With such great need for mental and emotional support across the world right now, it’s easy to jump straight in and work with the first person you see pop up on your social media feed or contact the boldest coach who shouts loudest in their ongoing marketing campaigns.
However, taking time to reflect and think about what your needs are first,can save you time, money and further emotional upset in the long term.
So, how do you go about deciding what’s best for you when you’re feeling vulnerable, alone or in need of some support as you’re struggling to move forwards with your life?
Step One – Reflect
Perhaps the first thing to notice is exactly how vulnerable do you feel? Noticing your level of psychological and emotional pain is an important step in deciphering what kind of help you might benefit from most at this time.
If teetering on the edge of tears every day and feeling unable to cope has been a long-term problem or you know that you have lots of unprocessed trauma from your past that you’ve never talked about, it’s likely you’d benefit from seeking specific, focused, mental health support from either a counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist.
A good place to start might be a confidential conversation with a trained Mental Health First Aider at work. Many organisations now have employees who are specifically trained in Mental Health First Aid, so if you’re comfortable raising it with your line manager or the Human Resources Department, they can point you in the right direction.
Of course, if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, feeling totally overwhelmed and you’re planning to harm yourself or someone else, you should definitely make immediate contact with your doctor, a local hospital emergency department (who can confidentially refer you to a specialist Mental Health Team) or talk to a trained volunteer at The Samaritans.
Samaritan volunteers listen anonymously – and without judgement – signposting you to further support, where appropriate.
If, however, you usually cope well with life and feel pretty resilient, you know that your current overwhelm is uncharacteristic, or has been specifically triggered by known events, depending on the circumstances of those events, perhaps short-term counselling or a few sessions with life coach could help with getting life back on track.
Life coaching helps with building confidence, understanding why you might feel the way you feel and taking small steps (or great leaps!) towards changing the way you think, behave or perceive your situation.
And when we start to see things differently, we naturally begin to notice new opportunities and possibilities for transforming our circumstances and our lives.
Step Two – Research and Explore
Once you’ve decided whether it’s a counsellor or coach that’s more appropriate for you at this time, the next step might be to connect with a few people.
Of course, it’s worth noting here that there are many other forms of help available too, which may be equally beneficial, depending on your specific need. For example, some tailored information services like housing, financial, pregnancy advice and support or mentorship; perhaps a business mentor if you are self-employed and your mental health is impacting your business. Alternatively, priests, pastors or spiritual help from local churches or other religious institutions can be invaluable, especially if your faith is important to you and you know trusted members of your community who can help.
There are also many online coach and counselling directories (UK and worldwide) as well as independent practitioner websites who promote their coaching or talking therapy services online.
Check out the credentials of anyone you’re thinking of hiring. Are they qualified in the areas they are advertising or those that you seek? Have they undertaken professional training? Are they insured and receiving ongoing personal and professional development, such as Supervision for their work?
What is their stance on confidentiality, professional boundaries – or breaking confidentiality – if they need to? Will there be a professional agreement in place, so that both parties are clear and comfortable about the working relationship?
What feelings do you notice when you read about each person and their services online? Or how do you feel when you speak to them on a call? Noticing how you feel is important! We are all drawn to work with a variety of people with a wide range of skills and expertise and whilst we don’t often admit this, many of us ‘go with our gut’ when choosing well – or go against it – and can regret it later.
With a careful balance of fact-finding to satisfy comfort levels in credentials, along with using your intuition and asking yourself whether you could work with this person and trust them, this can be a hugely successful approach.
Notice what resonates with you; trust your instinct and what your energetic antennae is picking up!
Practicalities like whether fees are acceptable to you and how you will attend sessions are of course important too. Remember, it’s fine to ask any of those questions – and more – of a professional you’re considering giving your hard-earned cash to – and perhaps bearing your soul to.
And if you don’t know what you need to ask or how to approach these things, it’s absolutely fine to be confident and say that. Let the professional know that you’re new to all of this. Ask them how they work and what’s important for you to know as a new client.
Many therapists, life coaches, business coaches and other professionals are happy to offer a free, initial consultation or conversation for that very purpose; so that prospective new clients can ask questions about their skills, qualifications and experience.
It’s an opportunity for you both to establish whether you’re a good fit for each other.
Step Three – Take Your Time to Decide
Once you’ve gone through Steps One and Two, allow yourself to make a decision in your own time. Step Three is all about valuing your own insight into the process of deciding before making that decision and choosing someone to work with.
Remember to keep checking-in with yourself as you’re evaluating who you’d like to work with and the information you’ve gained. Notice again, how you’re feeling. Having trust and confidence in the capability of a coach, counsellor or any other mental health professional who will be supporting you is a priority.
Do you feel pressurised to sign-up? Are you confident that all your questions have been adequately answered? What else might you need to know before deciding? Is it possible to speak to a previous client, if you’re still unsure?
Above all, don’t be afraid to check and check again, if you need to. Remember, saying no to someone because they don’t feel like a good fit for you, is saying yes to yourself. And that’s a great step forwards in itself!
Take your time.
Remember, this is your mental and emotional health and wellbeing; which is very important to get right.