That first step of reaching out and beginning to look for a therapist is daunting, to say the least.
So many of us don’t consider engaging in therapy until we are in crisis, and at that point, we are often so distressed and confused that many of us don’t know where or who to turn to for help.
“What Kind Of Help Do I Need?”
If you’re unsure about what help you need, get advice.
If you are struggling with something like trauma, are in a place of crisis and your distress is impacting your life in a significant way, you may want to consider approaching an organisation as opposed to a specific individual. At my clinic, we offer people free advice about what clinical approach may be most appropriate for their specific needs. All of our enquiries are contacted by someone with clinical training who is able to properly advise about what treatments may be most helpful. Many other institutions will offer a similar service.
There are other sites such as the Counselling Directory and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) that hold a directory of therapists that might be helpful. I would also urge you to ask friends and family to see if you can get a personal recommendation.
“What Degree Should My Therapist Have?”
I cannot stress enough how important training is for a therapist.
If someone is still studying and working toward a clinical qualification then they should state so clearly. You should bear in mind that they will not be as experienced as a qualified clinician. Someone with a psychology degree is not a therapist nor is a life coach. You need to look for a therapist with specific counselling or psychotherapy training. These will have taken several years to complete. At my clinic, we only employ therapists who have years of clinical training, many to Masters level and who have also undertaken several years of personal therapy.
“Therapeutic Modalities - What Should I Look For?”
If you are suffering from something specific, like an eating disorder, then it’s crucial that you speak to a specialist.
Most eating disorder specialists will draw on different modalities in their work with clients and will have experience of working and treating sufferers. Don’t be afraid to enquire about a clinicians history of working with a particular client group. The key thing is to enquire about the experience a clinician has of working with a particular issue, as opposed to the modality itself.
A good and experienced clinician will be able to mould and shape their approach to suit your needs. In my experience, many therapists will state on their websites that they work with a whole range of issues but it’s important that you enquire directly because when pressed, some therapists will admit to having only worked with some issues casually and not in any depth.
“Who Do I Want As My Therapist?”
If you already know that you would like to work with someone of a specific gender or age then that’s ok!
Your goal is to find a therapist with whom you can build a safe relationship with, if you already know that you struggle to build intimate relationships with men, then it might be wise to consider working initially with a woman with whom you can explore these issues.
“What’s My Budget For Therapy?”
When you start looking for therapeutic support it’s important to consider what your budget is.
Are you looking to pay privately for treatment and if so, what can you afford? This will help you narrow down your search to therapists who are seeking clients for a similar fee. Many therapists will also hold a caseload of a few low-fee paying clients so if you do have your heart set on someone, it’s worth asking if they offer any lower rates.
“How Should I Reach Out To Potential Therapists?”
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to perhaps a few therapists, call them.
You may well feel nervous or uneasy during this first call and that’s not necessarily an indicator of whether someone is right for you. I think we can get a better sense of whether someone might be a good fit for us by speaking with them first. If there are any glaring red flags such as boundary issues, unwillingness to commit to sessions, etc. then listen to your intuition and continue your search.
I do find that the universe has a way of making sure that we find our way to the right people so if something doesn’t feel right, listen to your heart and trust that the right person is out there for you.
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