You have decided to see a therapist. It may not have been an easy decision. You probably wish that you didn’t have to go down this road. You had desperately hoped that life would have thrown you a life-raft by now. It hasn’t happened though. You know you need help.

You want to find the right person to support you. The person with understanding, knowledge, affordability, skill and professionalism to share your therapy journey with. As you begin your search, you might feel overwhelmed with the choice of therapists available. Where to begin? Welldoing.org offers help here, but these are also things to consider...

 

1. The relationship

Therapy involves a lot of talking. In time, it encourages vulnerability and the expression of your inner feelings and thoughts.  For this to happen, the relationship between counsellor and client has to be a quality one and central to the work. Skills, knowledge or exceptional therapy qualifications cannot compensate for a weak relational connection. With this in mind, it can be valuable to invest time upfront in contacting more than one therapist. Trust your own intuition and personal instincts in making this important decision.

 

2. Length of therapy

The length of therapy can vary considerably from anywhere between six to 60 weekly sessions, with the majority falling somewhere in between. Time spent in therapy usually reflects the depth of the work. Generally, shorter-term work will focus more on the presenting issue. Longer-term work allows time for greater exploration of the problem and for building a deeper understanding and improved self-awareness. Both can offer different and valuable benefits. Consider your own therapeutic goals and discuss these with a potential therapist to determine the most effective approach for you personally.


3. Focus

You might be looking for specific tools to help with a particular issue. You might be hoping to talk about a range of concerns and desire a more open approach. It can be helpful to explore your expectations with a potential therapist to understand how they might work with you. This can help you inform your decision.


4. Gender

It may feel imperative for you to work with a therapist of a particular gender. This will likely be influenced by the quality and trust of past relationships you have lived through. Experiencing a safe and empathic relationship with a therapist of a gender you previously mistrusted can be incredibly healing. You might not feel ready for this though, so trust your instincts.

 

5. Sustainable cost

Some therapy is free of charge, when accessed via the NHS or some charitable organisations. If you are choosing to pay, it is worth remembering to budget ahead to ensure you can continue your sessions. Many therapists will offer student discounts or low income rates, so it is worth investigating options. You can use the welldoing questionnaire to find therapists who offer concessions. 

 

6. Location

Your motivation for therapy will wane at times. When choosing your therapist, factor in the ongoing manageability of the journey.


7. Type of contact

Many therapists now offer Skype, telephone or email as an alternative to face-to-face support. Naturally, this broadens opportunities to work with many different people. Think carefully about whether these communication mediums will suit you and factor in the quality of your Internet connection.


8. Therapist input 

Some therapists will have a more directive style using psycho-education materials and setting homework tasks, e.g: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Others will say very little in the counselling room, rather encouraging you to explore your concerns, whilst they offer interpretation and insight, often with great focus on the past, e.g: Psychodynamic. Others will use the relationship and offer unconditional acceptance as the heart of the therapy, e.g: Humanistic counselling.  You may wish to research different options to determine your personal preference. You can find more information about different types here.


9. Diversity

You might wish to work with a counsellor who has notable experience of working with disability, sexuality or a specific mental health condition. You might prefer a counsellor who also offers a different language or understanding of a cultural perspective or religious belief. Think about what will work for you. You can search based on these criteria using this questionnaire.

This article offers you some starting guidelines. You might also wish to read about other people’s experiences of therapy to help inform your decision. Everybody’s ‘right therapist’ is slightly different. Persist in seeking out the right one for you.