“How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for their own personal growth?”
Choosing a therapist can feel like a bewildering task. What do you put in the google search? How will you know if you are choosing the right type of therapist? What should you be looking for in terms of qualifications? What do the different ‘types’ of therapy mean? These are just a few of the questions you might be asking yourself if you are already in the throes of investigating therapists in your local area. I have written this post to hopefully help you with your search for a therapist by creating a ‘go to’ list of things to look out for. I hope you find it helpful.
How do I know if the therapist is working in a safe and ethical way?
The most essential thing to look for is whether the therapist you are considering belongs to, or is accredited with, a regulating body. One of the fundamental philosophies of these regulating organisations, mainly BACP (British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists), and UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy) is to protect clients from malpractice by providing an ethical framework for all professionals associated with it to adhere to. These ethical frameworks provide very clear guidelines, procedures and policies which all counsellors and therapists must work within, with accountability should they commit any breaches. Therapists usually display evidence of this membership, usually in the form of an e-stamp with a membership number, on their websites. If you click here you will see what my BACP stamp looks like. BACP and UKCP also have their own professional directories which only their qualified and accredited members can use. Potential clients using these directories will know that all of the therapists they see there are both qualified, and accredited with the organisation, as well as being committed to their ethical guidelines. When therapists belong to these regulating bodies they are making a very clear statement about their level of qualification and experience and, most importantly, their commitment to working with clients in a safe and ethical way
How do I know which type of therapist to choose?
This can be a baffling conundrum to wade through because professionals often list themselves as a certain type of therapist according to the training they have received. You might have come across words like Integrative, Gestalt, CBT, Transactional Analysis and Person-Centred, to name but a few. If these (somewhat high-brow) words have confused you then please let me take this opportunity to reassure you that a connection with the therapist on a human-to-human level is just as important as their particular specialism or training pathway. If you would like to find out more about the most common models of therapy, here is a link here to an article which should give you the answers you are looking for.
Each of the different ‘brands’ of therapy work primarily with and through the relationship dynamic between you and the therapist, and so the therapeutic work becomes a bespoke process that exists solely between you and your counsellor- a unique piece of work that is different to how the therapist works with all their other clients. Irvin Yalom, a renowned existential therapist and philosopher, famously said “it’s the relationship that heals, the relationship that heals, the relationship that heals” and it is this sentiment that is at the forefront of all humanistic or relational therapy. My advice for anyone looking for a therapist is to ‘shop around’. Have a look at lots of websites, organise phone consults, send some emails and ask the therapist questions about how they work- by doing this you will develop an instinct about who would be a ‘good fit’ for you as a client and if you can see how a good alliance, or connection, could develop between you and them.
What information should I expect a therapist to give me?
During the first contacts- which may be by phone, email, online or face-to-face, the therapist should provide you with some essential pieces of information about themselves. These should include the following
- An overview about how they work, for example, the particular specialism of therapy they are trained in and how they are supervised.
- A written statement of confidentiality from the therapist which details how they store their information about you and in what situations they might have to share information about you with other professionals.
- How fees are invoiced and collected.
- How to communicate with them if you are unable to attend a session, and what the rules are about paying for missed sessions.
- A therapy agreement which details your mutual contract to commit to the agreed time and days for your sessions- this may include an agreed number of sessions or could be left open-ended.
During the first session the therapist is also likely to complete an assessment questionnaire with you which is an opportunity to discuss what goals or outcomes you would like to work towards, or any issues you would like to bring into the process.
Don’t be afraid to ask therapists for any information they might have missed, or for any clarification about what feels unclear. It is really important that you enter into the process feeling as comfortable and assured as you can be, and I promise they won’t mind. With my own clients I absolutely welcome any feedback about the beginning process because I feel it is so essential to get it right. With each new client I ask myself the question that headlines this post, said by Carl Rogers, one of the great forefathers of humanistic/relational therapy…
“How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for their own personal growth?”.
Copyright Luisa Giordano Counselling