Finding the Right Therapist or Counselor For You

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This short article aims to offer guidance in selecting a therapist or counselor in the psycho-spiritual field. Although aimed at psycho-spiritual therapists and clients much of what is written here applies to seeking a therapist or counselor of other psychological orientations.

If you are seeking a practitioner to work with, you should try to be clear about what you are seeking. Think of therapy and counseling as consisting of four levels: problem-solving or symptomatic counseling, therapy motivated by a presenting life issue (like a relationship or marriage breakdown, career and finances difficulties, facing a change in life or emotional crisis), depth psychotherapy which lasts longer and is likely to be more profoundly life-changing and, finally, the spiritual journey.

In so far as psycho-spiritual psychology is part of the spiritual field a number of misunderstandings have arisen from flimsy thinking. If you are a student, a client or a convert seeking guidance from a therapist, a guide or a spiritual teacher you are entitled to clarity. Just because spirituality is concerned with the in-visible, numinous realms of light, energy and inner reality doesn’t mean that we cannot talk about it with precision, grace and vividness.

So, when you are approaching a practitioner of psycho-spiritual psychotherapy do not hold back. Ask challenging questions about their world view, their beliefs and their prejudices. Beware of references to teachers, religions, scriptures, yogis and rishis etc.; if it’s wisdom, it should come directly from the practitioner.

Second, be clear about where the practitioner is on the spiritual journey; ask for definition, ask again if anything isn’t clear, because you won’t go further than the spiritual guide while you are in their care, so you can know immediately how far you’re going and if this potential will satisfy you by asking these kinds of questions.

Third, remember this field is full of practitioners who don’t know as much as they make out. Flaky ideas about spiritual wisdom, higher knowledge and non-verbal communication are all very well, but they may simply mask the fact that the practitioner doesn’t know, isn’t wise enough yet or doesn’t know how to say it!

One more thing: many practitioners today wear several hats. But a good therapist is not necessarily a good teacher and vice versa, any more then a good author on a subject — any subject — is necessarily a good practitioner of what he writes about. So remember the roles of individual therapist, course leader and author reflect independent talents in your potential therapist.

Accolades, accreditation, training count for something, but empathy, presence and compassion are hard to learn in any training. So don’t take anything for granted simply because the practitioner is trained and accredited. Well-qualified therapists exist who are mediocre, ineffective or no good at all and under-qualified ones exist who are tremendously gifted and innovative.

The rules are to listen and hear, use your instinct and intuition, and trust your gut-feeling when you are interviewing a potential therapist-guide. And remember that it is you who is interviewing the practitioner, not the other way round; you have nothing to prove to them. Ultimately, offer it up to a higher power, because if it is the right person for you to work with you will know, you will feel it and it will come together.

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