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How to choose the right therapist for you

Updated on January 17, 2012

Starting therapy or counselling can be a daunting task. I hope what follows will help you to think about how to go about this so you get the most out of it.

It is important to feel safe and comfortable with the person that you choose to speak to about anything that troubles you and that is personal to you. What you feel initially and what comes into your mind when you speak to a therapist is also important. Whatever kind of therapy or counselling you choose, you are going to recieve it through the person that is your therapist and so your relationship with them is central to how much you will get out of it. If for example they remind you of someone who hurt you or annoyed you, this might be useful, but you will have to work this through before you work on anything else...is this what you want?

Preparing yourself for the first contact is vital. Think about how to describe the problems that you are having and what you want to work towards...this will give a therapist or counsellor a much better idea of the kind of person you are. But be kind to yourself, and private about your life. Afterall, they have only just met you, you don't need to lay yourself bare. Just tell them enough to help them see how you got to where you are and what you have already tried to sort it out. Questions like the following are often asked and it may help to role-play a little in your mind what you might say:

  • when did this first start
  • how often does it happen
  • when is it at it's worst
  • when do you notice it is better
  • what helps
  • what makes it worse

When you first speak to them, either on the phone or face-to-face, think about how at ease you feel, how helpful they are in enabling you to speak and think and what they seem interested in. Some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  1. are they easy to understand?
  2. do they seem to get the problem I have?
  3. are they focused on what I want to achieve?
  4. could I disagree with them?
  5. do I feel able to ask questions of them?

If, after your first contact you answer strongly no to any of the above, it might be a good idea to think about why you would proceed with working with that person, and probably why you would be paying them too. We all have "should" and "shouldn'ts" in our minds...but taking notice of some of these when choosing a therapist is the first bit of learning...you don't have to keep listening to them if they are not helpful! Just because someone you know recommended this therapist or a respected governing body accredits this therapist, doesn't mean that you should use them or feel comfortable with them.

Try to notice a couple of things about what you did and said that you feel went well, during the conversation and perhaps come back to this page and read it again, afterwards, and see if it went as you thought it would...or if it went better than expected...?

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