Monday, September 23, 2013

Is it time you found a new therapist? by Dr Mataji Kennedy

Julie is 40 and has been married for 12 years to Joe. They have two children together and have survived many ups and downs as a couple including the bankruptcy of the family business, the death of Julie’s dad and the diagnosis of their son with Autism.

More recently, Julie feels Joe has been distant and withdrawn. He stills seems connected with the children but when she tries to get close to him he pulls away. Finally after several weeks she gathers the courage to ask him if he’s OK and he admits to her that he is unsure if he wants to remain in the marriage. He feels as though he has fallen out of love for her. After further probing Julie finds out that he has met someone at work and has feelings for this other woman, nothing has happened as yet but Joe is clearly confused. Julie is devastated and after a week of crying and feeling desolate she decides she needs to see a counsellor.

She asks Joe to come to couples counselling with her and initially he resists however after much discussion he finally consents to go along. Julie is unsure about how to find a good counsellor and asks her friends if they know of anyone. She finally speaks to her GP and is referred to a local Psychologist and she manages to get an appointment within a week.

The minute she walks through the door of the Psychologist’s office her heart sinks. The Psychologist is 15 years younger than her and Joe and while she is very professional she hasn’t had the same level of life experience. After the first session Joe refuses to return for another session and Julie once again is desolate and unsure as to what to do next.

The Psychologist Julie and Joe saw was no doubt skilled and professional and works very well with certain clients but was not the right fit for them. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario. You may find yourself going through a rough patch. Maybe it’s a relationship breakdown, death of a loved one or a family crisis. You decide to get some professional help by way of a counsellor and ask your friends, GP or someone else if they know of anyone good. Most people chose a counsellor based on convenience to where they live or work but how do you really know if they are the best person for you to see?

Choosing a counsellor has to be based on more than just locality. Research shows the fit has to be right between the client and the therapist otherwise therapy doesn’t work.  So what should you look out for when choosing a counsellor? 

Here are some tips:

  • They have experience in the area you need. Therapists often specialise in an area or a few areas and have a deep knowledge and understanding of these particular areas.  It’s no good going to see a therapist who specialises in just anxiety for instance if you need help with alcohol dependence. Asking your therapist their area of interest is a good place.
  • Personal qualities. Who do you feel comfortable talking to? Each of us are different in this way and you need to feel comfortable with the therapist in order to be open and honest in the sessions. If you feel comfortable with the therapist in terms of their personality, gender, age, style and nationality then the therapy will be more effective.
  • Qualifications. It is important to see a counsellor who is fully qualified and well trained. The term “Counsellor” is a broad term and can cover people who have many years of experience to people who have done a weekend workshop. Regardless of whether your therapist is a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist or Counsellor they should have formal qualifications and professional association membership. 
  • Work on self.  To work well with clients its important therapists also attend to their own personal and professional development. Most commonly this means they receive supervision, engage in their own therapy and extend their skills via courses and workshops.

The challenge for many of us is how do we find a counsellor who ticks all the above boxes. It’s time consuming and not an easy task to shop around and find out these things about your therapist before you make the first appointment.  One option is to use a service that helps you find the right therapist, Select Counsellors is such a service.

Select has developed an assessment interview in which they gather important information about you and then use this information to match you with a therapist who is the best fit in terms of experience, qualifications, personality and style. They are Sydney wide and have a large pool of qualified counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists. The initial assessment costs $130+GST and can take place face to face or via phone or Skype.

You can book an assessment online at > or by calling 1300 123 680.

If you would like further information on the service you can browse the website where you'll find information about the kinds of issues and concerns they can help with.