Choosing a therapist can seem like a scary decision because you want to make sure they can support you in the best way. The right professional may not be who you land with first, so I thought I’d put together some tips on how I found a therapist that has helped me enormously.
But first, let’s talk about why I started therapy, shall we? It was back in the days when the queen of blogging Hannah Gale was vlogging on Youtube and talked a bit about seeing a private therapist. Before I saw this, I honestly did not know that you could see a therapist privately, I thought you had to be referred by a GP.
Given that when I raised my issues of anxiety with my doctor and all he did was prescribe me some antidepressants that made me feel hollow and ill, the chances of getting referred for therapy through the NHS seemed pretty slim. This may no longer be the case, but I was happy to pay for sessions if it meant I could start when I wanted to.
I actually started my therapy journey without feeling there was a specific reason for doing so. I didn’t feel anxious, depressed or anything like that. Things were actually OK. But I wanted to go for it anyway and see if the experience was right for me.
How to find a therapist
This is the question I get asked the most if I post about therapy on my social media or here on the blog. If you want to go private (avoiding waiting lists and delving into a deeper pool of qualified professionals), then I highly recommend the Counselling Directory. It’s basically a search engine for counsellors who offer all sorts of different therapies. You can even filter by the type of counselling you think you need, or even by what’s worrying you.
For example, there are specialists in therapies such as CBT and Mindfulness, and there are some that list specific areas that they are trained to help you deal with such as loss, alcoholism and so much more. When you use the site, feel free to try these filters and see how many suggestions come up. However, most therapists are trained in a number of different therapies so don’t worry too much about being specific!
Choosing a therapist you like
Believe it or not, you are supposed to like your therapist. You are supposed to feel comfortable enough to open up around them, and explore the whole spectrum of human emotion. If you don’t like your therapist, then you’re likely to only share a percentage of what you really feel through the fear of judgement.
So here’s what you’re looking for:
A good listener
Most, if not all therapists are great listeners. It is literally their job. A good therapist will actually let the silence linger after you’ve spoken in case you have more to say. I’d call it a “tactic” but that makes it seem shady when actually it’s all about ensuring you can articulate everything in a way that is unfiltered and gives you the space to express yourself.
You can tell if they are a good listener from your very first conversation. When you reach out to them, aim to have a telephone conversation or face to face meeting. Take note of if they interrupt or give you the space to speak your mind.
Someone who asks questions
A great therapist knows exactly what to ask you to get to the crux of how you feel. These can be the typical questions such as “how does that make you feel?”, but sometimes the questions can go deeper and uncover things you may not have thought of. A therapist asks the right questions to get you to realise that actually, you do know the answers.
You may not figure this out until one or two sessions into therapy – an initial consultation is expected to include plenty of questions so that they can determine your needs, so have a bit of patience when working out if your therapist is asking you questions to prompt you.
A trustworthy person
While therapists will keep your information strictly confidential (unless they feel that your life or others are at risk), you need to feel like they are trustworthy too. Are they warm towards you? Do they give the impression that they are invested in you and your feelings?
This is something I felt immediately with my therapist, but I am generally pretty trusting anyway. It’s OK if it takes you a bit longer to form that trusting bond. As before, give this a few sessions before you decide for sure if they can be trusted. After all, you aren’t just talking about yourself in your sessions you are also trusting them with details about loved ones.
They provide a safe space
Naturally, your therapy sessions will get pretty deep and so you don’t want anyone else to hear what you’re talking about! When you meet for the first time, make sure you do so at the location where your sessions will take place so you know that you feel comfortable and safe there.
Any therapist worth their salt will value your privacy and have a space that is quiet, relaxing and away from eavesdroppers. If you have your sessions online, make sure you can set up your own space outside of the earshot of others.
A few more pointers…
- When searching for a therapist, get in contact with a few (3-5) so you can get a feel for different personalities – therapists are people too and you may feel better dealing with one over another!
- Don’t be afraid to change therapist if you aren’t happy with the one you have – it’s got to feel right for you.
- If you don’t feel like particular techniques will work for you, communicate it. Your therapist will have other solutions that may work better.
- Try and take notes at the end of your sessions for you to remember. Your therapist will have their own notes, but it’s good to remind yourself of those key takeaways!
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