Many times clients will phone and ask for someone to be their counsellor who has been through similar things, or is from a similar background.
At Open Minds we do have male and female counsellors, counsellors of all ages from 21 to 60+, both white and ethnic minority counsellors and from different backgrounds and parts of the world.
While surface similarities can help the client connect with and trust their counsellor, it is essential that the counsellor work with your experience, and your understanding of your world, not their own.
Sometimes having a counsellor who is on the surface very different to you can actually help, because they can help you see things more clearly, without making assumptions based on shared backgrounds or history.
That being said, it can help a counsellor who has the insight gained from similar experiences to the client and understands what it can feel like from the inside and can help the client see that it is possible to climb out of their dark places.
The journey out of that dark place is different for everyone though.
The counsellor will offer insight based on what they know of theory, of evidence and of what they learn through working with other people who have had similar experiences such as bereavement or relationship difficulties. The most important thing they will do though is working with you and getting to understand how you see yourself and your experiences.
We aren't mind-readers but we learn to look both at what isn't being said, as well as what is on the surface, and we learn to ask questions so that both client and counsellor can get a deeper understanding of what is going on.
If you aren’t yet ready to open up about something that’s fine, let your counsellor know, it isn’t a game of trying to trick your counsellor or trip them up – but at the same time counsellors understand that people can feel different things about the same experiences or people, and can help you if you are struggling to understand what is ‘real’ for you.
Different counsellors will all have their own styles, based on their training and theoretical insights.
I personally have a psychology degree and 4 years of training in humanistic counselling, and have attended lots of short courses since. My nature however is to be Tiggerific and dynamic; I like to use the whiteboard and look at things in different ways to explore what is happening and this makes me fit very well for many children and young people, and also for adults experiencing problems with anger.
Other counsellors have trained in CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) so they are really interested in looking at behaviours which clients would like to change, or which are dysfunctional.
Others of our counsellors might be very Person-Centred and gently help the client build confidence and trust and self-esteem, a bit at a time.
The one thing all our counsellors at Open Minds have in common is that they are lovely, warm and kind people who are in themselves open minded.
How do I know? I chose them all !
We also get feedback from clients both formally and informally to assess how well they think the counsellor is doing.
All of our counsellors are volunteers except me - I am the only counsellor paid at present, although because of our funding situation I haven’t been paid since October 2014 ! Always fun !
They are all either qualified or authorised to practice and within a year of qualification.
They all have professional indemnity insurance and most will be members of the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) or another relevant umbrella body.
We have 35 active volunteer counsellors in February 2015 so we can change counsellors if for any reason a client is unhappy with them.
The only way to find out if you will like your counsellor is to contact us and get started; we will be here when you are ready.
Some of our counsellors attending in house training at our 5th Annivaersary celebrations in 2012: