Find the right therapist for you

Feeling comfortable with your therapist or counsellor is important, as it affects how well your talking therapy goes.

"The most important factor in determining whether your therapy is successful is your relationship with the therapist," says Phillip Hodson of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

What sort of therapist do you want?

If you are planning to have counselling or therapy privately, think about what kind of therapist you want. For instance, you may prefer a man or a woman, someone with the same background as you (or a different one) or someone your own age or older.

If you’re having talking therapy on the NHS, you may not be able to choose who you see. That doesn’t mean you have to stick with a counsellor or therapist you’re not happy with. If it’s not working, ask for a referral to a different therapist (although you may have to wait).

Finding the right therapist for you

When you meet a therapist for the first time, ask yourself if you think you would feel more comfortable with a different type of person. If you think you would feel uncomfortable no matter who the therapist was, your concerns may be more about the situation than the therapist themselves.

"If you’re paying for private therapy, you can treat the initial assessment a bit like an audition," says Phillip.

"It’s a good sign if you get a gut feeling the therapist knows what they’re doing and you’re able to talk openly with them. But if you don't get this feeling, then I’d advise you not to continue."

Talking therapies can mean opening up about your private thoughts and feelings, so it’s important that the therapist puts you at ease. You should feel able to talk honestly without getting too nervous or embarrassed.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you feel comfortable telling this person intimate details about your life?
  • Do you like their manner towards you?
  • Do you trust them?
  • Do you feel safe with them?
  • Do you feel they want what’s best for you?

A good therapist:

  • listens to what you say
  • values what you say
  • shows empathy and understanding
  • doesn’t talk down to you
  • checks you're getting what you want from therapy
  • deals with any worries you may have about the therapy, such as how you’ll manage when it comes to an end

Also check that they are accredited by a professional body, such as the BACP.

Getting the most out of talking therapy

"Talking therapies aren’t meant to be cosy and you’re not there to just chat and have coffee," says Phillip Hodson. "The sessions are hard work."

Here are some things to bear in mind:

  • Expect to feel awkward and nervous at first. You’ll feel less intimidated as time goes on.
  • Talking therapies require you to be honest with yourself as you try to understand yourself better.
  • The goal is to talk about what’s on your mind, even though you may feel confused by uncertain feelings, doubts and questions.
  • There may be tasks or homework, to do between sessions, such as trying out new ways of behaving or keeping a diary. You’ll get better and quicker results if you complete them.
  • Remember even getting yourself to each session is a huge step forward.

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