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How to find the right therapist for you?

It can be a big deal deciding to engage in therapy and perhaps a daunting task to find a Psychotherapist who will be able to help you, but you feel you are ready. So, what’s next?

How to find the right therapist for you?

It can be a big deal deciding to engage in therapy and perhaps a daunting task to find a Psychotherapist who will be able to help you, but you feel you are ready. So, what’s next?

Counselling and Psychotherapy in Ireland is not yet a regulated profession although we are leaning towards it. So first on your list is to check the credentials of the therapists that you are considering. A good way to do this is to ensure they are accredited with a recognised organisation such as the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) or the Irish Association Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP).

Now, you have shortlisted a few names and you would like to get in touch. There are a number of questions you can ask which will help you to choose a counsellor. This article outlines 8 of these questions. Please note, the words “therapist”, “counsellor” and “psychotherapist” are used interchangeably.

1. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist? Do you feel safe and comfortable? Is the person down to earth and easy to relate to, or does he feel cold and emotionally removed? Is the therapist a “know it all” or arrogant? Sure, for many of us going to a therapist for the first time is a bit anxiety provoking, and it’s important to recognise that. But, if a counsellor doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s okay. It can take a few attempts before finding the right person but it is well worth it as it will widely determine the outcome of therapy.

2. Can the counsellor clearly define how they can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy? An experienced counsellor explains how she can help, is able to give you a basic “road map,” to her approach and can even give an indication of how you will know when therapy is finished.

3. Does the counsellor seek regular peer supervision? An important professional activity for any wise counsellor is regular supervision with peers or consultants. Supervision serves a number of purposes, such as, reviewing cases (respecting confidentiality), receiving advice, getting unstuck, discovering one’s own blind spots, etc. Consultation provides a counsellor with a necessary reality check, a degree of objectivity, and feedback. Even the best therapists benefit from the help of others.

4. Is your therapist asking you for regular feedback? Is she checking on how you feel you are progressing? Does she give you the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns you may have? Do you feel you empowered within the therapeutic process? Furthermore, can your therapist accept feedback and admit mistakes? A healthy therapist is open to feedback and to learning that something he said hurt or offended you. Good therapists are willing to look at themselves, to check their feelings, and to honestly and openly recognise if they were wrong.

5. Does the counsellor encourage dependence or independence? Psychotherapy doesn’t solve your problems; it helps you to solve your own. Likewise, psychotherapy doesn’t soothe your overwhelming feelings; it helps you to soothe your own. Like the old proverb, therapy is most powerful when it helps people to learn to fish for themselves rather than rely on another to feed them. If your counsellor provides wisdom, answers, or emotional support without encouraging you to access your own resources, it is more likely you will become dependent on your therapist to help you feel better, rather than on yourself.

6. Has your psychotherapist done his own therapy? One of the best ways to learn how to help someone to heal is to do your own therapy and to experience the healing process firsthand. Thus, psychotherapists who have been in their own therapy benefit from this as a learning experience and are probably better equipped to help because of it.

7. Does the counsellor make guarantees or promises? It’s important for a therapist to provide hope, but not absolute unconditional guarantees. If you have the will to change and put in the necessary time and energy, healing is possible. Most of our wounds and defences are the result of what has happened to us and to those around us. Healing can happen quickly in psychotherapy but only after getting safely through the protective layers. There are numerous factors at play in the therapy process which may contribute to or interfere with healing; some of which we are conscious, others of which we are not.

8. Does your psychotherapist adhere to ethical principles such as confidentiality, boundaries, duty of care or continuous professional development? There are numerous ethical guidelines designed to keep counsellors from harming clients. As psychotherapists, there is one major ongoing ethical obligation which, put as it simplest, is that we are always acting in the best interests of our clients. Ultimately, a therapist should be there to meet your counselling related needs for empathy, understanding and support.

Some of these questions can be answered on a first phone call and others will be better answered during the initial session. Remember that this first meeting is a real opportunity for you to decide whether you want to go further with that person or not so make good use of it and have your questions ready!

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