Choosing a Therapist

3 Important Questions to ask when choosing a therapist!

 

Q1. What do we need to look for in a therapist?

Q2. What mistakes can be made during therapy?

Q3. What myths are there about therapy?

 

For clarity, I’ll use the term therapist to cover counsellor as the questions apply to both disciplines.

 

Q 1. What should a person look for in a UK therapist?

First, you need to make sure they are registered with an accredited body. The main bodies in the UK are: BACP, UKCP, BPS, HCPC and BABCP although smaller ones do exist. They should be insured and have regular supervision.

If they belong to a professional association, they have to work to strict guidelines and are accountable to that association.

The Therapeutic Relationship

Extensive research shows that the type of therapy used does not predict success as much as a trusting relationship between client and therapist. A trusting relationship is called ‘The Therapeutic Relationship’.

Thus, choosing the right therapist is as important as the therapy itself.

Therapist Background Experience

If you have a particular problem, you could find out about the therapist’s area of expertise. For example, if it’s a relationship issue, a relationship therapist would probably be best.

A qualified therapist with years of practice is helpful, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be the best match for you.

Therapists in training and registered under an accredited body can be just as helpful. What trainee therapists lack in experience they make up for in enthusiasm, and that can make all the difference.

A Therapist with a Similar Background to Yours

If you want a therapist who is familiar with a specific culture, lifestyle, gender etc., that’s fine. However, it doesn’t always mean that they’ll be the best match for you.

If there is one key to finding the right therapist, it would be the therapist’s ability to help you open up, so that they really understand you. In this way, you feel comfortable about revealing all sorts of things. The therapist can then help you to make healthier choices in life.

Start the Search!

Start by looking at web sites or directories like Where to Talk to narrow the field to some accessible and credited possibilities. Seeing a photo and reading what a therapist has to say on their own social media site or platform can give you some feel for the person.

Talking to a therapist on the phone or an initial appointment can give you a sense of whether you can connect to, and trust that person to help you feel better. A good therapist will always be happy to answer any questions.

Sometimes, you find the right therapist straight away. You feel a connection, you feel heard, and you feel understood. You should never feel judged in any way.

Other times, it takes a few tries before you get it right. The bottom line is that you are the one who needs to feel comfortable, since you are the one who will be sharing your private thoughts and feelings with this person.

Once you’ve chosen your therapist

Is the therapist punctual and consistent with sessions? If they’re not, let your therapist know how you’re feeling about this. If inconsistency continues, consider ending the sessions and finding a more reliable therapist.

Whoever you choose, you should leave the first session with a sense of hope that your therapist can help you, and that things will get better.

 

Q 2. Potential Mistakes Made During Therapy?

 

In the therapy world, therapists are often called ‘The Wounded Healer’. That’s because we ourselves are human and have our own issues to manage.

In therapy just as in life, we can make mistakes with our clients. We sometimes find it difficult to understand their problems and find them challenging.

We may unfortunately say something that is inadvertently hurtful, or that feels like a criticism.

We may encourage you to do something that doesn’t interest you.

We may miss some way that you are testing us, and go in the wrong direction.

However, these mistakes are all part of therapy and the relational process, and why therapists have regular supervision that helps them overcome these hurdles.

Most therapists say that they hope their clients can tell them when something they said made their heart drop or they feel misunderstood. Indeed, the biggest mistake a client can make is to not tell their therapist when they feel uncomfortable about the interaction.

You may be afraid to challenge your therapist but we are professionals. We are trained and therefore we should be able to handle a negative reaction.

Indeed, these moments are often the most enlightening for positive change to occur.

It is when our clients are able to tell us about a mistake we made, we are able to correct it. We’ll take it to supervision; we’ll use what happened for the benefit of our client and the therapeutic relationship.

 

Some Clients’ Assumptions

The most common assumptions clients can make is thinking that the therapist is either in charge, can read their mind, or going to ‘cure’ them.

The therapist is more like a guide sitting beside you and is going on a journey with you; giving you the tools you need to make change for the better happen.

 

Q 3. Five Myths Surrounding Therapy

Myth 1: There’s only one way to ‘do’ therapy.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Many clients say to me that they’re concerned they’re not ‘doing’ it right or they don’t know what to talk about. That’s ok, that’s why they’re in therapy, to get help in working out how to ‘do’ things differently. Just ‘being’ rather than doing and ‘being there’ in the therapeutic space is already a healthier place to be.

Myth 2: Therapy is mysterious

The idea that therapy is mysterious needs to be challenged.

Therapy is simply a relationship, but it’s a therapeutic relationship. It’s an ongoing conversation in which you are able to talk about your life, and work out your problems.

It can help you feel happier about yourself and achieve things you’ve always wanted to achieve.

Myth 3: Therapists are professional advice-givers.

They’re not advice-givers, neither do they tell you what to do.

I believe clients already have the answers to their problems, before they even step foot inside a therapist’s room. The job is to guide the client to access and embrace those answers so they can make positive changes.

Myth 4: Anyone looking into therapy is a weak individual.

It’s just the opposite, looking into therapy is strength!

To put oneself into question is difficult to do.

Therapy is not for anyone who might need it; it’s for anyone who might want it. To explore the truth is daring, it takes courage to explore one ‘self’.

Myth 5: You need a therapist who shares a similar background.

Although it’s fine to prefer a therapist who has a similar background to you, as mentioned earlier it’s not crucial.

You don’t necessarily need someone of the same age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. in order to feel understood.

A shared experience may help you feel that your therapist understands you. However, a therapist without that history may surprise you in their ability to understand what you are going through.

Indeed, sometimes too many similarities between client and therapist can create blind spots that can get in the way of progress.

Registered therapists have extensive training in connecting with people who have vastly different life experience and backgrounds than their own.

It’s wise not to discount someone’s ability to see through your eyes just because they are coming from a very different place themselves.

Extra Things to Help You

It helps to reflect on your sessions, your thoughts and feelings, and things you notice about yourself during the week. You might like to use a notebook to write things down. It may help to bring it to the session with you. Once you tell your story or at least some of it, you should at some level feel relieved. Therapy should not only be relieving, but to some extent interesting, and at times BELIEVE IT OR NOT even fun.

 

Therapy is a great place for:

  • Thinkers to try feeling
  • Listeners to practice talking
  • Passive people to become more assertive

Member for 15 yrs of The British Psychological Society Reg. No. 139529
Registered with the UK Health & Care Professions Council] Reg No. PYL 33754

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