Things to consider when choosing a therapist

With over 600 modalities to psychotherapy (such as TA, Gestalt, CBT) and multiple professional associations (BACP and UKCP in the UK), it can be a confusing task when faced with choosing the right therapist.

I had an interesting conversation recently on what makes a good psychotherapist. Certainly, some approaches are more suited to helping specific symptoms and disorders, (DBT has been found to be particularly effective for EUPD, for example) but there is simply no one size fits all when it comes to therapy.

The following highlights the information that came out of the discussion which I hope you will find helpful.

Shop around

It’s perfectly ok to try out therapists before committing. Like starting any kind of relationship – professional, romantic or otherwise, it’s important that it feels right for you. You need to feel able to open up to your therapist, they should be someone you feel you can trust to guide you on your journey to mental wellness.

I believe it’s imperative to choose a therapist you can develop a trusting relationship with, someone who treats you with dignity and respect, over methods and even experience sometimes. From personal experience and also confirmed by peers, oftentimes veterans with numerous accolades can become jaded and almost complacent in their approach that you may question why they are still in the field.

Of course, do check your therapist’s background, their experience and accreditation, these are all important factors. But don’t feel obliged to commit to the first therapist you find – shop around first. Once you do and are able to make comparisons, I am certain you will agree that warmth and empathy are the critical basic components that make a good therapist.

Things to ask

Here are a few questions to ponder to help you decide on the right therapist:

  • Do you feel safe and at ease in their company?
  • Are they empathic and have a warm demeanor?
  • Do you feel assured and that they accept you as you are?
  • Are they open in their approach and willing to explain their methods?
  • Do you feel they a good listener?
  • Are you able to set clear goals together?
  • Do they respect and treat you with dignity?
  • Are they patient and provide the necessary time and space you require?
  • Are they professional yet personable?
  • Do you feel, given time, you can trust them enough to fully open up to them?
  • Are they charitable and non-judgemental?

Is your therapist registered with a professional association?

After attending my TA Psychotherapy course last weekend, I was surprised to learn that both psychotherapy and counselling are currently unprotected titles nor regulated by the government (File on 4 covered this recently on BBC Radio 4, worth a listen).

This means that literally anyone could set up shop and call themselves a counsellor or a therapist if they so wished. A pretty frightening thought, isn’t it?

The two main associations that oversee and support psychotherapists, the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, and the UK Council for Psychotherapy are both voluntary registers that qualified psychotherapists and student psychotherapists working towards their BACP or UKCP accreditation can join to reassure prospective clients of their commitment to maintaining their standards within their psychotherapy education and practice.

That’s not to say a therapist not registered with an association (neither BACP or UKCP are officially recognised by the government, by the way) is a quack, however, it is prudent to ask about qualifications.

Having started psychotherapy training, I’ve come to know many therapists in training who, while considered students (and holding a student BACP membership rather than full membership) are highly experienced to counsel due to their own experiences. These come from both personal (for BACP you are required to undertake at least 60 hours of personal therapy), and professional experience (with varied empathic backgrounds such as carers, doctors and social workers, for example).

A journey

It will take a few sessions before you get an idea on whether the therapist is the one for you. With the right therapist you will, in time, feel more settled and at ease. That’s when the real work can start to happen and your journey begins.

If you find this useful and think others will, please consider sharing. I’d love to hear your experiences too, so do leave a comment below.

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