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How to choose a therapist

So, you know you want counselling but you don’t know where to start.  

Well, finding the right therapist is a bit like choosing a new pair of shoes. They have to be the right fit, and they’ve got to be suitable for the reason that you’re leaving your house. Finding a therapist that’s the perfect fit for you will be unique to your individual circumstances. 

We’re all in different stages of life; what works for your friend might not work for you and vice versa. To help you make some decisions about what might work for you, I’ve listed down some things to think about before making a choice:

1.    Think about whether a male or a female therapist matters to you. 

Do you think that you’d find it easier to open up more to a man or a woman? And why? Really try to think why that may be the case. 

Sometimes, it’s not always the best idea to choose the easy option (easy being the one you feel most comfortable with). Choosing the more difficult path can sometimes give you deeper and more long-lasting results.

2.   Some things do have to stay private.

Do you feel like your therapist has to have been in the same situation as you? Do they have to have been through the same trauma or faced the same issues? Do you feel like you need to know?

In my experience (and depending on the therapist’s approach) you will most likely never find out about your therapist’s past. This is very important. Your knowledge of their past will most likely get in the way of your therapy. So, clear boundaries are necessary and ethical, and should be respected by you and your therapist at all times.  

3.    Do your research. 

Has your therapist undergone their own therapy? Check their qualifications and the professional bodies they belong to, as it will give you a really good understanding of the requirements for their qualification. It’s reassuring to know that they know what it’s like to be a client, having undergone several years of therapy themselves.

I have spent many years going through this process not just as part of professional requirements but also years prior to my decision to become a therapist. So, I know what it’s like to be a client.

4.    Is it specific?

Do you need to see someone specialising in a specific area? For example, bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder, marital or sex problems? Check their credentials and the professional bodies/organisations they belong to, to ascertain if they have any specialisms.

The main professional bodies are BACP, UKCP and BPC. 

5.    Think about how you want to be counselled.

Have a look at what approach the therapist uses. There are several counselling approaches, i.e. psychodynamic, CBT, integrative, person-centred. I would always advise that you research the different approaches available to you so you have a really good idea of what suits you best in this particular phase of your life. 

6.    Consider the time-frame.

It’s worth noting that counselling can be done on a long-term or a short-term basis. Think about what you would like as it will determine the focus and pace of your counselling. What do you feel you need best right now? Have you had counselling experience before? Maybe you feel you need something different from last time?

7.    Get in touch.

Call the ones you have earmarked as potential therapists and see if they have availability. That initial call is also your opportunity to ask them any questions and see if you can connect in the first instance. Allow yourself time to meet more than one therapist before you make a decision. 

8.    Consider the investment.

Choosing a therapist is a real investment – both emotionally and financially. So, it’s important to take time to choose the best therapist for you. Prioritising your mental health and learning to take care of yourself with the help of a therapist is very important and it has long-lasting effects on you and the people close to you. Money is obviously important but so is your health.

9.    Be wary with referrals.

So if you do muster the courage to tell your friends you are looking for a therapist (which is brave and nothing to be ashamed of),  they may suggest someone they’ve used. A referral is a very strong and positive indication that someone can deliver the results they’re promising. 

But one word of caution – just because that therapist was good for someone else, it does not mean that they will automatically be good for you too. So, trust your instinct and take your time to meet more than one therapist, if you need to.  

If you have any questions at all about how to choose the right therapist, I’d love to talk them through with you. You can go ahead and leave them in the comments, or email them to me instead.  

If you’d like to see if I could be the right therapist for you, please feel free to get in touch for a free 15-min conversation.

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