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Choosing a counsellor or psychotherapist

Professionals such as doctors and dentists are expected to provide patients with a quality service and we generally have some idea of what to expect when we seek their help. People receiving counselling or psychotherapy are entitled to just as good a standard of care. However, many intending clients do not know how to find a professional therapist and what to look for.

Questions to ask yourself

It’s easy to find a counsellor or psychotherapist but perhaps more difficult to know if you’ve found one that is right for you. There are a number of questions you can ask that will help you to choose a therapist.

  • Is gender important? Some people will be more comfortable with a male or female therapist, it’s your decision.
  • Is sexuality important? Talking through problems with someone who identifies as gay or lesbian may be important.
  • Is language important? Finding a therapist who speaks your native language may be reassuring.
  • How much am I happy to pay? This can vary greatly and will usually reflect a counsellors qualifications and experience. 
  • How frequently do I want to attend? This is entirely up to you although we would recommend weekly or fortnight at least for the first few sessions. 
  • Do I want to attend alone or as a couple? If you want to attend as a couple you will need check that your therapist specialises in couple work.
  • When can I attend? if you work full time you may need to check that your counsellor / psychotherapist offers evening and/or weekend appointments.

Counselling and psychotherapy qualifications

The BACP recommend a core training route that will take at least three years.  This can range from an undergraduate diploma which is usually undertaken in a college environment to masters or doctorate level university training. 

A masters degree in counselling or psychotherapy is one year full time or two years part time university training. It’s a post graduate level course meaning that applicants must hold at least a degree level qualification to access the course. Most applicants would have gained a degree in psychology prior to their masters level training. 

A professional doctorate in counselling psychology is another post graduate level course and applicants must also hold a degree in psychology. This course leads to Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration and Chartered status with the British Psychological Society (BPS). 

A reputable therapist will have undergone extensive training, be registered or accredited with one of the main UK governing bodies (see professional memberships below), and will have acquired extensive clinical experience.

Counsellors and psychotherapists should not have gained their core training via online or distance learning and this will not count towards core training hours required for membership or accreditation from the UK’s leading registering bodies such as the BACP, BABCP, UKCP or BPS.

Professional memberships

It is important to check that your counsellor or psychotherapist is a member of a professional body such as:

  • The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
  • The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • The British Psychological Society (BPS)
  • The British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)

The above professional bodies require therapists to meet rigorous training standards before they approve them.

All Lewis Psychology practitioners have been awarded professional recognition with their respective professional bodies such as the British Psychological Society (BPS) and Health Professions Council (HPC), British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP). This means that your selection of a counsellor or psychotherapist can be based on an informed choice rather than speculation.

Next, get in touch

Get in touch with a therapist via email or phone—though keep in mind you’ll get a better feel for someone’s personality through an actual conversation. While this call isn’t  a therapy session it is as an opportunity to ask questions such as: “What can I expect in the first session?”;  “What are your counselling or psychotherapy qualifications?” or “Can you tell me more about your experience?”

During this initial telephone conversation you may want to give the counsellor / psychotherapist a general idea of what your issue is, and they will be able to tell you if they have experience in that area. 

Questions to ask yourself after meeting your therapist

After your first meeting ask yourself:

  • What does it feel like to sit with the counsellor / psychotherapist? 
  • Do I feel safe and comfortable? 
  • Is the therapist down-to-earth and easy to talk to?
  • Have they clearly explained how they can help me?
  • Is the therapist intelligent and knowledgeable
  • Do I like their manner towards me?
  • Can I be completely open with them?
  • Do I feel that I can trust them?

A good therapist:

  • listens to what you say
  • values what you say
  • shows empathy and understanding
  • doesn’t talk down to you
  • regularly checks you’re getting what you want from therapy
  • deals with any worries you may have about the therapy

The importance of the relationship

Therapists and clients work together and therefore the right match is important. Most counsellors and psychotherapists will agree that an important factor in determining whether or not to work with a particular therapist, once that therapists credentials and competence are established, is your level of personal comfort with that therapist. A good rapport with your counsellor or psychotherapist is critical.

The truth is, the science says that neither your therapist’s experience or the type of approach they use is the be-all and end-all when it comes to the success of treatment. In fact, the research shows the most important determining factor in the success of therapy is actually the relationship you build with your therapist.

Contact us

If you would like a 15 minute initial telephone discussion please contact us on 01902 827808.  This will be with our director, Teresa Lewis, who will use this time to gain an understanding of how you could benefit from therapy. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the therapy process. At this time you can decide whether you would like to book an appointment however the consultation is conducted entirely without obligation on your part.