How to find the right therapist for you and your needs

Accepting that you need help with your mental health is a vital first step that some people don’t find themselves able or ready to take for years.

But after you decide to start talking therapy there’s still more work to do when it comes to finding the right therapist for you and your needs.

That’s why we talked to mental health experts for tips on how to get your therapy journey off to the right start.

How to find the right therapist

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, tells us: ‘Asking for help is one of the most important things to do if you feel like you’re experiencing a mental health problem. Speak to someone you know and trust – such as a friend or family member – or go to your GP, who can talk you through the support that’s available.

‘Speaking to your GP about mental health for the first time can seem daunting, so Mind has produced a guide called Find the Words to help you prepare for your appointment.’

Counselling Directory member Lucy Fuller also tells us that finding the right therapist can be ‘daunting’ because there are so many out there to choose from.

She says: ‘The first step is to try and define in just a couple of sentences what you feel are your main presenting difficulties and, as best you can, what you want to achieve from therapy.

‘This is very valuable information for a potential therapist, especially if they need to have specialist areas of experience and expertise to address your difficulties.

‘The language around all the different types of therapists available can be very confusing but the different names point to different levels of qualification and different areas of expertise.

‘The NHS and Mind both have good information on their websites about different kinds of therapists.’

The Mind website also suggests you ask your prospective therapist or referrer what kind of therapy they practice and if they have a specialism, what their background is, their experience working with a problem/problems like yours, what therapy will be like with them, their confidentiality policy, what happens if you miss a session, and if there’s a waiting list for seeing them.

Mind’s list of common types of talking therapy

  • Arts or creative – uses music and the arts as a way to give voice to difficult feelings
  • Behavioural – explores your actions
  • Cognitive – explores your thoughts, for eg Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Dialectical – explores opposite positions and looks at how they could coexist
  • Humanistic – focuses on your mind, body, and ‘soul’
  • Mindfulness-based – focuses on awareness and acceptance of your thoughts and feelings
  • Person-centred – explores how you can use your strengths and insight about yourself to encourage personal growth
  • Psychoanalytic (or analytic) – explores unconscious thoughts, often stemming from your childhood
  • Psychodynamic (or dynamic) – explores how unconscious thoughts impact your actions
  • Solution-focused – explores how you want to live in the future rather than what happened in the past

Often therapists will be trained in a variety of different styles and will be able try different approaches based on what they think will work best for you.

How to find a private therapist

When it comes to paying for private therapy, Lucy says: ‘I suggest you look at the Counselling Directory, UKCP (UK Council of Psychotherapists) or BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) websites which both have listings of fully qualified and experienced therapists.

‘Here, you will be able to search for a geographical area, or online therapists, and be able to read therapists’ profiles and their websites, if they have them. Look for someone who just seems to click with your requirements and who seems interesting in their personal profile.

‘You might like to try out more than one therapist initially to help you choose but I would always recommend setting up an initial session where you can tell the therapist more about yourself and they can explain to you about how they work. You can then decide if you would like to go ahead and book more sessions.’

Lucy also says you should take stock of how your therapy is going on a regular basis, telling us: ‘The therapeutic process should be reviewed regularly to make sure that you are finding it valuable and you are making progress on your therapeutic journey.’

Talking therapy sessions tend to cost from £10-£70 depending on your location.

However, as the NHS points out, many private therapists will offer a free trial session as well as lower rates for people on low wages, jobseekers and students.

What about free therapy?

If you aren’t able to see a private therapist, you can go through the NHS or a charity.

Stephen says: ‘Some community and charity sector organizations may offer free or low-cost talking therapies. Some local Minds, for example, are offering remote counselling during the coronavirus outbreak.

‘You can contact Mind’s InfoLine to see what services are available in your area. The Mind Infoline can be reached Monday to Friday 9.00 am – 6.00 pm on 0300 123 3393.’

What if you’re on a waiting list?

You may find that there’s a waiting list and you’re not able to see someone right away.

Stephen says: ‘We know it can be really frustrating to ask for help and be told there is a long waiting list. This might feel especially hard right now due to the extra uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic has created.

‘There are however some things you can try to explore, while you wait for your therapy sessions to begin.’

If you’re on a waiting list, Stephen recommends:

When to ring 999

Stephen stresses: ‘If you’re feeling like you might attempt suicide, or you have seriously harmed yourself, it is an emergency. You should call 999 for an ambulance.

‘The NHS still wants you to do this during the coronavirus outbreak. Mental health emergencies are serious.

‘You are not wasting anyone’s time. If you need to talk, there are people ready to listen. You can call Samaritans any time on 116 123. Shout also offers a free 24/7 crisis text service. Text SHOUT to 85258.’ 

Need support for your mental health?

You can contact mental health charity Mind on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463.

Mind can also be reached by email at [email protected]

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