Searching for a good therapist? Not sure where to start? Take a look at MTA’s expert tips, then book the right therapist for you today.
Searching for the right therapist is a positive step, yet it can seem a little daunting at first. You might feel lost in a sea of faces, names and qualifications, wondering who is best for you. When it comes to choosing, where do you even start?
In fact, like most things in life, finding a therapist is just about finding the right fit. But if you’re not quite sure what to look for, then here are six key considerations:
Life challenges can come at us in many different forms, from depression to divorce and from anxiety to addiction.
Which is why different therapists often have different specialisms, for instance trauma or relationship issues. That said, some therapists can also offer more wide-ranging support and see clients about a variety of concerns. Generally though it can be useful to find a therapist with the right specialisms, so pay attention to which ones are listed on their bios.
Also, if you are dealing with an issue that might need expert support — such as psychosis or addiction — then make sure you find a therapist with a background in this area.
Before searching for a therapist, you might find it useful to think about the kind of experience that you want to have. It’s completely fine if you aren’t sure, but it can be helpful to know your options.
This is because there are many different types of effective therapies. Some focus more on the present moment, others on making links between the past and present. Some focus on thoughts and behaviours, others on expressing emotions and trauma held in the body. Some are structured around a specific issue, while others offer a deeper exploration of memories, dreams and associations. And in terms of the therapeutic relationship itself, some therapists might take a very listening-based approach, while others could be more conversational.
Perhaps you are looking to develop specific skills to manage moods, emotions, behaviours and thinking patterns? If that’s the case then you might benefit from therapies like CBT, DBT, ACT or Mindfulness. Often these approaches can involve home practice and ongoing tasks, meaning that they are great for clients who want to work on themselves proactively between sessions.
Or maybe you have experienced a shock, trauma or ongoing period of stress that you need to process? Body-focused (somatic) psychotherapies are particularly helpful for issues like trauma, PTSD and C-PTSD, as well as depression, anger and anxiety. These approaches include EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM).Or perhaps you would like to explore the deeper parts of yourself on an ongoing basis? If so, Psychodynamic Therapy or Art Therapy can help you to understand those aspects of you that may be hidden or unexplored. Also, what about timeframes? While some therapies are designed to last weeks or months, others can potentially go on for years. So have a think about how long you want to commit to the process.
It is also worth bearing in mind that clinical and counselling psychologists are always trained in multiple approaches, plus many psychotherapists are as well. This means that these professionals will always aim to draw upon the techniques that are best for you. But in the end, don’t worry if you’re not sure which approach is right — it is the therapist’s role to work that out. Instead, just think about what you would like to get out of therapy so that you and your therapist can work on your journey together.
If you’ve ever searched for a therapist online, you may have felt bewildered by those lists of letters after their names. While they may seem confusing, they’re actually a very useful guide to a therapist’s qualifications and accreditations.
In terms of qualifications, therapy training can vary in length and depth — in fact, there is no one type of training but many. Some counsellors might train for a few weeks while psychotherapists can train for years, including at Masters level. Clinical and counselling psychologists usually complete a postgraduate doctorate after several years of previous study and experience.
For added reassurance, it is recommended that you choose a therapist who is registered with an accrediting body, as this indicates that they meet certain professional standards. Typical accreditations might include BABCP, BPS, HCPC and BACP.
(All MTA therapists have trained in evidence-based approaches to a high level and are affiliated with accrediting bodies, meaning that they offer plenty of expertise).
Just like any other individual, therapists vary in their personalities and come from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Yet regardless of this, your therapist will understand that your life experience is totally unique and will aim to see the world through your eyes.
In fact, all good therapists have the following in common:
So while you might prefer a therapist of a particular gender, age or background, bear in mind that all good therapists should offer a safe, reflective and guided experience.
As mentioned, the relationship between you and your therapist is always the most important thing. That’s because therapy is a collaboration where you both work together as a team. In fact, as observed by the American Psychological Association, better relationships with patients lead to better results. And while rapport might take a few sessions to build, it shouldn’t take forever either.
So while specialisms, approaches and qualifications are all important, there is something else that can’t be ignored when choosing a therapist — your feelings.
In other words, trust your gut. When looking at a therapist’s photo, watching their video or even exchanging messages or phone calls, how do you feel? Is this someone you could open up to eventually? Do you feel that you could share things with them and take on board ideas they might share with you? If you have a feeling of ‘no’, then perhaps this isn’t the right person for you.
The same applies to your first appointment, whether online or in-person. How do you feel when you are speaking to your therapist? Do you feel seen, heard and understood? Of course, it can take a while to get to know someone and feel comfortable being vulnerable around them. But it’s also useful to pay attention to your instincts, intuition and even bodily sensations.
In short, trust in your judgment, as this needs to be a person who feels safe to you.
This includes things like day and time availability as well as types of session that you can access, such as in-person, video or phone.
It’s also worth thinking about payment — for instance, if you have suitable private medical insurance then you might want to choose a therapist who is a registered provider with your insurance company.
It can also be helpful to read about other people’s experiences, both from the perspective of therapists and clients. Thankfully, there are quite a few good accounts out there. A classic is Love’s Executioner by Irving Yalom, while Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone explores Gottlieb’s relationships with both her clients and her own therapist.
And remember, if you don’t find your ideal fit the first time then that’s okay too, as searching for a therapist can be an ongoing process. But don’t forget that you are never tied to anyone and can keep looking until you find the right person. That said, if you have tried a few therapists and are finding it hard to settle with anyone, it can be worth reflecting on whether the issues coming up are mirrored in your other life relationships too?
In the end though, it really is all worth the effort. That’s because a good therapeutic relationship can be life-changing, enabling you to heal, grow and thrive like never before.
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