There are a huge number of therapists out there working with a wide range of methods. So how are you going to choose someone that’s right for you? The first thing to consider is whether you want to see a counsellor or a psychotherapist? What is the difference?
- Counselling is usually short to medium term (anything from a few sessions to a year or so) and will seek to help you resolve a current difficulty in your life with a view to ending as soon as possible.
- Psychotherapy however is often a longer process that looks at underlying difficulties that may have troubled you for much of your life.
It is sometimes said that if you have a problem in life then go and see a counsellor but if life is your problem then see a psychotherapist?
Once you’ve decided between counselling and psychotherapy you can start considering who you might go and see. The first thing to say is that it’s fine to shop around, in fact I’d encourage it. Many therapists offer a free first session, and even if you need to pay, finding the right person for you is probably money well spent.
You may want to begin by putting together a list of therapists to make contact with. Probably the best place to begin finding names is amongst friends and family. Find out if they have had counselling or psychotherapy themselves and if so, did their therapist help? Add them to the list. Then it gets a bit more tricky because anyone else is going to be more of an unknown quantity.
One way of knowing that the person you are going to see is trained properly is by visiting the professional bodies that all reputable therapist belong to. For counsellors this is BCAP and for psychotherapists UKCP. Their websites contain a ‘find a therapist’ link to help you locate those in your area.
You may also wish to consider the different types of therapy available as some may suit you better than others. Although there are many approaches that can be effective, humanistic, psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are the most widely used:
- Humanistic therapists are often ‘warmer’ to be with, as they look to facilitate the development of your natural potential for psychological and emotional health.
- Psychodynamic therapists are often a bit ‘cooler’ but can be helpful in understanding the way your current difficulties relate to earlier experiences in life.
- CBT therapists may be more collaborative, helping you to manage difficult feelings by thinking more clearly, and behaving differently.
However, evidence tells us that it is the quality of the therapeutic relationship rather than the method of the therapist that is the strongest indicator of likely success. So when you finally meet the therapists on your list, trust your ‘gut’ reactions. You should feel comfortable but not cosy – sensing that you could trust this person but also that they will be able to challenge you where necessary.