Choosing a counsellor for online or phone counselling can seem confusing. How do you pick the right person for the job when that job is the super important job of looking after your mental health and wellbeing?
A lot of the time, a good therapist/client fit comes down to the following 5 things. They’re worth thinking about as you try and decide who to talk to.
They get you
Being able to find a therapist who gets you is really important for online or phone counselling. It’s hard to know who you’ll connect with when you’re looking up different therapists online - but it can be helpful to read the counsellor’s bio or other info they have on their website to see if anyone leaps out as someone who you’d feel might be good to talk to.
Sometimes people find it easier to feel like the counsellor gets them if the counsellor is similar to them in some way - e.g. the same gender, age, or background. If that’s how you feel, browse online until you find someone who you have something in common with.
They know their stuff
If you’re going to open up to someone online or over the phone, you want to know this person has the right training to back them up. Feel free to google a prospective therapist's qualifications, and ask about membership of professional associations like the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA).
Even among qualified counsellors there are specialistations - like couple work, grief and loss, harmful behaviors (addiction) or family therapy. It’s worth asking, or checking a counsellor’s bio, to see if they have experience in the area you’re hoping to get help with.
They are genuine
A good counsellor will be honest with you. They will be upfront with you about important stuff like confidentiality and their professional boundaries. They won’t tell you things just because they’re trying to build you up - if they’re saying something that sounds like a compliment, it’s because that’s what they’re genuinely seeing in their session with you. They might also ask you some tough questions too.
They will also want you to be genuine and honest with them - if they’ve misunderstood something, they’ll be happy for you to tell them that they’re barking up the wrong tree.
They let you be you
The internet can be full of trolls and thirst traps, and Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok let us pretend that we’re living our best lives on the daily. Online counselling is the opposite. It’s the one place on the internet where you can be completely yourself without worrying that your counsellor will judge you.
Even the bits of yourself that you try to hide, or consider weird or shameful: a good counsellor will accept you for you. They’ll also acknowledge that it’s you - not them - who is the expert on your life. The counsellor isn’t there to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but to listen and maybe give some gentle suggestions now and then.
They make it feel easier than you thought it would be
Even when you’re talking about the hardest stuff in life - death, divorce, suicide - your counsellor should be able to make it easier than you thought it would be to talk about these things. Counsellors are trained to make you feel as comfortable as possible, even when you are hurting. Pick a counsellor who makes you feel at ease.
The bottom line…
There’s a lot of different counsellors out there and sometimes the search for the one that’s right for you can feel a bit daunting. But, with a bit of googling and asking some questions, and checking in with yourself during and after a session, you’ll be able to find a counsellor who will work with you in partnership to look after your mental health.