How to choose the right counsellor

In this article, I will teach you how to choose the right counsellor. I will explain what counselling involves and compare the two most used therapies- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychodynamic therapy.
When it comes to therapy, choosing the right counsellor is essential. There are two main aspects that need to be considered when deciding which therapist is best for you needs: how they make you feel and what type of therapy they choose to practice.


Understanding counselling

A good counsellor should :

  • Listen without judgment. Your counsellor should listen to your concerns without judgment and create a safe environment where you feel safe, valued and respected. Also, they should offer their undivided attention throughout the counselling session.
  • Accept and understand your feelings. Your counsellor should make you feel accepted and understood. You should be able to tell them everything you feel and believe.

On the other side, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what counselling involves. Your therapist is not someone who :

  • Gives advice. Counselling does not involve giving advice or telling someone what to do.
  • Offer guidance. Counselling does not offer guidance and should not be intrusive or critical.

On the contrary, counselling respects and promotes your abilities to make your own decisions. This is achieved by creating a safe environment in which you can express your own thoughts without fear of judgment, opinions and advice.

The counsellor’s responsibility is to understand your emotions and help you change how you feel, think or act. However, it is essential to feel that you are in charge of the changes you want to achieve.



What counselling should help you with?

  • Counselling can help you move forward and become self-responsible and have a healthier direction in life. This is achieved by offering you a safe environment where you can examine certain parts of your life, feelings and emotions.

Expressing these thoughts and feelings freely and openly, without fearing that you will be judged or misunderstood is key to your self-awareness and self-development achieved through counselling.

When you will examine your emotions and feelings openly, you can understand them easier and take positive steps towards changing them.

  • Counselling can help you accept yourself and others. During counselling, you should feel that you can be your imperfect self and still be accepted.

This can be a healing experience where you can learn to accept yourself and your past mistakes and treat others with more empathy. When you become more self-aware, you will experience more clarity and understanding.


What therapy to choose?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy and psychodynamic therapy are the most commonly used therapies. Below, I will explain the differences between these therapies so you can have a clear understanding of which approach is more suitable for you.


Psychodynamic theory

Psychodynamic theory is insight orientated. It is looking inside your past to understand your present. It helps you gain insight on how your early childhood experiences affect your present days. The aim is to recognise ongoing relationship patterns, interpersonal struggles, personality and your stage of emotional development.

The goal of psychodynamic theory is to bring self-awareness and self-empowerment in your life. By working towards gaining more understanding of who you are, you can heal past emotional wounds and shift unhealthy relationship patterns and behaviours.

Psychodynamic theory also argues that human behaviour arises from both conscious and unconscious motive and that the act of talking about problems itself can help you find ways of understanding how your past influences your present behaviour.

Therapy includes free association, the analysis of resistance and transference, dream analysis and interpretation.

Psychodynamic therapy is a long term therapy. It can help you with depression, eating disorders and anxiety. It is also useful for relationship issues.



Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a common approach aiming to help you recognise how your thoughts influence your actions. It concentrates on the present moment and it helps you let go of your past and focus on what you can change in the present.

CBT focuses on finding practical, skilled-based solutions to your present problems. CBT aims to recognise negative thoughts patterns and feelings and change them into more positive ones, by developing the necessary skills.

CBT is highly structured, the work continues outside the therapy sessions and you are working together with the counsellor to achieve the goals. One advantage of this therapy is that the techniques taught during the therapy sessions can be applied even after the therapy has concluded.

The counsellor helps you break the problem into smaller pieces that are less threatening and easier to analyse.

The aim is to realise how much the issues affects your well-being and what steps can be taken in order to change your thoughts and actions and create positive change.

You will also be given the opportunity to look at the situation from another perspective. You will be presented with another choice to think and feel about the perceived problem.

CBT aims to stop a negative cycle that is created by your thoughts. By breaking the cycle and showing a new way to look at the situation in a more positive way, your mental health will improve and you will be able to challenge and replace negative thoughts.



The main similarity between psychodynamic theory and cognitive behavioural theory is that most of the learned behaviours that CBT addresses are formed in childhood; therefore this learned response and behaviour could be linked to the psychodynamic intervention of linking childhood events and associated feelings to current problems.

When comparing the similarities between the psychodynamic approach and cognitive behavioural therapy, change could occur through the uncovering of the negative thoughts patterns and feelings, which is similar to bringing the unconscious into conscious awareness.



The key therapeutic interventions used in psychodynamic approaches are free association, interpretation of transference, dream analysis, hypnosis and regression.

On the other hand, the key therapeutic interventions used in CBT are systematic desensitisation, reinforcement techniques, forceful disputing, reality testing and the identifying of automatic thoughts.

Unlike Psychodynamic therapy, CBT is directive and goal orientated and does not look at your past.

Psychodynamic approach looks into the process of change by encouraging you to look into your past to uncover repressed or significant events and memories and their associated feelings. By gaining this insight, you will achieve a new perspective which will form the basis for healing and change.

On the other hand, cognitive behavioural therapy deals only with the here-and-now; it does not address the past and focuses only on present symptoms and could miss underlying problems. CBT main focus is changing beliefs and interpretations.

The main difference between the two therapies lies in the importance given to early childhood experiences. Psychodynamic theory main focus is on early childhood experiences, whereas CBT does not recognise the link between early childhood experiences and present situations. CBT only looks at the individual’s need to change and ignores wider problems i.e. society or families.

Whilst CBT involves homework assessment, psychodynamic therapy focuses more on establishing a relationship between the counsellor and client, without homework assignments.


Final thoughts

I hope this article taught you how to choose the right counsellor and therapy for your needs and problems.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more that happy to answer them.

All the best,


  (Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists)

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8 thoughts on “How to choose the right counsellor”

  1. Ioana,

    I love this article. I didn’t know that there were two kinds of therapists that you could choose from. More often than not, some people are thrown into a therapist situation and can’t always choose. My daughter was assigned a therapist some time ago by a hospital and she talked about some things in her past that triggered her emotions. I would imagine the counselor was a psychodynamic counselor – seems the best route to go.

    I see a lot of close friends and family that still have a hard time with their past and I often mention that counseling might be a way to go. Especially when the therapist is helping them to get over certain events that trigger emotional outbursts and can sometimes cause rifts in relationships. It’s nice to put a name to the type of counselor they might need.

    Thanks for sharing this information!


    • Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for your comment. I believe you are absolutely right, your daughter’s therapy was based on the psychodynamic approach. There are many others therapies out there, sometimes combining both CBT and psychodynamic therapy elements, but usually counsellors choose one or the other.

      Although psychodynamic therapy is the best route to go in some cases (trauma, relationship problems, mental health issues), CBT can offer a faster, less costly way to deal with problems as anxiety , depression or phobias. There are both beneficial for different underlying issues and each client chooses the best way to address the problem based on their personal circumstances and needs.

      Kind regards,

  2. Hi Ioana, very insightful article. I am hesitant about one aspect, whether I understand it well enough I mean: are both therapies based on talking?

    I did have some therapy in the past but both were based on body-oriented work, if you call it that way in English. So I have no idea if they would fit in either of the 2 therapies you describe.

    Safety is even more an issue in body-oriented work, don’t you think? That’s why I chose that, because I had the feeling I could very well hide my deepest soul turmoil in talking. I don’t know. But any therapy is good when it helps to move on in a healthy way. 🙂

    • Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. Both therapies are based on talking, this is the most common form of approaching counseling. Body-orientated therapy is a completely different approach to therapy and combines different aspects of therapies and its primarily focus is to establish a connection between body and mind.
      There are many other therapies than the two described in the article, but CBT and psychodynamic therapy are the most common used by counselors.

      Kind regards,

  3. Hey Ioana,

    I really wish I came across this article in 2018 when I was in a pretty bad place. I absolutely hated the job I was doing, I hated the team I was leading and I hated where I was in my life. Luckily I overcame it and I am in a much better place, but if I would have taken counselling I could have gotten to where I am much quicker. Anyway, no time for regrets.

    Thank you for sharing and I really hope a lot of people who are in a similar situation to me can come across your article and take action on it.

    Keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • Hi Tom,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad to hear that you managed your problems, although I would recommend counseling not only to people that have problems in their lives, but also to anyone who is willing to heal and become the person they’ve always wanted.

      Kind regards,

  4. I was under the impression that a counselor was there to give advice and guidance. Your article enlightened me, so in actual fact, counseling is for you to try and work out for yourself what you need in life and to work through your feelings and emotions with the right prompts in place?

    I see more and more people are using counselors nowadays, but I never really felt the need. Is it a good thing to try a counselor or only if you feel you have a problem you need help dealing with?

    • Hi Michel,

      Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right, more and more people are using counsellors these days. I would definitely recommend a therapist to every person in this world. We all face different struggles at different times. The role of the counsellor is to help us self-develop, become more self-aware and understand our own triggers, emotions and behaviours and what are the underlying causes for them.

      Kind regards,


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