and Canadian Association of Clinical Counsellors.

 

Here are some good questions to ask while you’re deciding which counsellor could meet your needs:

What are your qualifications?

Are you registered with an association?

What level of education have you achieved?

Is this from an accredited institution?

 

Relationship:

Counselling will be effective, only if you feel comfortable with your counsellor. Therapy is not an easy process, and your counsellor is not there to be your friend; there will be times you will be challenged. It will be invaluable if you find someone whom respects your individuality, opinions, and self. The counselling process is a collaborative one that relies on a “therapeutic rapport” between the client and the counsellor. Effective therapy requires a good match between therapist and client because relationship factors are important catalysts for personal growth. You should feel supported and welcomed in a warm and genuine way from the first point of contact. Lambert and Bergin’s (1994) research found three common factors to “good therapy”:

 

  1. The client should feel validated and supported by the therapist.
  2. The client should learn something during the session from feedback and insight offered from the therapist.
  3. The client will make behavioral changes outside of session i.e., practicing new skills, facing fears, or applying problem solving strategies.

The extent of learning and accepting feedback from a therapist and the likelihood of making lasting changes increases when there is a strong interpersonal connection with the therapist.

 

Referrals:

Sometimes the best way to find a good counsellor is through a referral from another professional who knows the counsellor professionally, and who has referred their own clients to this counsellor and have had positive outcomes. Your counsellor may be suggested by:

  • your family doctor,
  • a professional organization (as named above),
  • a counsellor whom you have consulted for the purpose of obtaining a referral,
  • the minister or pastor of your church
  • a lawyer
  • a social worker
  • some similar person who is in a professional position to have general feedback that this therapist’s clients report success.

 

It is sensible to talk to a couple of therapists on the phone before making your first appointment. Be prepared when calling and have a list of the questions you would like answered. Ask questions about their registration, how many years experience they have, and areas of specializations. Follow your instinct in whom you feel comfortable with and remember you are making a step forward to healing yourself and building a healthy life.

 

 

References:

Lambert, M. J., & Bergin, A. E. (1994). The effectiveness of psychotherapy. In A. E. Bergin & S. L. Garfield (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (4th ed., pp. 143-189). New York: Wiley.

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