Most likely you have arrived at therapy having tried many strategies yourself, either with or without professional support. You are looking for someone who can add value to your problem-solving and give you new perspectives and tools to better manage the challenges you are facing.
What should you look for?
I always recommend that you view your therapist as part coach, part mentor, part counsellor, and part accountability-buddy. Their job is to educate (new ideas), train (coaching in new skills), and encourage (support you in turning insight into practice).
- Qualities you may find beneficial include having someone who is:
- Direct, challenging and enquiring (makes you think, is interested), but not judgemental.
- Flexible in meeting your goals and needs, and resists giving advice.
- Comfortable and confident in taking the necessary time to help you properly recognise and understand the nuances relevant to your intimacy and sexuality issues.
- Open-minded and compassionate.
- Affordable – it is hard to work effectively on emotional pain, when the process is causing financial strain. Aim to access the most experienced service provider within your price range.
How to research them?
Most relationship counsellors will have an online presence. Do your homework in reviewing their website and consider:
- Their training
- Whether they are registered or accredited in a recognised professional area relevant to relationships (counselling, psychology, sex therapy)
- How they talk about their work
- What their experience is in your particular area of concern.
There may be other personal preferences to consider. For example, if you identify as LGBTQA+, you may want a therapist who has experience working with LGBTQA+ clients. If you want to address sexuality issues, you may want someone who is comfortable working in this space.
In your initial session, look for a level of comfort and consideration from your therapist which would suggest that the relationship is collaborative, compassionate and trustworthy. A positive experience usually involves a sense of purpose to the discussion, mutual respect, confidentiality and no judgement.
You may prefer to lead the conversation, or to have your therapist guide you. Some people like a clear and active approach; others prefer to use the space to vent and explore, with the therapist acting in a more passive role.
Talking about your most sensitive issues with a stranger is expected to be confronting, but your therapist and their environment can go a long way to helping you feel like your issues are in good hands. It can take a couple of sessions to settle into the therapeutic relationship, and you may want to try out one or more therapists before choosing the person you wish to proceed with.
The main thing is that you need to feel a sense of relief and see some prospect of change arising from your participation in therapy.