Attending therapy is probably one of the weirdest things in the world. Turning up and speaking to a stranger about problems you can't speak to your nearest and dearest is still something that often comes up on first contact.
I am often asked how do you choose a therapist. Yes, various platforms and membership organisations have carried out the vetting for the public (UKCP, BACP, NCPS, Counselling Directory) but somehow it never feels that simple.
Therapy is the place we are asked to be open and at our most vulnerable, we want to feel safe, unjudged and safe. The relationship between therapist and client is unique and research suggests that this relationship is what helps us to overcome the challenges we face and not the modality of therapy.
The initial Steps to Finding a Therapist are:
Search the find a therapist platform e.g. BACP, UKCP or NCPS are all accredited by the Professional Standards Authority, this ensures that the therapists are fully qualified therapists who are committed to good practice, ethical conduct and continual learning.
In some instances, therapists have chosen not to have a listing on a membership organisation's website and have opted for Psychology Today or Counselling Directory. Both of whom have carried out the vetting for you and do not accept listings from non-members of BACP, UKCP, NCPS.
The things to think about in your selection are:
Face to Face counselling or online
Would you prefer to see someone of the same gender identity?
Do you need to see someone who specialises in the challenges you face?
Are you happy to travel, need to stay local to home or work?
Do you like and feel comfortable with the way they have described themselves?
Are you interested in the way they work? e.g. do you want CBT, person-centred etc
Are you looking for therapy as an individual, or in a couple, a group, or family?
Are you looking for therapy for yourself as an adult, or on behalf of a child or young person?
Finding a Therapist as a Student Counsellor
There is often an extra layer of complexity when training as a therapist, as training organisations often have criteria your therapist needs to meet. This can vary greatly depending on the organisation. Therefore finding someone approved that also matches who you would like to work with can be arduous.
As a guide, the information required for a therapist to know if they can work with you can include:
To ensure there are no conflicts of interest:
Year of study
UKCP, BACP member or accredited
Number of hours required and frequency of sessions
Paperwork required by training organisations e.g end of year reports
Contact the Therapist
When you have found a therapist you are interested in working with, send them an email, a text or give them a call. Providing a brief overview of your problem enables the therapist to work out if they can help you, and ask their availability and fees.
Therapists will have different response rates, depending on their working days and times, therefore if there is no answer always leave a message. In general, most therapists aim to return contact within 1-2 working days, (we will change answer phone messages and "out of the office" if we are on leave) and therefore if you haven't heard from them always check your junk file.
My policy is to respond to clients the way they've initially contacted me, this means:
They can pick up my text or email when convenient
I can answer any questions, without wasting people's time by our availability not matching.
And, if my answers match their requirements I will arrange a brief telephone call at a mutually agreeable time to ensure ethical working before an initial assessment.
This call provides time for you to get a sense of who I am asa therapist, without committing to a paid appointment and provides the opportunity to ensure that I am working within the law e.g. adoption counselling
Try a First Session
The first session or assessment session is the chance to see how you feel about the therapist and how you may be able to work together. First sessions can vary among therapists depending on the modality but we generally ask you to talk more about what brings you to therapy.
Remember, it’s your session and you are in control. You can ask questions to help you decide whether you want to work with the person and say no to disclosing information you aren't ready to discuss.