Counsellor, I choose you! A guide to choosing the 'right' counsellor (Part 1)
Mental health is becoming a forefront topic of discussion in this generation with social media accounts sharing their experiences around the journey of wellbeing, challenging the stigma of mental and emotional health and promoting awareness in the topic of mental health. While it is encouraging to see the world is acknowledging the importance of mental health and being more open to discussing it, it was saddening to read news where a minority of people are exploiting others' mental health for their own gain.
Although we couldn't always avoid bad experiences with mental health professionals, there are crucial information that will be helpful in seeking a suitable mental health professional to assist in your journey. Searching for a mental health professional can be a daunting and mammoth task. It is like searching for a needle in the ocean. “Where do I even start?“ So, continue reading if you want to know what to look for when choosing a professional counsellor.
I am writing from my own professional perspective as a practising professional counsellor in New Zealand of choosing a suitable counsellor/ therapist. Please be mindful that it may differ from your experience and how the mental health system works in other countries.
My professional and personal philosophy of counselling is that to an extend, counsellors are like a companion in the client's personal journey of wellbeing. I have always been a fan of the Pokemon series which is not surprising that the phrase"Pikachu, I choose you!" (Yuyama, 2017) from the 2017 "Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You" come to mind when I think about choosing a suitable professional counsellor because, in some way, the client is making the decision of deciding who that companion would be in the journey of mental health. I remembered the trilemma I went through playing my first Pokemon RPG game - Pokemon Blue, even though there are only three options available. Unlike video games, choosing a professional counsellor is a serious commitment (emotionally, timely, and financially) and it shouldn't be as subjective as choosing your first starter Pokemon.
There are two parts to choosing the appropriate professional counsellor in New Zealand: Non-negotiable and Subjective.
Unfortunately, the title counsellor is not legally protected in New Zealand. It means anyone in New Zealand can use the title of counsellor and provide unregulated counselling services that may bring more harm than good to clients. This is concerning as not everyone have the energy or knowledge when they are in distress searching for a professional counsellor. You should be looking for professional counsellors who are a member (provisional or full) of the New Zealand Association of Counsellor (NZAC) or the New Zealand Christian Counsellors Association (NZCCA). I belonged to NZAC hence, you will see "MNZAC, Registered with NZAC" as part of my email signature and on my website.
Why choose a professional counsellor who belonged to a professional body? Here is a statement from NZAC explaining that:
"NZAC registered Counsellors are required to meet extremely high standards of training, be appropriately qualified, undergo regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and are subject to our robust ethics and complaints process. This helps to ensure a thoroughly professional service to you in a safe, respectful, inclusive and effective environment." (NZAC, 2019)
Just as I mentioned earlier, there is no way we can filter through the 'bad apples' when looking for a professional counsellor, however, at least if a professional counsellor is registered with NZAC or NZCCA, you can trust that these professional bodies will ensure the counsellors to be accountable in their practice. Also, if in unfortunate circumstances you encountered a professional counsellor who breaches their ethical code, you can always bring the complaint to their respective professional bodies. You can search for the counsellor's membership status on "(Search for a Counsellor » New Zealand Association of Counsellors (nzac.org.nz)" or "Find a Counsellor » NZCCA".
But what if I am not from New Zealand? Well, most of the countries that I know of will have their own counsellor association to regulate the profession in the country. Check out this link if you are interested in knowing who are the counselling professional bodies in your country. IAC-IRTAC-Research
Professional counsellors who are registered with NZAC has a qualification of either bachelor or masters degree in counselling.
If you are familiar with the Pokemon Trading Card Game, you will know that cards which have been assessed by PSA grading service is crucial in determining the value of your Pokemon card. On a similar point, it is why accessing counselling services provided by a professional counsellor who is registered with a professional body is important to ensure the quality of service. On the other hand, professional counsellors who are registered with recognised professional bodies are like Jedi who belongs to the Jedi Council's code. Even though every Jedi may have a unique personality and method of living, their way wouldn't be derived too far away from the Code. Similarly, professional counsellors registered with certain professional bodies will have to adhere to the code of ethics that could be found on their website.
If you have more questions about professional counsellors' credentials, qualifications and professional membership, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me a personal message via Contact | Journey of a counsellor (gamercounsellor.com).
The second part of choosing suitable counsellors is around personality, modality and what is 'right' for you. I will be covering part 2 of choosing suitable counsellors in the next articles. Subscribe to the email list to get notified when it is up!
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