How Philippa Perry Thinks You Should Find a Therapist
I am delighted that Louise Chunn has set up the Welldoing.org directory to help people find a therapist. Up until now, it has been hard to know how to find a suitable therapist, and a good match is far too much down to luck. Here are some stories to explain what I mean.
For example, an acquaintance told me that her partner had gone to the doctor for an erectile dysfunction problem. The doctor referred this 48-year old man to a female counsellor who looked about 22; he felt too embarrassed to talk to such a young and attractive woman about his problem and he did not return, nor did he look for a private therapist, largely because they did not know where to start looking; he felt demotivated to do anything further about his problem after this experience. Chance brought them to me and I was able to find a suitable therapist for them. Good outcomes like these should not be so dependent upon chance encounters.
A colleague told me that when she first came to this country – before the days of the internet – she was so desperate that she rang round the Yellow Pages until she found someone who answered the telephone with a Received Pronunciation accent. She does not recommend this as a way of finding a psychotherapist, as her experience was one of wasted time, lost money, and further emotional damage.More recently someone else told me she used Google and came across a psychoanalysis site with a list of names. The names were all the information she had to go on and so she chose someone with the surname of Wolf as she liked wolves. After a few sessions with her Wolf she asked for more feedback, Dr. Wolf did not give the sort of feedback she was after but he was able to refer her to her current therapist who does. If only she could have gone straight to her current therapist she would have saved herself some time and money.
I understand that gathering anecdotes does not equal research but I have heard enough sorry tales and been approached by enough potential clients to be concerned at the ways in which people are introduced to therapy. One cannot disregard the emotional and mental state of the individual who is seeking support, and to put them through such experiences cannot help their general wellbeing or their perception of the therapy sector.
Once you find a suitable therapist with whom you click, therapy has the best chance of working, but without a good working alliance, therapy is doomed to falter. It has taken a non-therapist, Louise Chunn, to look into how to make a match between therapist and potential client less a matter of chance. Louise has founded welldoing.org, a website with articles about therapy and psychology and also something that goes beyond the usual register of qualified therapists. Every therapist on the Welldoing therapist directory, in addition to having recognised qualifications has to fill in a questionnaire. These questionnaires are not so much therapist-centric as client-centric. Therapists have to give details of how they work; a potential client will also fill in a questionnaire that sums up their expectations and needs. Details are on the How we Help page.
Up until now it has been the client's responsibility to find out about the profession and to build bridges towards it in order to find out how it can help them. Welldoing.org's therapist directory and content is building a bridge towards the client to make therapy more accessible than it has been in the past. I think clients need to know what to expect, not only from seeing someone of a particular therapeutic approach but also what to expect of their therapist's personality and intellect. Unless you are assured on this point you are unlikely to pursue a relationship with them.
As therapists we are fond of our therapy tribes, be it gestaltist, analyst, person-centred, psychodynamic, humanist or whatever the tribe is, but research has shown that no matter what theory it is that the therapist espouses - and there are only small differences between the theories - it is the relationship with the therapist, their personality, that makes the difference. So it wouldn't matter if I had trained as an analyst or a clinical psychologist, it is me with whom the client has a relationship, more than the angle I approached my training from. It is details about the individual therapists, their personality and way of working that welldoing.org's questionnaire is designed to discover, and it is about the individual client's preferences, giving them a better chance or being a good match, rather than a pin in the yellow pages or what images a therapist chooses for their website.
This therapist directory is a fantastic step making the daunting task of finding the suitable therapist for you much smoother.
Photo: Flo Perry