Choosing a Qualified Therapist or Counselor

Catherine CoyleUnderstanding psychotherapy – Psychotherapy is a joint venture between the client and the therapist. The therapist doesn’t ‘fix’ the problem. Rather, the client and the therapist work together to problem-solve and to identify various means by which the client may overcome a problem, feel better, and enjoy life more. The therapeutic relationship involves mutual respect as well as mutual effort.

Competence/Qualifications – A therapist should have received professional training and supervision and be licensed by an appropriate agency or organization. Each of these will vary depending on the type of counselor. Some have terminal degrees in medicine or psychology. Others may have a master’s degree in fields such as social work or nursing. In addition to their formal education, many therapists have certifications in various specialties such as marriage and family counseling or substance abuse.

Many of those who provide post-abortion counseling are not professionally trained counselors and are often referred to as “peer counselors.” Peer counselors usually receive some form of training from the agency for which they volunteer their services. The programs run by such counselors tend to be spiritually focused. Numerous individuals have found healing through those programs and have confirmed their value.

Referral to a therapist – Often a good way to find an appropriate therapist or counselor is to get a referral from someone you trust. Examples of trusted sources may include friends who have worked with the therapist, clergy who are familiar with the therapist, or a primary physician who has knowledge of the therapist’s competency.

Regardless of the counselor’s level of training, clients should expect the following:

  1. Respect for and from the counselor.
  2. A sense of trust & safety when interacting with the counselor.
  3. Feelings of comfort and connection with the counselor.
  4. Reliability and consistency from the counselor.
  5. Absolute confidentiality. Nothing shared with the counselor is repeated outside of the counseling environment.
  6. Non-judgmental acceptance from the counselor.
  7. Complete information concerning the cost and schedule of therapy or the treatment program.

Clients should never tolerate the following unprofessional behavior from a therapist or counselor:

  • Inappropriate self-disclosure. While there are occasions in which it is appropriate for the therapist to self-disclose, in general, the counseling sessions should be about the client, not about the therapist.
  • Unwillingness to hear your perception of your main problems or issues. You, as the client, have the authority to identify your problem areas. A client who is seeking help for feelings of grief after abortion is not going to be helped by a counselor who doesn’t view abortion as a potential cause of grief.
  • Rigid expectations. If a counselor seems to be demanding that you need to think, feel, or behave in a way that is inconsistent with your assessment of your situation or inconsistent with your moral beliefs, then you need to terminate the relationship.
  • Attempts to have a personal relationship. The therapeutic relationship is distinctly different from that of a friendship. As a result, objectivity is easier to achieve in a strictly professional relationship.
  • Inappropriate touching – this is something the client must discern. If you feel uncomfortable with an incident of physical contact with your therapist, then you need to find a new counselor.

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