How to find a therapist
There are no quick shortcuts to finding the right therapist. It can often be helpful to get a recommendation from a friend or someone you respect, but even then, just because they are a good counsellor, doesn’t mean they would be a good fit for you.
There are a few basic criteria a potential therapist should definitely have. As I’ve mentioned on the ABOUT page, they should be registered to a body like the BACP or NCS as this will ensure they’re not some rogue chancer that has decided to call themselves a therapist and gives you a place to go if you had concerns about their practice.
If they are a registered member of a professional body they should have at least a basic level of training, but this is worth checking to see what they have studied and whether this would match the kind of support you’re looking for. Decent qualifications do not guarantee that they will be a good practitioner, but I wouldn’t see someone who didn’t have any relevant credentials.
Lastly, it would be worth exploring what experience they have. How long have they been practising, what work or life experience have they had? Does this match with the challenges you would like help with? As with the qualifications and membership to a body, experience doesn’t guarantee that they are good or the right fit for you. I’ve heard horror stories of bad practice from really experienced therapists and likewise know of fantastic counsellors that have just qualified. Broadly speaking though, plenty of experience is a good thing to look for.
There will be plenty of counsellors and psychotherapists out there that meet all of these basic requirements, so then how do you distinguish between them? Really you need to speak or meet with them to see if there is a connection. Within a few minutes, you’ll start to have a feel about whether you could trust this person. Pay attention to whether you feel listened to, do you feel safe with them, are they giving you answers that make sense?
Practically speaking then, I would normally recommend trawling the internet and making a list of around 7-10 possibilities. Their website or directory listing should tell you if they have the basic requirements and will start to give you a sense of what they might be like. I would then shortlist them to your best 5 and call them all. That might feel excessive, but you will honestly get a good sense of what they might be like to work with just by chatting on the phone. Explain you’re doing some research to find the right match and ask a few basic questions.
Based on your phone conversations, I would then meet 2 or 3 of the ones you liked the best. Ultimately I’d recommend going with your gut and choosing the person you felt the strongest connection with. Research is consistently demonstrating the importance of the therapeutic relationship, so trust your instincts and go with the person you feel most comfortable with.
A couple of places to start looking for a therapist are the Counselling Directory and the BACP Directory.