Arts Entertainments

How to find the right therapist

There are a large number of therapists who work with a wide range of methods. So how do you go about choosing someone who is right for you? The first thing to consider is whether you want to see a counselor or psychotherapist. What is the difference?

  • Counseling is usually short to medium term (from a few sessions to a year or so) and will seek to help you resolve a current difficulty in your life with a view to ending it as soon as possible.
  • However, psychotherapy is often a longer process that looks at underlying difficulties that may have troubled you for much of your life.

It is sometimes said that if you have a problem in life, go to a counselor, but if life is your problem, go to a psychotherapist?

Once you have decided between counseling and psychotherapy, you can begin to consider whom you might go to see. The first thing to say is that it’s okay to shop around, in fact, I encourage it. Many therapists offer a free first session, and even if you have to pay, finding the right person for you is probably money well spent.

You may want to start by building a list of therapists to contact. Probably the best place to start finding names is among friends and family. Find out if they themselves have received counseling or psychotherapy and, if so, did their therapist help them? Add them to the list. Then it gets a bit more complicated because anyone else will be more of an unknown quantity.

One way to know that the person you are going to see is properly trained is to visit the professional bodies to which all reputable therapists belong. For counselors this is BCAP and for psychotherapists UKCP. Their websites contain a “find a therapist” link to help you locate ones in your area.

You may also want to consider the different types of therapy available, as some may be more suitable for you than others. Although there are many approaches that can be effective, humanistic, psychodynamic, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are the most widely used:

  • Humanistic therapists are often more “caring” as they seek to facilitate the development of your natural potential for psychological and emotional health.
  • Psychodynamic therapists are often a bit “cooler,” but can be helpful in understanding how your current difficulties relate to earlier life experiences.
  • CBT therapists can be more collaborative, helping you deal with difficult feelings by thinking more clearly and behaving differently.

However, the evidence tells us that it is the quality of the therapeutic relationship rather than the therapist’s method that is the strongest predictor of likely success. So when he finally meets the therapists on your list, trust their ‘gut’ reactions. You should feel comfortable but not cozy, feeling that you can trust this person but also that they will be able to challenge you when necessary.

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