Finding a counsellor: seek and ye shall find?
Suddenly it hits you. For whatever reason, you acknowledge that youíre not coping and that you need help. Youíve heard about counselling and think it sounds like an option, but how do you go about accessing the service when you need it and at a time and place to suit you? Iíve certainly found it a minefield so hereís my personal story: the barriers I faced to finding a counsellor and how I overcame them.
Finding a counsellor was hard going when I wasnít feeling very resilient. I knew counselling could be on offer through my GP surgery, or they might be able to provide information on some local counselling services, but I also knew from past experience that there would be a substantial waiting list. Plus I didnít really want to visit my doctor: having just moved to a new area, I didnít want to start all over again, going over old ground with another new person only to be passed on to someone else. I knew what support I needed; I just needed to access it. But that wasnít simple.
After doing quite a bit of Googling, I found that quite a few sites were signposting the BACP website which could help me find therapists in my area. This in itself was confusing: what sort of counselling did I want? Anyway I found a decent sized list, but just didnít know where to start. Some of the therapists had websites and I noticed the session costs were quite pricey, even if the initial appointment was free. I was doing some volunteer work, but I wasnít in paid employment, so I didnít really want to have to pay for the service. What next I wondered?
I had found a really handy factsheet from Mind on counselling services, so I wondered what they did in my area. I found my local Mind branch online and as I didnít fancy ringing them, used their contact form, outlining that I was a young person looking for counselling and asking if they could point me in the right direction. What I hadnít realised was that they actually offered counselling support themselves, for free or low cost depending on your circumstances, so I was given the name of someone to ring to discuss it.
The next worry was actually picking up the phone and making that call! I just didnít know what Iíd say when I rang. Thankfully I knew who I needed to speak to now and had an entrťe from the e-mail Iíd sent, so I jotted down a few bullet points of things I wanted to ask, and a few responses to general questions I anticipated like why I was seeking counselling. This really made the phone call easier and they really didnít ask many questions: I guess thatís why you have an initial assessment appointment!
After this appointment (more on first appointment barriers in another story!) they were happy to take me on if I wanted to proceed, but waiting times were really long and they thought there might be other counselling services better placed to help me. They said that I could go on their list, but it might be worth contacting the other services as they could offer more youth friendly support and might be able to progress something more quickly.
I was somewhat annoyed by this, as I felt theyíd have been better signposting me elsewhere before setting the initial assessment. However, on reflection it felt good to know I had options and to actually have overcome those making the first steps nerves.
I contacted one of the organisations recommended and was met by another barrier: the dreaded answering machine. The problem is youíre then waiting on them to ring you and that could be at any time, which means you end up jumping every time the phone rings! Anyway, they rang me back after about 15 minutes and I answered the phone with my heart racing. It seemed they were better placed to help me, better resourced, and specialising in free young peopleís counselling. So, it was back to another initial assessment appointmentÖ There was about a month to wait between my initial assessment and the start of the counselling but I was told I could contact them at any time if I felt I really needed to talk to someone in an emergency. From then on, I never looked back!
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