So you’re feeling, low, anxious, scared, obsessive, self-critical, you’ve got low self esteem or maybe your relationship needs a fix.
You’d like some help.
You need a therapist.
But where to start looking?
What do you look for?
What qualifications should they have? How do I know they’re any good?
Here’s a step by step guide to choosing the right therapist. Some of the stages are quite complex so this page will link to further pages with more details.
Firstly, please understand that there are thousands of types of therapy out there, from hypnotherapy to cognitive behavioural therapy, solution focused therapy to crystal therapy. You name it, there’s a therapy named after it.
But just because it’s called a therapy, doesn’t mean it’s going to do you some good. Many therapies have very little scientific evidence to prove that they are in any way beneficial.
Rule no. 1: Choose an effective therapy
Choose a therapy which has been shown to be scientifically effective. Generally, in treating clinical mental health and physical difficulties, follow the advice of the NHS (who check these things). Their advice can be found here, just search for the condition you’re dealing with.
Sometimes you’ll be dealing with a problem, issue or difficulty which hasn’t been reviewed by the NHS, might not have a name, or isn’t severe enough to require a clinical professional. So if you’re thinking “what kind of therapy do I need?” then click here.
And then of course, even if the therapy has been shown to be effective, if it is carried out by a therapist without the necessary skills it’s also unlikely to have a positive effect on you. Hence Rule no. 2…
Rule no. 2: Choose a therapist who has been accredited by their governing body.
Many health care professionals, are a member of HCPC which regulates professions such as art therapists, chiropodists / podiatrists, dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists. If your therapist is a member of HCPC (which you can check here) then you’re in safe hands.
However, some professions aren’t covered by HCPC. For these, check that they’re accredited members of the following organisations by clicking on their links:
Massage Therapy – voluntary regulation is made under CNHC
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – accredited by BABCP and BACP
Psychotherapist – accredited by BACP
Counsellor / Counselling – accredited by BACP
Hypnotherapist – accredited by GHSC
Relationship Counselling / Counsellor – accredited by COSRT
Sexual Relationship Therapist / Counsellor – accredited by COSRT
Acupuncturist – accredited by BMAS, AACP, BacC, BAWMA, BRCP and AcuC
(Many non-medical acupuncture practitioners are also required to register with their local authority who check their premises and practices for safety. Please check with you local council for more information).
Rule no. 3: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Ignore references, testimonials and the flashiness of their website. Many great therapists are useless at websites, but great at therapy. In a similar vein, it’s easy to create false testimonials, and actually quite difficult to get permission from real clients for good references, so don’t rely on these. If a therapist is properly validated (see above) then their supervisor will have checked the quality of their work and they will have had to submit evidence of the quality of their work, which is much more impartial than the quotes you can see on the website.
Rule no. 4: Talk to them and then go with your gut
Most therapists will be happy to talk over the phone with you before you commit to a first session. Some will even offer free first consultations.
And this is when you should consider… Can I work with this person? It is so important for there to be a positive relationship between you both so if you’re not feeling it, be brave and say no thank you.
They should be listening to you, not just talking.
They should be empathising with you so that you feel understood.
Each stage of treatment they should be explaining to you, and talking you through how they work so that you understand.
You should have choices too, of how to progress and how quickly to progress.
You should feel empowered as part of the journey, you shouldn’t feel that therapy is being done to you but with you.
Rule no. 5: Pricing is negotiable so agree this up front
Prices for therapy can range hugely from a voluntary fee (sometimes charities providing therapy will ask you to prove that you are receiving benefits first and then ask you to contribute whatever you can afford) to, well, the sky is the limit! A good average price of therapy at the moment is from £40 to £60 a session.
It can be quite a big financial commitment so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions like :
How much is a session?
How long is a session normally?
Do I have to commit to a certain number of sessions?
If I cancel, is there a fee?
How late can I cancel?
Rule no. 6: A good therapist will encourage you to stop therapy.
What I mean by this is that you will know a therapist has done a good job if they can get you to the point where you feel able to go it alone and work independently, without their support. So ask upfront, how many sessions have your current clients received from you? How long it takes to recover is like asking how long is a piece of string, but as a rule of thumb, if working with CBT, on mild to moderate depression or anxiety, it might only take 6 sessions to teach you the techniques to get you on your feet again.