How To Find Your Ideal Therapist
Finding a good therapist can feel like a daunting task, there are thousands out there all with different approaches and theories about your emotional life. But, find the right one for you and it can be an enlightening experience. Start by narrowing the search to location. Here are my tips of how to proceed from there.
1. Don’t expect perfection
I thought my last therapist was pretty perfect. I’d been seeing him for the best part of a year, when, during one session he fell asleep. I’ll repeat that…he fell asleep! Was I really that boring? His fall from grace seemed total and as I left that day was pretty sure I wouldn’t be coming back. But I did go back and I found out he hadn’t been well and he was genuinely sorry for what had happened. It gave us the opportunity to explore my fears about why he might have fallen asleep. Therapists aren’t perfect, but they should always acknowledge when they have got it wrong.
2. Ask your family and friends
If you can be open about wanting therapy, ask for a recommendation.
3. Go to your GP/ nearest NHS service
Your GP is usually the first port of call for any therapy help on the NHS. However increasingly you can refer yourself straight to the psychological services in the NHS. These services are part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy initiative (IAPT). The therapy offered here is often time limited to 6-12 sessions.
4. Go online
If you want to keep your search for a therapist to yourself, start online. There are a number of directories that list therapists, many of which require them to show proof of qualifications. One of the biggest is the Counselling Directory. There are a bamboozling number of therapies and equally confusing number professional titles. And most research into the effectiveness of therapy has identified the relationship with your therapist as the most important predictor of change. Having said that it’s good to know the basics so you can make an informed decision.
5. If they don’t respond quickly, move on
It’s fine to contact more than one therapist. Choose one that gets back to you in a timely way. Responding quickly is a sign of respect and commitment. For a guide, I aim to respond within 24 hours.
6. If you don’t get what they say move on
In a first session you should do most of the talking. However when the therapist does respond, it has to chime with you. If you’re left thinking ‘what?’ it may not be the best fit
7. You need to like them
You don’t need to marry your therapist (in fact that would be inadvisable!), but you really do need to like them.
8. You may feel worse as you explore your feelings, but you should feel better too
Therapy can be painful, as you give yourself space and permission to explore your feelings. But you also need to feel relief and a gradual alleviation of your pain. Don’t go on for months and months without feeling any benefit.
9. They must be professional and qualified
Look for the words ‘accredited’ ‘registered’ and ask about their qualifications. A six-week counselling course does not constitute a full qualification. For example to be a psychologist you need to train for a minimum of six years. Professional…that means not overly familiar, being on time, working in a place that is clean and confidential and being clear about fees and payment.
10. Be an active participant
Once you’re happy with the therapist you've chosen, do be prepared to put in the work. 50 minutes every week doesn’t count for everything. The more you can apply what you learn in your sessions to your life outside, the more you will benefit.
image credit: Kenny K