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How to choose a therapist

Choosing a therapist.

Entering therapy can be really scary. It’s a bit like going to the dentist. We don’t want to, we know it’s going to hurt, but we also know that we have to look after ourselves and we sometimes can’t do that alone.

So how do we go about picking a person who’s going to hear our deepest darkest secrets and thoughts? How do we know who to trust or who will be best equipped to help us?

The first thing to do is work out what you want to gain from therapy. What do you want to be different? How will you know when you’ve achieved that? If your first thought is along the lines of ‘I would be better’, work out what better means. What does it look like? How will you know you’re better?

Okay. So let’s say you want to treat anxiety and only anxiety. Your best bet would initially to find a CBT therapist who will work with you to challenge and alter behaviours and subsequently symptoms. However they won’t work with the root cause of anxiety, that’s something a talking therapist would do. Someone like me.

I’m an integrative therapist, which means I draw from lots of different schools to help work with you to unpick and understand what’s happening.

There are also therapists who work exclusively in their school, so perhaps Psychodynamic, Jungian or Gestalt.

So how do you know who to go for? (Obviously my bias is in integrative, so I’m going to own that and try and bracket it!)

First of all, you need to look at qualifications. It is an absolute disgrace that in this country, anyone anywhere can pop a sign on their door and be a counsellor. With absolutely not one minute of training. Not a single one.

So look for qualifications. And look for a regulatory body. There are a few bodies, but generally the main ones are BACP, and UKCP, and COSRT is for psychosexual therapists (ideally a COSRT therapist would be a member of one of the other bodies too).

If you’re looking for a psychologist, look for the BPS.

Okay. So we have a regulatory body. Now back to training. Those bodies have a minimum requirement before they support membership for practicing counsellors. The minimum requirement is level 4 qualification. For comparison I’m a level 7, and a PhD would be level 8.

Then look at insurance. Are they insured? Then DBS, if that’s important to you.

Then look for their speciality. Are they experienced in the area you want help in? Are they trained in something you want?

Then comes the most important bit. Conversation.

Finding a therapist is like shopping for new shoes. They’ve got to be comfortable and a good fit, because you’re going to walk a lot of mile in them.

So take your time. Speak to a few, ask what their experience and knowledge is of your presenting issue. Ask them all the questions you can think of.

Most importantly trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, move on. A good therapist won’t take that personally. They may even help you find someone else. A good therapist will ask if it’s anything they’ve done or could do differently and support you in the experience of saying no. They will use it as an opportunity to learn.

Therapy is about you and your growth, it Is your choice and you can decide whether that therapist is right or not.

Any questions?

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