Hearts & Minds Counselling

Counselling in Huddersfield, Lindley & Marsden

How do I choose the right therapist for me?

So you’ve taken a big step in deciding you would like to try counselling but suddenly feel completely overwhelmed with how to find someone you can trust? Finding a therapist who is a good fit for you is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure you get the best out of sessions, but it can feel like a daunting task when you’re not in a great space mentally.  To make the process a little easier, I’ve put together some important points to consider when you start your search.

Professional credentials

Unfortunately, therapy and counselling are unregulated professions in the UK and this can lead to individuals advertising themselves as therapists when they have no appropriate qualifications to practice. A good way of ensuring that your therapist has had the relevant training is to check that they have professional registration. This would most often be with the BACP, UKCP, BPS, NCS or the BABCP.

If they are not listed in a relevant professional directory, it is always wise to ask a potential therapist what qualifications they have to practice and make an informed decision based on their answer. Therapy can be expensive, time consuming and it isn’t always an easy journey, so it is crucial that your therapist has enough skills and experience to support you.

What do you want from therapy?

Possibly the most important question of all to reflect on when choosing a therapist! Mental health issues come in all shapes and sizes and most therapists lean towards certain areas of interest, instead of trying to be an expert in everything. Maybe you’re neurodiverse and want a therapist who has a good understanding of the kind of challenges that can be experienced by individuals with your condition. Or perhaps you are struggling with a specific fear or phobia and would like some very guided support to try and overcome it.

Whatever your personal reasons for seeking therapy, it is always in your interest to find a therapist who has invested in additional training and CPD which enables them to have a good understanding of how best to support you. Critically, any good therapist should be able to tell you if you have an issue that they feel someone else might be more competent to help you with. If this happens, they should be able to refer you to someone who can provide you with the right kind of support.

Can they meet your needs?

There are a huge number of modalities that therapists can train in and it is important to reflect on how this might impact your work together. Reflect on what you are expecting from counselling and keep this in mind when starting your search.

If you are looking for something which is solutions-focused and don’t mind a little homework, a CBT trained therapist may be what you need. Perhaps you are keen to find something more reflective where you can explore your thoughts and feelings thoroughly? In this case, you may want to select someone who takes a person-centred or psychotherapeutic approach and who is able to provide longer term sessions.

Or maybe you have been diagnosed with severe PTSD and would like to look for a therapist who is trained in EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing)? You can filter for these specialisms or type them into the keyword field, when searching websites such as Counselling Directory or Psychology Today.

Other common therapeutic approaches include transactional analysis, internal family systems, acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy. Often, you will see the term ‘integrative therapist’ used on professional profiles. This means that the therapist has trained in and uses a multitude of approaches and can tailor sessions according to the needs of the individual.

Listing them all here isn’t all that useful for you as it means very little unless you have an understanding of each approach- something which few people have time for unless it is their field of work! However, although you don’t need to be familiar with the details of every modality, it can be well worth doing a little research into what the most effective type of therapy is for your particular issue and seeking out a therapist who has the relevant training. It may well be that there is more than one effective approach, and, in that case, it comes down to your preferred way of working. Remember, ultimately these are your sessions and you are in the driving seat when it comes to making a choice about the type of therapy you would like to explore.

Logistics and practicalities

So, you’ve scoured the listings and directories and finally found someone who is the perfect therapist for you, but they are only available at times when you are at work! Whilst it may be tempting to try and fit therapy into your life at an inconvenient time and bend over backwards to have sessions with your chosen counsellor, it is highly unlikely that this will work for you in the medium or long term.

The last thing you want is for therapy appointments to feel like another pressure in your life, so make things easier for yourself by finding someone who can see you at a time that suits you. If the person you have chosen doesn’t have immediate availability, they might offer to add you to a waiting list so that they can contact you when a suitable slot becomes available. They should be able to give you some idea of how long this might be so that you can decide if you would prefer to wait or find someone else.

The other things to consider are location and cost. If your preferred therapist lives a long commute away, do they offer access to therapy online? This can be a great alternative if you are short on time and may also be more flexible than seeing someone face to face. If you want an in-person appointment, consider how easy it is for you to get to them. Do they have plenty of parking nearby? Are they close to good public transport links?

No doubt you will have considered the cost before seeking private therapy, but it is worth having an idea of what is affordable for you. Private therapy can cost anything from around £35 to over £200 a session, depending on lots of factors, so check that any potential therapist you enquire with is offering counselling at a price bracket that suits you. If you are struggling financially, many therapists can offer discounts for students or individuals on low incomes. Increasingly, practitioners are open to considering less frequent sessions (such as every fortnight instead of weekly) to help you mitigate the cost of therapy. So, if cost is a concern for you, it may be worth asking any potential therapist if this is something they might consider.

First impressions count

Although it’s important not to decide based on image alone, let’s not pretend that the headshot doesn’t matter at all. Whoever we choose as a therapist will most probably be sitting in a room with us while we share our innermost thoughts, so it is essential that you feel safe with them. Do they look approachable or intimidating? Formal or relaxed? Are they looking straight at you or away into the distance? Is the image clear and professional or is it more of a blurred selfie? What is in the background?

All these things can tell you a lot about how they have chosen to present themselves and help you to get a feel for whether this is somebody you would be comfortable with. For example, some therapists might opt for a background that hints at the way they work- counsellors offering outdoor therapy may have trees or a skyline behind them or if they work indoors they may choose an image taken in the room you would be visiting them in. That being said, it is worth remembering that a photo is only a one-dimensional image and people can appear very different when you meet them. So try not to get too hung up on what they look like but instead focus on how looking at them makes you feel. Can you imagine yourself feeling safe opening up to them and talking about things that make you feel vulnerable? This is the first step to successful counselling.

Everyone differs in what they are looking for so make sure you take time to reflect on what characteristics you most need in a therapist and the kind of environment you might feel comfortable having sessions in. If you are still unsure, many therapists offer a free phone call or brief consultation where you can ask them any questions you have and get a better idea of how it might feel to work with them.

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