How to choose a Therapist

How to choose a Therapist

You want therapy, but where do you start?

If you have landed on this site, you are looking for therapy. But what now? Choosing a therapist is hard. What criteria do you use? Which theoretical approach is best? How do you check competency?

Firstly, check that they are a registered member of a peak professional body. The main ones in the UK are BACP or UKCP. This means that they abide by the standards set by those bodies and are accountable to them for:

  • Recognised training/qualifications
  • Regular continued professional development
  • Ensuring their practice is supervised
  • Ensuring they are covered by professional insurance
  • The general integrity of their practice

Being an accredited member of these organisations is an additional tier that means the practitioner is experienced and has submitted evidence to a committee about their competencies. Going through the process of accreditation is quite gruelling and practitioners are assessed on a variety of criteria. However, applying for accreditation is currently a matter of personal choice for individual therapists and I would bear this in mind.

You will face a choice of therapeutic approaches, for example, Psychodynamic, Existential, Integrative, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) etc.

Unless you have a professional referral for a particular therapeutic approach, then I would say this; research evidence suggests that the primary factor in productive therapy is NOT the therapeutic theory, but the relationship established between the therapist and client. The conclusion is that it is less about the right theory and more about the right therapist for you. This means it is important for you to:

  • Talk to a few therapists over the telephone to get a sense of their practice. Most therapists are happy to arrange a brief conversation to talk through your needs.
  • Check how you feel once you meet your therapist for an assessment session. Did you feel the potential to develop a trusting relationship?
  • You may get a powerful sense immediately that this is not the therapist for you. But take a moment to check what the real issue might be and see if you can have a conversation about it with the therapist. If they are not open to such a discussion, then that’s a clear indication you need to move on. If they are willing to explore the dynamics with you further, then you can check if the relationship offers up any potential.

Ultimately your choice of therapist boils down to the right fit for you. Do you feel you can trust the practitioner to create a safe enough environment for you to do the challenging work ahead? Can you come into authentic relationship with each other?

Online vs face-to-face?

We have all grown used to working online during the pandemic. It was a practical solution to the limitations around us and improved access to therapy at a difficult time. Lots of good therapeutic work took place.

However, if given a choice and where possible, I would always opt for working person-to-person, face-to-face, together in the same room. When we come into relationship with another human being in the same physical space, we access the nonverbal communication as much as the verbal. This is harder to do online, and important subtleties can be missed.

At a time of increased remote working, there is a tendency to treat a therapy session like just another online business meeting. Notifications and emails pop up on screen making it difficult to focus on your inner landscape. The important transition period of preparing for a session, clearing a space emotionally, mentally, and physically is less top of mind. Ending an online session, just as in any other digital meeting, can be an abrupt experience, denying you the transition process out of the depth of therapy back into your outer worlds. The opportunity to reflect and integrate your experience is minimised.

If there isn’t the possibility of working face-to-face, then it is important to have a conversation with your therapist about how you both actively become more mindful about the importance of preparing for a session and the process of ending a session.

How to choose a therapist