4 Things to Consider When Looking for a Counsellor.

4 Things to Consider When Looking for a Counsellor.

Before I started my journey, I didn’t know where to begin. I only knew that I needed help. In this post, I’ll be listing several things to consider when looking for a counsellor. In case you or someone you love is seeking guidance, I hope this post will help.

Please note that when I mention counsellor, I’m referring to both a clinical psychologist and a diploma-certified counsellor in Australia.

1. Qualifications.

In my experience, knowing that the professional you’re going to be seeing has the qualifications to practice is a high priority.

Check their LinkedIn profile or even their business website if they have one. It could help with nerves once you know where the counsellor got their accreditation and organisations they’ve practiced at over the years.

You may be able to find client reviews too, which can be really helpful.

Websites and profiles can also clarify a list of industries and expertise the counsellor is passionate about including: working in hospitals, in a clinic helping people with eating disorders or in private-practice helping clients overcome depression, manage PTSD, family counselling and so forth.

Does their qualification and experience line up with what you’ve been struggling with? Do you think they could help you manage what you’re going through? If yes, that’s great! If you’re unsure, you can send an enquiry, call them or keep looking for other counsellors in the area.

2. Fees & affordability

Our mental health is important of course, but so is affordability.

Let’s not pretend this isn’t a topic to discuss. When I was looking for a professional to see, no one would mention or bring up the cost. At the time, I don’t think people around me knew or considered it to be a hindering factor.

Sometimes the counsellor’s website will have a fee section. In the instances where there is no mention, don’t be afraid to reach out either through email or phone to enquire. I know, enquiring can be daunting, but if you don’t ask, you will never know!

You may be able to find ball-park figures in Australian-based forums or on government/health/psychological websites.

Can appointments be factored in your budget? If not, are there ways to strategically shift your finances to put your mental health first and not break the bank? Would the Medicare rebate assist you at all?

I am a huge believer of compromise and doing my best to make the “impossible” work. So yes, I am biased in this way of thinking, but I do believe in the human ability to balance responsibilities for a healthier, happier life!

Once you have found a counsellor that is within your budget, you can look at other factors like where they’re located to prepare for a consultation.

3. Accessibility.

Is there a car park? Is the distance a hindering factor for your budget? Do they have wheelchair access? Can you take public transport if you don’t have a car? Is getting to-and-from the practice safe and sustainable long-term if sessions continued? Another thing to think about, is when their next available session is – if it is in 2 weeks, would that be viable? If it is in 3 months, will you need to consider other options before then?

Take all of these questions into consideration. If you have any other queries and can’t find the answer online, give the practice a call, send a text message (if their mobile number is provided) or email the counsellor directly for clarification.

Now that you know the counsellor, what their fees are and where they’re located, it’s time to attend your first consult!

4. Are you comfortable?

Now that you have made a decision to attend a consultation, are you comfortable sitting in the room? Do you feel heard? How does the dynamic make you feel when you talk?

Note: A 21 year old female was having her first consult with a male psychologist. During the consult, she explained how childhood abuse from her father affected her in adulthood. The psychologist listened and enquired whether him being a male psychologist might hinder progress and perhaps cause discomfort (considering the therapist-client relationship).

It is the responsibility of a mental health professional to have the best interests in mind for each person.

It is also important for us to be mindful of our own role in noticing how we feel during and after a counselling session and take action if things aren’t working.

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

Albus Dumbledore

A lot of people tend to talk about how important looking after our mental-health is, but not many people talk about the small steps it takes before you begin healing.

Here is a list of organisations that are here to help you:

  • healthengine – Find a psychologist in Australia
  • healthengine – Find a counsellor in Australia
  • blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
  • ReachOut – youth mental health and community forums

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to visit the above organisations, email me or leave a comment below!

Image by Joshua Ness.

My Journey on Discovering Self-worth.

My Journey on Discovering Self-worth.

The first layer: illness.

As a child, I knew I was loved. I knew there were people around me who (mostly) loved to fuss over me, brush my hair, make sure my seat belt was on and made sure I had a hot milo for supper before bed (thanks grandma!).

Being born premature, my early childhood consisted of multiple hospital visits. Doctors and nurses would check if I was growing normally, if my lungs were functioning well (being diagnosed with asthma) and if I was learning at a similar rate to other children my age.

I was in and out of hospital a lot due to severe asthma attacks and on two separate occasions, I was treated for pneumonia.

All of that coupled with having a fast metabolism, the food I ate burned quicker than my parents could feed me so I was a skinny kid.

A family friend was over one night, chatting with my parents. He must’ve thought I was too young to understand him so he asked in a casual tone, “Is she sick?”. His head jerked slightly to imply me standing behind him.

Fear set in quickly.

I ran down the hall into my parents’ bedroom.

The feeling of shame welled-up inside.

I cried silently. I was confused. He just asked a simple question. So why did it hurt me so much?

As I said, I knew there were people who loved me, but that night was a turning point in how I saw myself. I began to wonder if I was actually sick.

I wondered if there was something wrong with me.

The second layer: obedience & perfection.

Before I started primary school, I learned about obedience like most children do. If you behaved well, there was a reward. If you misbehaved it meant consequences. For me and my siblings, consequences often meant physical punishment. Being obedient was the name of the game and being fearful was a by-product of ‘playing’.

Throughout primary school and high school, I would fail or end up with sub-par results when my school report came. I excelled in English and Art but everything else was a struggle.

When I’d ask for help at home, it was met with the common response:

“You don’t know anything! How could you not know this yet?!”

That familiar feeling of shame welled-up inside.

I stopped asking for help.

At 15, I got my first job. Little did I know, asking for help would be a hard lesson to learn.

The third layer: religion & fear.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, church was a family ritual most Sundays. We’d sit quietly in the pews, listening to bible readings and the priest summarising a life lesson. As a kid, I spent my time looking at the colourful stained windows. How did they paint so high up?

Sometimes, the children were ushered into the back room that had thick windows. I learned there that children were to be seen but not heard. Church was a sacred place and all sacred places required respect.

As I got older, I learned about how humans were worthless sinners because of the fall of Adam and Eve. Yet, our value was restored by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Only Christians had this amazing Saviour.

When I came of age, youth group felt like an oasis in a world of darkness.

I understood that I was worth it because God saw something in me. A loving, kind and just God had a perfect plan for me.

I was saved and this meant freedom for my soul. I knew if I turned away from God, I would be apart from Him for eternity which I didn’t want. The more I learned about eternal suffering, the more scared I became of the afterlife.

It was a good thing to be “God-fearing”.

Because of Him, I had a family. Because of Him, I had strengths and these were a Gift. Because of Him, I could heal when I was hurt. Because of Him, I could forgive because He first forgave my sins.

Years later, my perspective would change from “freedom in religion” to “freedom away from religion”.

Breaking Down The Layers.

Growing up with these layers of self-worth from such a young age would be a challenge through childhood, adolescence and in my adult life.

As a kid, I tried to run away with my brother. We travelled 2 minutes from home and had to be picked up. As a teenager, I struggled to abide by the curfew rules and would come home late. I didn’t trust any adults, not even the school counsellor who tried to help me. I tried to run away from home for the second time. I stopped attending youth group. I stopped listening to sermon videos and reading my bible and ultimately, I left the religion I grew up believing in.

My only comfort besides the friendships I forged, was being creative. I could draw and write for hours on end. I vented my frustrations, questions and motivations.

By the age of 17, my rebellious streak calmed.

At 18, I moved out of home. I started meeting new friends who were kind, confident, care-free and out-spoken. They were beautiful people! Some of them did not have rooted beliefs in religion. How could they be so confident without the guarantee of a Saviour? By the age of 19, I realised that was the life I wanted for myself.

I stripped my life of unneeded baggage emotionally and physically.

I started seeing a counsellor. I had to face the past abuse, exercised control throughout my life and the belief of worthlessness. I now saw my passion for perfection as a strength. Even if I make mistakes, I will always strive for excellence. It doesn’t mean I’m “dumb” or that I “don’t know anything” – it means I am persistent and resilient. I learned how to reframe my mindset.

I began a decluttering journey, getting rid of unusable items. I realised I held onto all my belongings out of comfort and as a distraction to facing the pain I felt within. For a period of time in my life, I felt empty. Instead of becoming self-aware, I kept things I didn’t need to fill the ‘void’. Letting go of my hoarding habit was such a cathartic process.

The more I healed my emotional wounds, the more I realised:

My self-worth was up to me to decide.

No matter what others did or said.

As each year passed, I continued to break down these layers of self-worth that I’d taken on. It is still a work in progress, but a path I am so glad I walked down years ago.

Remember, your worth is not reliant on any thing, person or being.

You are worthy, just because.

Therapy Sessions | How to Change A Belief.

Therapy Sessions | How to Change A Belief.
*Trigger Warning: there may be distressing content.*

Let’s begin The Session.

What is a belief? A belief is something considered to be fact.

Where do beliefs come from? Beliefs come from the environment around us (external). It can also be formed by our own thoughts and sensory experience (internal).

The thought, “I’m not good enough” can be experienced by most of us at some point in our lives. For some, it is more prevalent if we have had past experiences that ingrain this kind of thinking. It can affect our self-esteem, confidence and progress in self-improvement.

The good news is, beliefs can be changed!

My psychologist drew up a table of two lists on her whiteboard. She asked me to list evidence for why I was good enough and why I wasn’t.

Listing evidence for why I wasn’t good enough was easy. My psychologist and I then spent about five minutes expanding each piece of evidence – what was the circumstance? How did that lead to the belief? Was this evidence substantial enough? I realised: instead of moving forward, I forced myself to take fear with me from my childhood and adolescence and used the events of my past as justification.

Listing evidence for being good enough was not as easy. Slowly though, achievements came to the surface. It affirmed that there were positive things I have accomplished. For example, I moved out at 18, I learned how to save money and I learned how to budget. I realised that many things I have done in the past, required skills and sometimes, strategic thinking!

What I learned.

I learned that if I didn’t achieve things to a ‘perfect standard’ or made a mistake, I was automatically ‘not good’. As well as an avalanche of other negative thoughts/beliefs toward myself.

Some may wonder, “Well Angela, if it did you harm, why couldn’t you just forget this belief?” Let’s go back to the beginning. There’s this thing called egocentrism. As children, we are unable to process situations or events from another person’s perspective. As a result, we attribute another’s hurtful actions to ourselves, thinking, “I must be bad/stupid/dumb” (which is what happened to me).

So, how can we change our beliefs?

1. First, we need to know what our beliefs are. 
Self-work is not an easy journey but it is absolutely worth it.  To know what beliefs we have, we could take inventory of thoughts that come up. Whether it’s a positive one like “I can do anything I set my mind to!” or “I never do anything good…” – it could be worth identifying and changing if it does not serve you.

2. Make a list of accomplishments.
I love utilising lists to get a clear sense of tasks, goals or ideas. My strategy for changing this belief will be writing a list of all my life’s achievements. As time goes on, my list will evolve and grow. So whenever this belief creeps back in (which I have been guaranteed that it will) I can look at this list and remind myself, “You know what? Yes, I have made mistakes but I am good enough!”.

3. Remember that we all make mistakes.
There is a difference between taking responsibility and acknowledging a mistake and punishing ourselves over everything. Sometimes, we are our own worst critic! You don’t necessarily have to experience disturbing trauma to be hard on yourself. We all have a drive that pushes us forward. Just remind yourself of positive motivators too!

4. Be patient with yourself. 
Changing a belief is not easy. Same goes for mastering a talent, technique or academic topic. All of these have something in common: TIME. It takes time to change or learn something new. It takes time to improve a skill. So be patient.

Beliefs once formed, are ingrained and can be difficult/confronting to change – as you saw with my struggle. However, with support, patience and strategies, it is possible to live a life based on positive truth rather than self-deprecating lies.

That concludes our session today.
Thank you for being here.
Stay well! x

Image by Thu.

You can stay connected for updates, quotes and general life-happenings on my Facebook pageInstagramEbay and Twitter!

Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

Today, I want to break the stigma of seeing a mental health professional. Yes, it is more accepted in today’s society but there are still negative thoughts out there. This post is for those people who are afraid to be judged. This post is for those who have earned their degree, honours and masters. This post is for those who are curious as to how a professional can help them. Continue reading “Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?”