Choosing a therapist…
One of the big things that people can struggle with once they decide to enter therapy, is what therapist to work with. Some of you will live in large population centres and might have literally 100s of therapists within walking distance of you, and some of you might live in the ‘middle of nowhere’ with the only available therapist being a 30 min drive away. On this page I will suggest some issues you might want to consider when choosing a therapist.
My advice to those trying to find a suitable therapist to work with would be based around 2 main areas:
- How to look for a suitable therapist
- How do they make you feel?
Then once you have identified the therapist you want to work with, you need to be aware of two further things:
- What can I do if I don’t feel things are working?
- How do I go about ending therapy
How to look for a suitable therapist
Are there elements that your therapist needs to have as a person?
This could be their gender, age, sexuality, faith, culture, ethnicity etc. All of these things can be really important when it comes to you being comfortable speaking to someone that you feel will understand you and your situation best.
Is your therapist properly trained and also accredited?
The term Counsellor is not a ‘protected title’ so currently there is no legal requirement for anyone in the UK that calls themselves a Counsellor (or Therapist or many other similar terms) to have any formal training at all. So to avoid this potential danger, make sure your therapist can show you their qualifications and also explain to you what they mean.
You may also want to see a therapist that is a member of a ‘recognised’ accrediting body. If so, then make sure they are on the Accredited Register which is overseen by the UK’s Professional Standards Authority. This should ideally be included on their websites and their business flyers etc.
It’s also important that therapists keep up-to-date on their professional development so they should be regularly undertaking new training, and reading etc to develop their skills and understanding of the profession. They should also be having regular supervision by a more experienced therapist. Your therapist should be able to provide you with details of their professional development and supervision, if you ask.
Is the therapist able to work with me and my issues?
Would you prefer to see a therapist that specialises in a particular issue? Obviously we are all beautiful and unique individuals but if you have been given a clinical diagnosis for an issue (DID, BPD, ASD etc) or you want to work on a specific issue such as relationships, anxiety etc, then you might want to work with a therapist that is experienced in this area, and has some suitable training and experience in working with clients around these areas.
However it’s worth noting that many therapists are uncomfortable with diagnoses and feel that everyone’s challenges need to be looked at in a holistic manner rather than fitting into some clinical diagnosis – again it might be worth your while finding a therapist that holds a similar view to yourself on this.
How does the therapist work?
Some people looking for a therapist know exactly what approached they like and what they don’t like based on their previous experiences. So if you specifically want a CBT therapist then that’s what you should look for. However a lot of the language around a therapist’s approaches (we call them modalities) can be very confusing (even to therapist themselves) so make sure your therapist can explain in clear and simple manner exactly how they work.
You might not want a therapist that seems like they are just sitting there and nodding as you speak, similarly you might not like a therapist that is continually engaging with you during the session.
A lot of this information about a therapist’s modalities and their approach to therapy might be found on their own website, or you can check out the articles on the website here about the different approaches and modalities.
I think I have found a suitable therapist, now what?
Can I try them out?
Most therapist genuinely want you to find your ideal therapist even if it’s not them, so a number of therapists offer a reduced-price introductory session to help potential clients ‘try them out’ and see if they would be happy working with them. However, if a therapist that catches your eye doesn’t offer a discounted first session, then please don’t worry about it. They will expect you to be trying them out and to feel comfortable enough to walk away if it wasn’t right for you.
How does your therapist make you feel?
Listen, we all know that therapy is going to be a difficult things at times and that you might not always like the direction that you feel your therapist might be pushing you in. But this is different, this is about how they make you feel as a person.
- A good therapist will make you feel safe and treated with respect and in total confidence.
- A good therapist should feel open and honest and genuine.
- A good therapist should make you feel understood and accepted without judgement.
- A good therapist should make you feel supported on your journey.
- A good therapist should not tell you what to do. Some therapists might offer up suggestions for discussions, but you should always be in control of deciding what to do.
- A good therapist is NOT your friend and will make sure that you are aware of the boundaries and differences in your relationship.
After your first session, think about how the therapist made you feel. Did you feel that you could be open with this person, be comfortable telling them private things, and, most importantly, did you feel that you could trust them. Did you like the way that they spoke to you and listened to you? Do you feel that you can work with this person for weeks or perhaps months?
It is perfectly understandable that you might not feel comfortable with your therapist; not every therapist is going to be a brilliant match for every client. However, you might also want to raise this discomfort with your therapist as it may be something that needs to be addressed as part of your therapy, or it could just be a small misunderstanding in approach that can easily be resolved.
However if you have tried this and you still don’t feel comfortable, then it’s probably time to find another therapist.
What if everything else seems fine but I don’t feel I’m getting any better.
If, after a few sessions, you feel that your therapy is not making a difference, then please discuss it with your therapist. Often all it can take is a slight shift in approach from the therapist and things can start moving forwards again. But sometime you just don’t ‘click’ and in that case you might want to consider finding a different therapist.
I want to look for a new therapist. How do I end things with my existing therapist?
You need to discuss this with your therapist in order to bring things to a satisfactory close.
If you feel you cannot do this face to face, you could email them telling them that you want to end therapy with them. Speaking from experience, I would rather have a client tell me they wanted to end therapy than just going quiet on me and not replying to any contact. Yes, even I am not perfect.
Many people do not find the right therapist at first so do not give up. Try again.
Written by Simon Brodie