Genuine interest in others. Self-reflection. The ability to listen. Accessibility and authenticity. Flexibility and a good sense of humour. These are the qualities that we bolster as necessary elements to pursue counselling as a profession, but what makes a successful counsellor?
Having spoken to counsellors on a large scale, I’ve discussed the pitfalls of the industry, some struggle to find work and the drop off rate from those that seek a counselling profession is high.
I want to talk about the facets that make a counsellor successful.
1. Students. Students. Students.
The level of mental distress in the student population is huge. A recent study (NUS, 2013) found that 78% of students suffer from mental distress during their time at university. The problem is that must universities are ill equipped or have not adapted to the high demand and high turnover needed for the student population. Remember a university semester in the UK is just 3 months, that’s a short turn around time for a student who’s grades are slipping and their exams are trudging closer. The problem is most students don’t consider going private.
By providing a discounted student therapy service, you capture that audience of students that are tired of the universities service and alienated by the more expensive private practice counsellors.
2. Mental Health And Mental Illness
It’s important to help people really suffering and really that must remain the priority but therapy still provides a massive benefit to people in the mild — moderate level of mental illness and further to those people trying to improve their day to day productivity.
Talking about students earlier I made the point about time. 3 months is a tiny amount of time, there’s this huge demographic of students that are going unnoticed who are really underperforming because of mental distress. That mental distress might be because of workload, being away from home, isolation or because they just broke up with their significant other.
Making a difference and talking through minor problems might actually prevent a person’s descent into a much deeper problem.
3. Social media- What are you waiting for?
There seems to be almost an adversity to social media when it comes to therapeutic intervention in the UK. This is the starting point for building a community of people engaged with your practice. For most people the two biggest obstacles to seeking therapy are accessibility and approachability. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook live are massive tools at your disposal to both connect with your audience and provide links to your practice and to your online platforms (more on that later).
The problem is people are still thinking about therapy like the Freudian cliche, them laying on a chaise lounge and you telling them that they fantasise about their mother too much. People fear what they don’t understand. Use social media to explain what is involved or to make a joke and actually make that personal connection with individuals before they walk into your practice or see your face on Skype.
Start learning about what you can do with these tools and approach your profession a little more creatively.
4. Get Online. NOW.
Now I’m not just talking about a website, if you don’t already have one and one that’s mobile then you are doing it wrong. I mentioned Skype; it’s naive to think that therapy will always work on a walk-in basis. Forbes wrote an article about the 40million dollars behind online counsellor aggregators apps like Quartet in America. Again it’s a question of accessibility, most people spend a staggering amount of time looking at their phones. If your therapy is accessible by installing an app like Skype, WhatsApp or Skype you’ve removed the time it takes for that person to change their mind about seeking help.
Let’s not forget this gives you the flexibility to work anywhere and reach those clients you otherwise wouldn’t for the time it takes to travel.
Most therapist apprehension comes from the fear that losing a client during an emotional point by the phone dieting or connection dropping could mean that client completing suicide. The harsh reality is that with face to face counselling the risk is no different, as a therapist, you can’t always be there and by using a secure texting app you could even ensure that you were more reachable.
There are safeguards you can take:
- Ensure you know their location
- Ask them to have their phone plugged into the mains or at a desktop.
- Make sure they are using a steady wifi connection or remain in one place.
- Online counselling has just as many risks as face to face it’s just more accessible.
5. Don’t be afraid to give out therapeutic advice for free.
In the world of Instagram bloggers talking about meditation, mindful tea and soothing avocado you, as registered counsellor, have the opportunity to provide people with some real value. Just be creative with it. The less we see of something the more we react apprehensively, it’s like those videos of cats seeing cucumbers for the first time, Seeking therapy is the unfamiliar cucumber and it is your job to make people feel more at ease with the notion of therapy as well as treating them.
Blog about helpful tips to deal with anxiety, tweet about the common themes of Schizophrenia, Instagram the photos of your happy clients and a quote about their experience (with their permission of course). The more you give socially the more you gain financially.
6.Listen to what you clients want.
I write this article from a rather unqualified place, I’m not a counsellor or a doctor. I’m a recently graduated Psychology undergraduate who has been through a university counselling system. I deeply understand that system is broken and private counsellors have all the right tools to fix it they just need to engage more,
Thank you for your time.