How to Chose a Therapist?
You've decided that you want some help from a mental health professional - firstly, that's a great start! It can be daunting looking for and approaching counsellors or psychotherapists so hopefully this guide will give you some idea's of what you should look for and the kinds of things you should be asking.
1 - Ask people you know
If you feel comfortable enough talking about how you're looking for a therapist, then ask people you know if their therapist could recommend anyone for you. You could also have a candid conversation with your friends and family about what it is they found useful in therapy and what you should expect if it's your first time.
2 - Go online
In the UK there are many different directories you can find online that will help you find a therapist e.g. Psychology Today, The Counselling Directory and the BACP registry. All of these sources check the therapists credentials before they allow the listing so are all useful places to start. It's worthing noting though that not all good therapists use these directories so just googling 'psychotherapists and counsellors' in your area will bring up some good results.
3 - Read about them
If they have an online listing or a website, take the time to read what they're saying and make sure they fit in with what you need. Do you like the language they use? What are their specialisms and do they fit in with your needs? What qualifications have they got? Where are they located? Do their fees fit in with your budget? These are all questions you should ask yourself as you're reading about therapists in your area.
4 - Arrange a phone call
Most therapists will offer at least a phone call to give you an opportunity to ask any questions that their listings or websites haven't answered. This is also a good opportunity for you to get to know the therapist a little and notice how they make you feel. Ask yourself if you feel that they're listening to you? (that is their job after all!), do you think you could open up to this person? Do they put you at ease? These are all questions that you should keep in mind if throughout your first appointment as well. If you don't feel like it's working for you then talk to your therapist about it - a good therapist will listen to what's not working and explore why this is.
5 - Is theoretical orientation important?
You've read about therapists and perhaps spoken to a few and have been given lots of information about modality or orientation e.g. person-centred, integrative, psychodynamic, CBT etc. What does any of this even mean? It can feel that you need to get your own qualification in counselling just to uncover which therapeutic orientation you need. Whilst each approach has it strengths and lends itself better to particular types of problems, you should be able to ask your potential therapist to explain what they do in a way that makes sense to you; you could give them an example of an issue you're struggling with and they should be able to describe to you how they would approach that problem.