Choosing the right therapist for you

This blog is aimed specifically at individuals seeking help for common mental health problems in the private sector. However, I would also suggest individuals bear in mind their right to request an alternative practitioner should they be receiving help via the NHS mental health teams.

Having worked in both the NHS and private practice, I am all too aware of the high demand for talking therapies. The world appears to be getting more and more demanding of people’s time and energies. Keeping on top of financial responsibilities in a time when jobs are scarce and money is tight, is a significant factor. Social media can become a demanding past-time, especially for young people who may use this as an essential means of maintaining friendships and self-esteem.
The demand for psychological support via the NHS has meant that waiting lists are inevitable and in many cases there is a time limit on how many sessions an individual may be offered. Private treatment does not come cheap and for many people this is a last resort. As a private practitioner, specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I see many individuals who have not had the opportunity to fully address issues via the NHS or have been dissatisfied by the support received. This dissatisfaction is not restricted to NHS treatment, as many people have received a variety of therapies from a number of different services.

A significant part of any mental health practitioner’s training is the importance of developing and maintaining a strong therapeutic alliance. In layman’s terms, this means ensuring clients feel that they have a positive rapport with their therapist. This involves cultivating trust and ensuring that clients feels listened to, understood and free to disclose without judgment.
I will always stress that the client assess this alliance following the first session and continue to do so throughout treatment. Thankfully, the days when psychotherapists were viewed as ‘experts’ are long gone, and clients’ are now asked to co-create a treatment plan and are viewed as the experts of their world. The therapist is a facilitator, whose role it is to draw clients’ attention to the effect of their particular world view on their general wellbeing.

In my view, therapists are no different from any other tradespersons. I would not think twice about ditching a hairdresser or financial advisor should they fail to meet my standards as a customer. There are good hairdressers and there are bad hairdressers and therapists are no different.

So how do you assess whether your particular therapist is a good’n? The pointers below may be of help:
• Make sure your therapist has covered all aspects relevant to your problems at assessment. Assessments can take more than one session, but ideally your therapist should ask if there is anything else of relevance that hasn’t been covered.
• Ask yourself the following questions; do I feel listened to? Do I feel judgment is being passed or blame apportioned? Am I holding back out of fear of being judged?
• You should feel able to question the therapist’s rationale for treatment and challenge any assumptions they may be making that do not fit with your view of the situation.
• Are you getting your money’s worth? Therapists can charge anything from £30 to in excess of £100 for a one hour session. It’s a significant investment for anyone, and the more money you pay does not necessarily equate to better treatment.
• Ask yourself; do I understand the treatment plan? If not, this is because your therapist has not explained things enough. Do not feel embarrassed to ask for further explanation, it is vital for you to feel you understand the rationale behind treatment whether it is counseling, CBT, or otherwise.
• And remember, just because your therapist may have a long list of qualifications alongside their name, this should not bamboozle you into persevering with therapy should you feel it is not heading in the right direction. However, choosing an accredited therapist is often advisable in the first instance as they are held to account for their practice by their accrediting body and must adhere to specific guidelines and ethical procedures.

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