Advice on how to Find a Therapist or Find a Counsellor

Trying to find a therapist or counsellor for yourself can feel overwhelming. There’s so much choice, how do you even start? Huge volumes of people head to google everyday searching for the phrase therapist near me, so you’re not the only one on this quest. In this blog I will help you to understand some of the different terms used, and provide some helpful hints to enable you to feel more confident choosing the person for you.

What different types of help are available?

There are a range of professionals you can work with to help you with your mental health, so it’s important as a start to understand the difference between them.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and they work solely within mental health and related areas (e.g. addiction, eating disorders etc). Their role is to complete a formal diagnosis, and provide specialist medication support beyond a level that your GP can provide. They do not provide Talking Therapy. Most private psychiatrists in the UK will be connected as a consultant to a private hospital.

Psychologist

In the UK we have Clinical Psychologists, Counselling Psychologists, and Health Psychologists. They will have studied to PHD level at university, and their studies will typically have included some research-based work and/or client work. If you are needing a Psychological Assessment for Court or Legal purposes, it would usually be a Clinical Psychologist that you would see. Clinical and Counselling Psychologists are usually accredited with HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) or with BPS (British Psychological Society). Health Psychologists typically focus on working with those with physical health conditions which are impacting their mental health.
In the private practice world, you won’t come across a large number of Counselling Psychologists, and even less Health Psychologists, but there is plenty of Clinical Psychologists. A Clinical Psychologists is required to study multiple types of therapy, whereas a counsellor or therapist can qualify in just one. A psychologist is more likely to work with clients that need longer term input, for example years rather than months.

Counsellor

The term counsellor is often used as a catch all term for any person that provides talking therapy. An individual trained to deliver talking therapy can train from college level to post-graduate degree level, so there’s a huge range of qualification levels. The most common type of counselling is Person-Centred Counselling. This is a none directive, unstructured approach to therapy, with the aim of giving an individual a safe and confidential space to explore their issues. There is an expectation with person-centred counselling that the client does more of the leading/speaking. The majority of practitioners under this category will be accredited with the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) or the NCS (National Counsellors Society). Counselling can be both shorter term and longer term. Different types of counselling include – integrative, existential, gestalt, humanistic, interpersonal, Jungian, and couples.

Psychotherapist

The term psychotherapist like counsellor also covers a range of types of therapists. Although not always the case, most Psychotherapists will have trained at degree level or higher, and are more likely to be trained to work at depth. The most common Psychotherapy role is that of a Cognitive and Behavioural Therapist (CBT). They are accredited by the BABCP (British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy). CBT Therapy is typically directive and structured, the therapist is an active participant in the session, and client’s are expected to engage in a learning and change based approach. Other types of therapy that Psychotherapists typically offer include ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), DBT (Dialectic Behavioural Therapy), Mindfulness Therapy, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming).

 

Accessing Private Therapy

It’s great that you’re considering investing in your mental health. There’s many reasons that clients choose to access this service privately, which include a lack of waiting lists compared to the NHS, having the choice to choose the person that’s right for you, the convenience of accessing therapy when and how you wish and a more personalised treatment approach.

Criteria for how to choose a therapist or counsellor

Each person will have different factors that will influence the decision to find a therapist, there are some that might be more important to consider, but each are worth thinking about.

Personal Connection

Above all else, your personal connection with your counsellor or therapist is most important. Although their level of experience might matter, and the type of therapy can make a difference, none will matter more than how you feel with the person you will work with.
Therapy often requires us to say things out loud that we have never shared with any other person, to reveal our darkest thoughts, or most destructive behaviours, our conflicting emotions. In order to do this, we need to feel relaxed, comfortable and not judged with the professional we work with.
It can help sometimes to read reviews online, to read blogs written by the therapist or counsellor to give you a gauge of them. A lot of therapists offer free contact before booking a chargeable therapy session, whether this is a phone consultation, or email communication, so definitely utilise this if you’re unsure. A number of clients will change their mind after meeting their counsellor for the first time, and decide the fit isn’t right, and that’s absolutely fine too.

Specialist experience, training or skill

If you already know what the problem is that you’re wanting to work on, it can be really helpful to find a therapist with particular experience or training in that are. Most counsellors and therapist are trained in treating a range or problems, but finding one that knows your problem area inside and out is especially helpful. Therefore if you are google searching, you might want to do a more targeted search, for example People Pleasing Therapist, Anxiety Therapist, Trauma Therapist, OCD Therapist, Infidelity Counsellor or Grief Counsellor. Alternatively it is certainly worth asking anyone you may be interested in what their specialist interest areas.

Face to Face Therapy versus Telephone Therapy or Video Therapy

Convenience is high on people’s list of priorities these days, understandably so in the busy lives that we have. Research shows us that the way in which therapy is delivered doesn’t impact the outcomes, but it’s important that you choose a way that you’ll best engage with. There isn’t a right or wrong, there’s what’s the best fit for you. Working with an online therapist can help you in finding a therapist with a perfect match of specialist knowledge or skills, so it’s certainly worth considering.

Qualifications and Accreditations

As I’ve said above, counsellors, therapists and psychologists can be trained anywhere from college level up to doctorate level. Although more knowledge doesn’t always equal a better practitioner, it will indicate the level of taught knowledge they have achieved. It is also important that whoever you work with is someone that continues to learn after their initial training. If the practitioner is accredited, that will usually mean that they are required to continue engaging in CPD and in reflective practice. Again accreditation doesn’t guarantee a better therapist, but it does indicate that they have achieved a particular level and have voluntarily decided to be monitored somewhat as a professional.

Therapy Fees

Therapy costs can vastly vary from as low as £20 to hundreds or thousands per session. Most practitioners will sit within the £60-£200 range. The price can vary based upon geographical location, level of training, specialist experience etc. A therapist who charges at a higher fee may be more likely to achieve results in less sessions, and the price reflects this. The cost you pay isn’t just for the time that you’re in the session itself, but for your therapist to stay in communication with you between sessions when needed, the time outside of session they think about you and how best to help you, to discuss you or other clients in supervision to continue reflecting and improving their skill, to complete administration tasks, to engage in continual training, and much more.

 

How to find a therapist or find a counsellor

Word of mouth

Sometimes the best recommendation comes from people you know, if you feel comfortable and able to ask others around you that you trust. You’d be surprised that there are probably more people in your life than you think that have seen a therapist.

Google search

Google searching can be really effective, but make sure you narrow down your search a little, whether by location, type of therapy, or the problem you want help with. If you have found a therapist through Google and want extra certainty, you can ask them for details of their qualifications, training or proof of accreditation.

Directories

There are lots of directories out there. Each of the accreditation bodies mentioned earlier in this blog have their own directory listings, but be aware that to be on those registers therapists have to pay a significant additional fee, so many will choose not to be listed.
There are other directories that therapists can pay to be listed on such as Counselling Directory or Psychology Today. Both give options to narrow the searching which can help.

 

Other relevant blogs:

What is CBT, and how does it work? | Hannah Paskin (hannahpaskintherapy.co.uk)

What to expect from Therapy | Hannah Paskin (hannahpaskintherapy.co.uk)

Will therapy help me? | Hannah Paskin (hannahpaskintherapy.co.uk)

 

For those seeking NHS funded therapy head to the website below:

NHS talking therapies – NHS (www.nhs.uk)