• Hypnotherapist | Abby Corfield

The two most important questions to answer when choosing a therapist

Like clients, therapists are each unique, with approaches and personalities which vary greatly. You might prefer someone who is totally empathetic and reassuring, or you may prefer someone who is a bit more ‘tough love’ and challenges you. Sometimes, you might want a therapist who can offer you a bit of both.

You might be drawn to someone for certain qualities, such as male, female or non-binary, a ‘motherly’ or ‘fatherly’ demeanour, younger or older, their tone of voice. In the early days of choosing a therapist, this is usually all we have to go on.

Before we get into the two most important questions, I certainly advise you do pay attention to the qualifications (…you know, rather than picking Adam, the local personal trainer who did a weekend hypnosis course). A fundamental level of qualification is necessary for a therapist to even make it onto your shortlist.

As well as having insurance, they should have an affiliation to a therapeutic association (such as UKCP, BACP, NSTT, NCH, BAThH, BSCH, BHA, BPA, BASRT, BPC, COSCA – not a complete list but you get the idea). In order to affiliate with one of these organisations, therapists are held to the code of conduct, which is a set of standards for good therapy practice. They should also have a supervisor – an important part of maintaining an ethical practice. A therapist without these things is a red flag in my opinion.

Once those basic criteria have been met, choosing a therapist involves reaching out to (and perhaps having a few sessions with) the two or three therapists on your shortlist. I’m not suggesting seeing them all at once, like speed dating. But choose one (perhaps you were drawn to their picture, or the wording on their profile), and try them out for a few sessions and then decide if it is a good fit.

So once you’ve made your shortlist, and worked with them a bit.

Here are the two most important questions you want to answer above all else when it comes to choosing a therapist. You have to ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I believe this person is qualified and can help me?

2. Do I trust this person, and feel I can open up to them?

For it to be a good therapeutic relationship, you need to have a full YES to both of these.

And here is why.

If you don’t have #1

You may feel that someone is an excellent listener, they may be likeable and responsive and you feel like you can talk to them about anything. However, if you don’t feel as though that person is qualified and can help you, you may find yourself describing the problem, but none of the transformational work is actually happening. People often describe this as “It’s like talking to a good friend. They nod and listen and I feel like I’ve been heard, but nothing really has changed in the last few months of our sessions.”

Worse still, is when you’re paying for sessions with a therapist and you feel as though they are NOT qualified to really help you.

Now, I will admit, I have experienced this first-hand, when I saw a therapist whom I lovingly now refer to as being my ‘therap-ish’. He was very nice, but in my gut it just wasn’t the right fit. I didn’t believe he could help me ‘do the work’. I did not come back after our second session.

If you don’t have #2

You might come across someone who is highly qualified, they have certificates all over the wall behind them, and a load of characters behind their name such as (PhD, PsyD, EdD). They may be highly accredited, having written dozens of papers on “Potential of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy in the Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

However, if you don’t feel an instinctive sense of trust towards them, you may not be able to open up enough to them to ‘do the work’ either. I also had this happen to me as a client. The therapist was highly qualified, keen to get to the bottom of things, and a little impatient. I had seen her for a few sessions and wasn’t completely sure or comfortable with her, but kept going. I checked in with myself before our session, as a sort of ‘what do we want to bring up in therapy today?’ and I got a strong feeling of NO inside. My most vulnerable self was not going to be vulnerable with this particular person. Not now, not ever. It didn’t matter how many qualifications she had, it was just not going to happen.

It's normal to spend a few weeks figuring out if it’s a good fit

It’s okay to expect to try out a few therapists until you find the one that suits you. Therapists expect this, and know that in order to get the most out of your sessions, the client and therapist need to be a good match. Good therapists are comfortable knowing that you are both finding your feet in the earlier sessions, to see if you feel this is someone you can work with.

Intuitive therapists might also sense that they think someone else might be a better match for you. That’s how important it is. It can be painful when a therapist suggests that it might not be a good fit, but they are freeing you up to find someone who is a better fit, saving you time (and money) meanwhile.

When will I know if it’s a good match?

Building trust and a bond may take a few weeks – so don’t give up at the first bump in the road. However, if you’re several weeks in and you haven’t developed a trust and bond with your therapist, it might be time to look for someone else.

If you’re finding that there is NO ONE you connect with, and you’re on therapist fifteen…it might be an attachment issue in you. That is okay. Return to the one you felt most in tune with, and explain to them what you’ve experienced. Then the goal will be to work on you developing trust and a feeling of security with the therapist.

What its like when there’s a good match

When you’ve found a good therapist, and you’ve worked together for a few weeks, you know that they can support you in the challenging bits, you know that they ‘get you’ at least most of the time, you sense that they embrace and validate your pain, as well as your perspective. You know that even when things in life feel like ‘too much’, you can take some comfort that your therapy session is a place you can work through those feelings.

Key take-away

In summary, in order for a therapist to make it onto your shortlist, they should meet the basic requirements of being qualified, having insurance, membership to a therapeutic association, and having a supervisor.

Then, you’ll want to try them out and make sure that you feel an emphatic YES to both the following questions:

1. Do I believe this person is qualified and can help me?

2. Do I trust this person, and feel I can open up to them?

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