Before choosing a therapist, start by assessing your current situation and what you hope to achieve in your sessions. Are you burned-out at work? Perhaps you’re struggling with low self-esteem? Your experience will manifest as feelings, behaviours, thought patterns and physical sensations.
Constant unexplained irritability can be a sign of anxiety and overwhelm. Pay attention to changes in appetite and disturbed sleep like insomnia. Stress and anxiety can show up as tense muscles, nausea, or headaches. Coping behaviors can include self-medicating with alcohol, distracting with social media, news and overworking.
Start with a quick self-assessment:
> What is your current challenge or struggle?
> What do you want to achieve in the process?
Once you’ve recognized the problem, think about what you would like to achieve. You might have a particular goal for therapy, like “I want to move past a second date with a partner” or one that feels more undefined, like reaching a better understanding of the connection between your childhood and current habits, relationship issues or emotional distress. Once you’ve figured out what you’d like to gain through therapy, you can set out to find the therapist that will help you.
Considerations for finding a counselor that suits your needs
Generally, when looking for an English-speaking counsellor, coach or psychotherapist, you want to check out several areas:
- Qualification – the counselors’ education and professional qualifications, work experience and therapeutic approaches trained in
- Personal fit – the likelihood of how you get along with your counselor might depend on some of your preferences and specialisations offered
- Hands-on concerns – office location, working hours, punctuality and availability of session slots
- Readiness for pandemic – in times of 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th waves of new positive tested COVID-19 cases it is paramount that your counsellor caters for a smooth and flexible transition between facemask-to-facemask and online consultations.
Life in Hong Kong is often transient, there are several practical concerns that should matter regarding the mutually committed work. Consider the level of spoken English, general reliability and the length and frequency of absences.
Qualifications and Professions
One of the first things clients typically look at when choosing a therapist is their legitimization. It’s important to distinguish the various types of counselors and therapists based on their qualifications.
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in Psychiatry. A Psychiatrist can diagnose mental disorders, write fit for work assessments, and prescribe medication. A Clinical Psychologist has a Doctorate – Ph.D. or PsyD in Clinical Psychology. A Psychologist can administer psychological tests and write reports and assessments. However, they cannot prescribe medication. Counsellors and Psychotherapist have frequently trained in therapy approaches that go along with their services offered – like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance-and-Commitment Training (ACT), Couples Counselling, Mindfulness-based approaches, Trauma Treatment,
There are Master’s degrees in counseling that offer thorough training. Therefore, if you’re seeing a Counselor, ask what their qualifications are. A Life Coach is a different type of training. While some Licensed Counselors and Psychologists choose to obtain a Life Coaching certificate, many Life Coachs undergo shorter qualification periods. Some Life Coaching certificates can be obtained in just a few months, compared to many years it takes to become a clinical professional with medical and academic degrees.
Consider the goals that you have set and your practical limitations. If you do not think that you will need medication, perhaps you don’t need to see a Psychiatrist. However, if you think medication might be part of your path, seeing a psychiatrist is important.
When choosing a counselor, you also need to factor in practical concerns. If your sessions demand a long and uncomfortable commute, your sessions will have a negative connotation in your mind. If your counselor isn’t fluent in your Native language, you won’t feel fully understood. Therefore, make a list of practical concerns you have, and bring them up in your initial session. Ask the counselor if they do online sessions if one of you will need to switch from face-to-face consultations to video conferencing.
However, Therapeutic Alliance is key!!!
While qualifications and practical concerns are significant, the most important thing you should pay attention to is how you feel during your sessions. Studies show that one of the most important factor in determining your therapy success is the relationship between you and your therapist – also known as the therapeutic alliance. The quality of the therapist-client relationship is a reliable indicator for positive outcomes – regardless of the therapeutic approach.
The Therapeutic Alliance is king and queen of your therapy castle.
A therapist might have decades of education and experience, but if you don’t feel that they care about you, you might struggle to make progress:
- Your counselor should be warm and empathetic – making it easy to share openly
- You want to feel that they understand you and that they have your best interests are heart
- The positive working alliance models the way, you will experience what it’s like to have a genuinely trusting relationship
You also want to make sure that your practitioner is “walking the talk.” Your counselor should be a role model for behavioral change. Pay attention to clues that point to whether they’re living according to their life values, i.e. leading a healthy lifestyle with balanced sleep, diet, physical exercise and social network. A healthy sign is also when they are able to set professional boundaries to help you stay focused and committed.
The Best Way to Find a Good English Speaking Counselor in Hong Kong
Start by making a list of potential practitioners that you find through:
- Search Engine search
- Listings in the internet
- Word-of-mouth from friends and colleagues
- Referrals from doctors, like your GP, psychiatrist or specialist (i.e. cardiologist, urologist)
In your initial session, talk about your goals for the sessions. Ask them what approach they take. The specific method they use might not be as important as the fact that they have a structure and would be able to outline key concepts in the process if and when you ask. Pay attention to how you feel during your initial session. Do they make you feel at ease? Do you think that they understand you, or do you have to over-explain yourself? However, don’t let the session be a monologue by you. The counselor should be telling you about their approach, they must be able to let you know how they relate to you and how they feel and plan to continue with you.
Take some time to reflect on your first sessions. If both, you and your counselor feel confident in your ability to work together, book another session. Congratulations, you’ve found your counselor!