Whether it is your first time seeking therapy or you are changing or restarting, looking for a new therapist is a daunting task. You are likely to have pressing difficulties in your life and the last thing you want to do is to spend time figuring out which therapist and approach is right for you. In this post I intend to focus on some considerations which may be important to you when looking for a therapist.
- Therapeutic approach This may or may not be something you consider when searching through the wide variety of counsellors and psychotherapists registered with the popular internet directories. Thinking back to my own initial search for a therapist, I did not know one approach from another, and the modality of the therapist barely crossed my mind. What I have learned from my own journey, is that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is key to positive outcomes in therapy, and research has shown this is a more influential factor than the therapist’s theoretical approach. Broadly speaking, some modalities may be more beneficial for certain people or difficulties, and more information about therapeutic modalities can be found here.
- The right therapist There is no easy way to tell from a directory listing or website whether you will work well with a particular therapist. You may have preferences around age, gender, location or price. You may prefer a therapist with a particular area of interest, such as working with LGBTQ clients or religious issues. Those preferences may provide a helpful foundation for your search. It is often useful to read carefully through what the therapist has written about the way they work and their philosophies. Does anything resonate? Is there anything you don’t agree with? When you meet with a therapist for the first time, it is important to remember that you are both exploring whether you will work well together. You are not committing to working with this therapist; you are essentially interviewing them – deciding if you want to hire them. If at all possible, I recommend meeting with more than one therapist to get a feel for different styles and personalities before you make your choice. Many therapists offer a free initial consultation or phone call – take advantage of that.
- Professional Body Membership There is no statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. This means that therapists and organisations do not have to be a member of a regulatory body to practice, however, in my opinion most reputable therapists are members of a professional body (either personally or organisationally). Membership requires the therapist to keep up-to-date with their training, seek appropriate professional supervision and work to an ethical framework. These things protect clients and promote quality therapy. I recommend that before meeting with a therapist, it is a good idea to make yourself aware of which professional body the therapist is a member of, and check the professional body’s online register to ensure this information is up-to-date. The BACP register can be found here. If you are seeking therapy through an organisation, it is worth checking the organisation’s professional body membership too.
- Is this okay? No matter whom you work with, therapy is likely to be uncomfortable. You are working with difficult and sometimes distressing material and talking with your therapist about how you are experiencing therapy is often an important part of the work. Your therapist should listen to any concerns you raise and seek to address them with you. This is a collaborative process. If you feel that your relationship with your therapist is problematic, and this is not resolved or addressed by discussing the issue with the therapist, you may decide that you would be better served seeking therapy elsewhere. This is okay and your therapist should not pressure you to stay. If you are unsure about any aspect of therapy with a BACP registered therapist, you can contact BACP’s Ask Kathleen service for confidential guidance and advice. Ultimately, I would say trust yourself – you are the expert on you and best placed to decide whether the relationship is right for you.