by Reed Parker
When in the depths of a challenge with mental illness, it can often be very difficult to admit to yourself and those around you that you need help. It’s easy to be skeptical about the effectiveness of a mental health counselor, especially when the stereotypical image is laying on a couch and being asked about your mother.
However, the reality is that a relationship with a mental health counselor could be exactly what you need to put you on the path to recovery.
Every counselor you meet is going to be different, so, similar to dating, get to know the ones you meet and decide if they’re the right match for you. It’s important to gel and to feel like the relationship is going somewhere.
Beyond personality, there are plenty of traits that you should take into account when determining the potential quality of the relationship.
Here are 5 traits of a quality counselor that will give you a good starting point in finding a counselor:
##1 Understanding of your life
A counselor should be tailoring their approach to treatment based on the needs of the individual. To do this, they should ask you about your personal, cultural, and familial backgrounds.
They should get a sense of what you hold dear in your life, how you define happiness, and what you struggle with the most. This will help them tailor the goals and tasks that will be set out in your plan for recovery.
Goals and the tasks required to achieve them are a great way to see tangible progress on the path to recovery. These won’t be easy to establish right away, but once a counselor gets to know you, potential goals will become obvious to them. Goals are also a great way to get you, the client, involved and motivated about your own recovery.
##3 Is both hopeful and realistic
As you execute the tasks set out by the counselor, they should be quick to give credit to you when it’s due. The tasks are for your own recovery, but they are the ones holding you accountable for their completion. Keeping momentum going is crucial to success and a counselor’s praise will help keep it alive.
When it comes to slip-ups, a counselor should focus attention on what prevented success and break those reasons down into minor goals that can be achieved. Focusing on tangible steps is the key.
Another side is to know when to push you out of your comfort zone. According to Wake Forest University’s online counseling program, counselors should balance being pushy with being cuddling. “Be sensitive to where your client is at, but know when to give the extra little encouragement to reveal more or to think deeper,” the article said. “Sometimes it’s that push that helps the client arrive at their ultimate goal.”
Often mental health issues can make the individual feel isolated and ‘unrelatable’. In order to gain your trust, a counselor should level with you by being open with some of their shortcomings. This will serve to humanize the counselor and break down that stereotype about the couch and the questions about your mother. At the end of the day, the focus should be on the client; so when a counselor talks too much about themselves it’s a waste of time and will harm their position as a figure of authority.
Environment plays a role in establishing trust. If a counselor’s office feels sterile and uncomfortable, it’s going to feel less like you’re having a conversation and more like you’re the subject of a study. A counselor’s office should have character. A good dialogue will start when the client feels safe, comfortable, and respected.
The worst thing that can happen when describing your condition to a counselor is that they give you a blank stare. A counselor needs to be knowledgeable and well-versed in order to instill confidence in the client. This is important because you want to believe that they can actually help! They should have an idea of what sort of approach to therapy they will take and not just be taking shots in the dark.
They should be current on the latest studies and treatment developments. Additionally, if they don’t have the answer to something, they’ll reach out to other professionals or research the subject on their own time. Having many different tools at their disposal, will help them succeed and give them the ability to adapt.
These five things are in no way an exhaustive list of the traits of good counselors, but they offer a good place to start. There are many different paths that those in the counseling field can take and they’re all honorable professions.
However, that doesn’t mean that just any counselor is going to be a good fit for you. In order to streamline your search, be transparent with your issues. After all, counselors are trained to listen and help.
If you live in the UK, Counselling Directory has a list of professional counselors in your area. Counselling Directory is a confidential service that encourages those in distress to seek help. The directory contains information on many different types of distress, as well as articles, news, and events. In 2005 the founders of Counseling Directory watched a close friend struggle to find the information they were looking for when they were in desperate need of emotional support. This was when they realized there was a need for a service bringing together the information required to help individuals find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist in their local area.