Of course a reference from someone you know and trust is a very good starting point. However, if you are calling without such reference, or want to confirm for yourself, ask questions of a counsellor with whom you are contemplating working that are purposefully intended to test them. Listen carefully to what they say, but more specifically note what is not said and your own sense of their authenticity, willingness to respond in an open and honest way, and the clarity of their language.
- Their own work on themselves.
- How they view the counselling relationship.
- What they find most fascinating about their work.
Listen carefully to what is said, and again listen to how they sound when they respond. Are they relaxed with you. Do their answers and manner seem to have a flow that allows you to follow and to feel some sense of connection with them, even though it is a phone call, or even if it is by email. I do recommend phone calls as the way a person sounds will likely tell you as much or more than what they say. Putting the content and feeling together, or not, will tell you a lot. In the end, only you can evaluate the feel you have for this person.
If you decide to initiate working with this person, do use the initial sessions to evaluate further about the fit. Also, you can tell something from the years of experience, training, publications, presentations, and so on, but in the end the counsellor and you have to fit. You want to feel that the counsellor ‘gets you,’ cares about you as the relationship grows, and that the connection has a good feel to it.