How to choose a therapist

Choosing a psychologist or therapist can be confusing but need not be intimidating!

Once you know that they have the right credentials (e.g. BPS, BABCP or HPCP) and that they have the right expertise & competence in helping with your type of problem , it largely comes down to level of personal comfort with that person. Choose a psychologist with whom you feel comfortable and at ease. Here are some questions to help find the right one.

Good Questions to ask – that any decent Psychologist or Therapist should be Happy to Answer…

  • What qualifications do you have?
  • What professional bodies are you accredited with? (e.g. HCPC, BPS)
  • What specific experience do you have with my type of problem? Have you been successful in helping other similar people?
  • Do you specialise in CBT or do you also use other types of therapy? Decide if you want a CBT specialist or someone from a more generalised background. (No one can specialise in everything!).
  • If they claim to use CBT, ask them what & how much specific training they have in CBT. Unfortunately, some therapists ‘badge’ their therapy as ‘CBT’ after training in CBT for just a few weeks and then go on to do other types of training. Unless they have done extensive training in CBT alone this may not be the level of CBT expertise that you need.
  • Do they set tasks to do in between sessions (so that you can make most effective use of your therapy).
  • Ask if you can audio-record sessions (this may make therapy more effective as you can review the session later at your own pace and make the most of it).
  • What ideas do you have about how my problem can be treated? What are reasonable goals for treatment?
  • What supervision do you have? Note – all proper therapists & psychologists have regular supervision regardless of how senior or qualified they are. This is to offer a degree of quality control. Steer well clear of anyone who does not have this!
  • What ideas do you have about how my problem can be treated & what could be the approximate length of therapy for my type of issues?

Cautionary Signs:

  • Therapists who appear shifty or avoidant when asked questions
  • Therapists who claim to be ‘Expert in everything’ or who claim to “do a bit of CBT’ or offer CBT depending on what you need
  • Pessimistic therapists

If you already have a therapist:

How to get the best out of therapy:

  1. If you already have a therapist – are they helping you move forward with goals & strategies -not just letting you talk?
  2. Make sure that they are offering you the best available therapy andthe most up-to-date therapy for your problem
  3. Make written notes during the sessions of important points
  4. Ask questions (lots)
  5. Are they offering you potential strategies to overcome the issues that you want help with? (after a session or two).
  6. Are they setting you useful things to try out between sessions – so that you can gradually develop new ways of dealing with problems?
  7. Sometimes you might want to bring a partner or family member (for example, if your problem involves other people). Are they OK with this?
  8. Ask if the sessions can be audio-recorded e.g. using the Voice memo app or other function on your phone
  9. Try not to shy away from trying out new ways of doing things; nothing ventured – nothing gained!

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