Five things to look for in a therapist

Looking for a counsellor or therapist, though seemingly daunting without a recommendation, can be made easier if you follow a few guidelines and keep a few things in mind.

I have been talking to people for 20 years on the phone who are trying to unravel the maze of qualifications and accreditations to find the right person for them, and I am only too aware that when I needed to seek some therapeutic help a long time ago, I was lucky; a therapist was recommended to me by someone I knew, and they turned out to be well qualified and experienced.

One of the things that impels a person to seek help is something called the 'Point of Optimal Frustration'. Generally speaking, this is the point which a person's pain or discomfort is greater than the mind's natural resistance to making change. This can result in urgent or rushed decisions on which therapist to choose, and to people grabbing the soonest appointment (when experienced therapists are usually fairly booked up).

So, what should you look for in a therapist?

1. What qualifications do they have and where did they gain them?

At LCCP, we understand that the array of qualifications that are presented on websites can be pretty confusing and we are in favour of demystifying this area. It isn't possible to go into all qualifications and training requirements here, however, there are some sensible questions about qualifications to ask yourself and anyone you contact for possible treatment.

What your therapist's qualifications are is an important consideration. While it may be easy to assume that if someone is a counsellor or psychotherapist they must have had long-term or high-quality training, that isn't necessarily always the case.

Some qualifications can be gained in as little as six months, with little or no requirement for the trainee to engage in their own personal development - it varies a lot between different qualifications.  Recently we have had more enquiries that ever from counsellors who have got their qualifications online, asking if they can have either consulting room space or a position within LCCP. The answer is always no, we would never allow someone to join us who has not met the criteria below and committed themselves significantly to their own personal development. 

It may be worth considering a qualification like a Diploma in Counselling or Psychotherapy really to be the start of the learning process of a good practitioner, not the end. People are extremely complex and we are all individuals, it takes hundreds or even thousands of hours of practice to really start to understand people and how they function emotionally and cognitively. 

Learn more about our counsellors and psychotherapists.

2. Are they accredited?

The four main accreditation bodies in the UK are UKCP (United Kingdom for Counselling and Psychotherapy) who are an umbrella organisation accrediting several different training modalities, BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy), BPS (British Psychological Society) and BABCP (British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies). All these organisations have set minimum standards for training in their respective fields.

For more info about the differences between memberships and accreditations, see one of our previous posts.  

3. Is the therapist's approach right for what you are dealing with?

It should always be fine for you to ask questions about the approach of a treatment. After all its no good going into psychoanalysis sessions 3 times a week if you want to overcome a fear of flying that 8 – 10 sessions of CBT or EMDR might resolve!

Read more about our services and our approach.

4. What experience does the counsellor have?

I have been a Psychotherapist for 20 years and have something like 16,000 hours practice with clients, and I am still learning something new all the time. In my opinion, there is no substitute for experience.

5. Do you feel understood by your counsellor?

As skilled communicators, we are able to get along with a wide range of people who can present with sometimes challenging ways of communicating. Still, it is important that you feel comfortable with your counsellor and that they understand your approach and outlook well enough to assist.