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What is important to look for in the right therapist for you

It is rare that two counsellors or psychotherapists will offer exactly the same service due to a number of reasons. They may use different modalities of which there are many ranging from Person-Centred, other Humanistic, Cognitive, Behavioural, Cognitive and Behavioural, Psychodynamic, Psychoanalytic, Transpersonal, Narrative, Solution-Focused and hundreds more. The modalities may be utilised singularly or combined to work as an integrative practitioner (as I do at Evimero Psychotherapy).

Other differences in therapists are their own experiences, age, culture, language, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, personal values, choice of clothing, tattoos or no tattoos and so on. Why would these make a difference to how a therapist works I used to wonder? It’s not so much about how they look, dress, think or their values, but how that may affect the relationship between client and therapist, particularly in respect of difference, diversity and power. Maybe a client has experienced poor relationships with females so would be more comfortable working with a man. Tattoos may remind them of a person from their past and would be too much of a distraction or create a sense of feeling unsafe. A person of colour may feel that a white therapist will not understand their struggles from a minority viewpoint or cannot approach the topic because they do not wish risking their experiences to be dismissed.

Power in the therapy room is a very important factor and will be considered by your therapist in various ways. They may decide not to display their qualification certificates because they feel clients with no qualifications might consider them more knowledgeable (the truth is our clients are the experts in the subject area discussed in the room which is them!). Ensuring that they do not sit higher than the client is another way to maintain a balance of ‘power’ within the relationship.

So, how do you go about finding the right therapist for YOU?

Ask questions and remind yourself what you expect from the process. Here are a few that may be worth considering…

Have they provided you with a contract and information on how they will keep your information secure and confidential?

If there is no contract in place, then how do you know what they are offering? Would you pay a solicitor for a verbal will or a plumber who promises to sort that leak but not when?

Are they adequately qualified?

Therapists are taught to work on empowering their clients and will therefore often avoid displaying their certificates but should be more than happy to show them to you. Also checking they are registered with an appropriate professional body and have indemnity insurance in place offers peace of mind that you are protected from rogue therapists.

Do I understand what they are offering me?

A good therapist will help you to understand how they work and explain any limitations to what they can offer. It is considered good practice within all counselling and psychotherapy professional bodies to be honest and transparent.

Do they discuss boundaries

Agree your objectives early on and check you are happy with their limitations of confidence. Have they covered what will happen should they bump into you in the street? Is their behaviour inappropriate? For example, sharing too much personal information about themselves or inappropriate or sexual contact. A hug may be welcome for some people but only ought to be shared if both parties are in mutual agreement.

Do I believe they are truly hearing me?

If they are still just clarifying what you have told them and only offering questions after a few weeks, are they committed to helping you make the changes that you are trying to achieve? Do they forget important points that you have already shared with them?

Do I feel supported and understood after several sessions?

A therapist ought to challenge your perspective and truths (once a therapeutic relationship has been established). It may feel difficult when they do, but this can be an important part of the process of building trust and honesty to help you work out your actual needs.

Are they talking more than you, or interrupting your flow of conversation?

If you feel misunderstood, dismissed or they’re not interested in you, that is enough to know the therapeutic relationship is not working.

Receiving vague or dismissive answers to questions ought to raise a red flag. If you feel this way keep looking for the right therapist for you. And remember your worth and expectations.

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