Who are counsellors?
There are no regulations governing who can call themselves a counsellor, so a counsellor could be anyone who wants to put up a sign calling themself a counsellor. However, without proper qualifications, a counsellor cannot get insurance. Without proper qualifications a counsellor cannot belong to a professional organisation. These are all things you need to check with a prospective counsellor.
There are two professional organisations Counsellors can belong to: Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) or Australian Counselling Association (ACA). Both require members to have formal counselling qualifications. Counsellors are also required to undertake a minimum number of professional development training hours each year to maintain currency of their skills. It is important a counsellor has formal counselling qualifications because an untrained person can cause a lot of harm.
I have been a counsellor for 8 years and I have Bachelor and Master degrees in Counselling. I am also a member of PACFA.
Counsellors opted out of the Medicare funded Mental Health Care Plan scheme so you cannot see a counsellor on a Mental Health Care Plan and there are no Medicare rebates. This has led to doctors being more inclined to refer people to Psychologists then Counsellors. This has also led to a perception that Counsellors are inferior to Psychologists. But this is not so. We have different roles.
What is Counselling?
When you come to see a counsellor, and you have identified the person is suitably qualified and a member of a professional organisation, then you can be assured that you are seeing a person who is highly trained in the field of counselling. In fact, our professional organisations and our insurance cover do not allow us to work outside our area of training. So if you have a specific need, and the counsellor has agreed to see you, you can be assured the counsellor is trained in that area.
Counselling is a process where you can make changes in your life. Where you can talk through and make decisions. Where you can change the way you approach the world, think about it, behave or feel. A counsellor is there to help facilitate these processes. Counsellors can also teach you ways to cope with life and all its difficulties. People can come to counsellors for issues that are very complex, such as childhood trauma. A suitably trained counsellor in trauma can help work through those issues.
What about the cost?
Many people don’t realise that there is usually always a gap when seeing another mental health professional. Frequently the money a counsellor charges is similar to that gap amount. So seeing a counsellor is not necessarily expensive.
I see clients who will think nothing of spending $100 or more on an alternative therapist. Some will see clairvoyants and happily pay for that. It is all relative. There are a lot of people we see in life that have to be paid for. It would be nice if all mental health support was low or no charge but sadly that is not how life is. Sometimes it is a case of making the decision to put your mental health first. Remember, what happens with your mental health has an impact on your physical body and therefore on your health. Poor health can cost a lot more than preventative care from a counsellor.
It is important to remember that counsellors have to pay rent and services for their room, professional memberships, continuing education and insurance. As with any other therapist you see, they need to earn enough to pay those costs and make a living wage. This influences how much they charge for sessions. In line with professional policy, you will not often see charges listed on websites, but a counsellor will always tell you if you ask.
What can I expect from sessions?
Your counsellor should:
- Explain how he/she works.
- Ask you what you want to achieve from your sessions overall and from this particular session.
- Be willing to listen to you and check in with you to ensure you have been heard and understood.
- Leave you feeling heard and understood.
- Treat you with respect as the expert in your own life.
- Help you to explore options for moving forward, not tell you what you must do.
- Maintain professional boundaries, which includes not talking about him/herself unless it is essential to the counselling session.
- Always treat you as an independent, capable person. The last thing a counsellor wants for you is that you become dependent on him/her. That is not good for you.
- Discuss with you the treatment plan and gain your assent to follow that. Also to monitor that treatment to ensure it is still the best fit.
- Maintain confidentiality within explained safety boundaries.
Can I get what I need from my family and friends?
Sometimes you can, but people usually seek counselling because they are not able to get the help they need from their social networks. Remember a counsellor is an objective person, trained to understand human behaviour and how best to assist, who can listen without judgement. You can safely disclose things in a counselling session you may not feel comfortable disclosing to your social networks. What the counsellor provides is a place that is safe and without judgement.
It is important to look after yourself. That can often mean you put yourself first and seek the help you need. If you are struggling with life then you are not able to be the best parent, partner, friend, colleague you want to be.
You are more than welcome to email or phone to make an appointment.