How to find the right therapist

happiness how to therapy Jul 30, 2021
woman in therapy. Smiling woman with afro hair

"My first experience of therapy was pretty awful, so yours doesn't have to be."

Therapy has been an invaluable resource to me in my healing journey. I have to admit though, I hated my first therapist. Shock horror!

For someone who is so passionate about therapy as a healing resource, my first experience of talk therapy was pretty awful. What I have discovered on my journey is that not all therapists are made equal... Now before you skip reading this for the fear I'm going to whine about my miserable experience, this is not a post in order for me to down talk other therapists and shamelessly self promote my services. This is a simple list of types of therapy and the questions I would now ask, before working with any therapist, given my years of experience. I hope this enables you to find the right therapist for you and start your healing journey.

First things first... ways of accessing therapy.
I never realised how many ways there are to access therapy. There are way more than you'd think. I thought there was only one option and I believed I couldn't afford it. One to one therapy can be an investment. You will need to invest both time and energy, but not always money. Here are some options for accessing therapies.


    • NHS Services - In the UK you can often get access to CBT and other types of therapy for free via your GP. There may be waitlists

    • Local community groups or charity groups for specific issues such as domestic violence, rape, gambling, mental health etc... often have access to free or low cost therapies both 121 sessions and groups.

    • Private group therapy is often more affordable than one to one therapy. Search out local groups which specialise in what you're looking to work on such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions etc...

    • Insurance. Some workplaces have health insurance or you may have a private health insurance policy on which you can access therapeutic services.

    • Private 121 in-person or online therapy. This tends to be more expensive than other types, although many therapists offer low-cost clinics.

    • Apps and online. You can often access EFT tapping videos online with people like Brad Yates (check out his podcast episode here) and there are also apps like Better Help and Headspace. If you choose to use online videos or apps, make sure you have pre-planned self soothe techniques or in-person support as they trigger abreactions.

What do you need?
In order to get the right fit, you should first define what you need from your therapist. I would take a moment to understand your needs by asking yourself: 

Q1. What am I hoping to get out of therapy?

Q2. Is there are particular trauma/ ailment or illness I am looking to heal? If the answer is yes I would look for a specialist in that area. 

Q3. How much money can I dedicate to this? If you don't have any money to pay for the therapy I would recommend getting on NHS waitlists as fast as possible or looking at specific charities where you may be able to get specific help.

Q4. How much time per week can I dedicate to this? 

Once you have these answers it will help you to narrow down what you're looking for.

The next step is to decide which style of therapy will work best for your needs.

Ask yourself
"Which style of therapy style might be right for me? "

There are many different styles of therapy. I have listed some in alphabetical order below so you can look at which may seem the best for your needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT]
The NHS describes CBT as follows:
"(CBT) can help you make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. In CBT, problems are broken down into 5 main areas:
Physical feelings
CBT is based on the concept of these 5 areas being interconnected and affecting each other. For example, your thoughts about a certain situation can often affect how you feel both physically and emotionally, as well as how you act in response."

Counselling Directory describes counselling as, "falls under the umbrella term ‘talking therapies’ and allows people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. The term can mean different things to different people, but in general, it is a process people seek when they want to change something in their lives, or simply explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth."

EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique
Part of the energy psychology group of therapies, EFT Tapping is a set of techniques that utilise the body’s energy meridian points alongside the process of neuroplasticity. According to the developer of EFT, Gary Craig, tapping on different parts of the body helps balance energy and reduce the physical and emotional pain. You stimulate meridian points by tapping on them with your fingertips (similar to acupuncture but no needles and completely painless), at the same time you concentrate on a negative emotion or unhelpful sensations in the body and allow the therapist to guide you in resolving and releasing these until you feel lighter and restore a state of balance.

EMDR - Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing
EMDR is another talking therapy that's been developed to help people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who have PTSD may experience intrusive thoughts, memories, nightmares or flashbacks of traumatic events in their past. EMDR helps the brain reprocess memories of the traumatic event so you can let go of them. EMDR can be a distressing process, so it's important to have a good support network of family and friends around you if you plan to try it.

Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt is a highly positive and practical integrative therapeutic approach. Broadly, Gestalt practitioners help people to focus on their immediate thoughts, feelings and behaviour and to better understand the way they relate to others. This increased awareness can help people to find a new perspective, see the bigger picture and start to effect changes.

Group Therapy
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists working with several people at the same time. This could take the form of a community support group such as AA, NA, Al-anon, CODA, SLAA or other groups. Group therapy can be a great way of installing hope, building community, gaining interpersonal learning and feedback, gaining a sense of belonging and acceptance and building self-esteem and self-confidence through shared experience. Group therapy is often offered on a free, donation or more affordable option than 121 private therapy.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
The NHS describes MBCT as, "help you focus on your thoughts and feelings as they happen moment by moment. They can be used to help treat depression and addiction. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines mindfulness techniques like meditation and breathing exercises with cognitive therapy."

Psychodynamic Therapy
The BCP says, "Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic psychotherapy draws on theories and practices of analytical psychology and psychoanalysis. It is a therapeutic process which helps patients understand and resolve their problems by increasing awareness of their inner world and its influence over relationships both past and present. It differs from most other therapies in aiming for deep seated change in personality and emotional development. Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy aim to help people with serious psychological disorders to understand and change complex, deep-seated and often unconsciously based emotional and relationship problems thereby reducing symptoms and alleviating distress. However, their role is not limited only to those with mental health problems."

Reiki/ Energy Healing
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. You can also see my blog here for a deeper explanation. Reiki can be used for emotional and physical healing as well as for pain relief.

Sound Therapy
Sound therapy can take many forms including group events like gong baths as well as singing bowl or tuning fork therapy, vibroacoustic therapy and soma board healing. The process of sound therapy helps patients to relax through using musical instruments and sometimes the voice. Sound Therapy has been shown to help improve the emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, and mental health of patients.
Using sound as a healing tool can be used in many ways, such as receiving improvised music being played, guiding into or through meditation, chanting, listening to binaural beats to change your brain wave frequencies, or even playing music together as in drum circles or choirs.
The sound waves and various frequencies produced help to gently guide your mind and body into a calm and balanced state through the physics law of entrainment, a sort of cross over between science and spirituality that states it takes less energy to work in harmony, than to work against it and therefore achieving synchronicity.

Transpersonal Therapy
Psychology Today describes transpersonal psychology as, "Unlike most forms of psychotherapy that concentrate on improving mental health, transpersonal therapy takes a more holistic approach, addressing mental, physical, social, emotional, creative, and intellectual needs, with an emphasis on the role of a healthy spirit in healing. To facilitate healing and growth, transpersonal therapy places great emphasis on honesty, open-mindedness, and self-awareness on the part of the therapist as well as the client."

Next Steps:
Now you have decided on the right style of therapy and you know what your needs are, you need to match the right therapist.

In order to find the right therapist, I would recommend doing a little research first.

Look into therapists who specialise in the style of therapy you have chosen. You can ask for recommendations, look at reviews on FB or Google or reach out to places like the BACP, UK Reiki Federation, or other trade associations to find registered therapists. 

Once you have found someone you believe will be a good fit and provides the right style of therapy you'd like to try, you need to ask the right questions. There are so many different therapy styles and types that it can be a bit of a minefield at the beginning.

When you're feeling vulnerable it can also be difficult to assert yourself and make sure you're getting your needs met.

Some of the questions I would ask include: 
Q1. What style of therapy do you provide? 
Q2. What sort of results do your clients get and how long does this usually take? (Don't expect a direct answer as results and times vary greatly - also be wary of people who over-promise - I can "fix you" in three sessions for example)
Q3. Do you see a therapist yourself or have you in the past?
Q4. Do you practise supervision?
Q5. Where and when did you train?
Q6. Do you complete regular CPD (continued personal development)
Q7. How much does your service cost? (If you have to pay upfront - ask if they offer refunds for unused sessions)

You may be wondering - "How long would this take?".

Once you have found someone you'd like to work with, I would recommend seeing a therapist for 2-4 sessions before deciding whether you think they are a good fit. Therapy can be a complex process and you have to take into account the potential for resistance to change, projection and other subliminal responses we may have when we decide to begin a healing process. It can feel uncomfortable sharing vulnerable things at first and we can be left with shame hangovers. This can all be part of the natural process of starting therapy. So allow yourself a little time and space to build rapport with your therapist. 

How to break up with a therapist?

Sometimes you and your therapist/ therapy are not going to be a good fit. Trust yourself on this. If you feel uncomfortable sharing with them. If you feel overly judged or put upon I would recommend considering a new therapist. Therapy should feel like a safe space for you to explore your issues.

Breaking up is never easy to do, especially when you may feel in a position of vulnerability. It's good to remember most therapists are aware they won't be the right therapist for all people. Personally, when I was offering 121 therapy, I would grant a full refund on appointments unused should clients decide they didn't want to work together after the first session and I'd explain to them before the sessions start how we will work together and that they should simply email if they feel I am not the right person for them to make it as smooth as possible if they decide to use another therapist.

Getting the right client/ therapist relationship is super important in the healing process.

If you are working with someone you don't feel comfortable with or don't like their style, I would simply send a message to the therapist explaining you don't feel it is a good fit for the moment and would like to end the contract. Even if you are getting free therapy, you may be able to request a new therapist, so never feel obliged if you're in a situation that feels unworkable.

How many therapists can it take to find the right one?

How can we not be discouraged?
This will vary but hopefully, with the right prep work and research this should be simple and pain-free. If you've looked into the style of therapy which might work best for you, have spoken to the therapist in advance, had your questions answered and feel satisfied with the answers, you may find the right one straight away!

Good luck!
Much Love Rachael

If you're looking for help to feel happier, why not check out Happy Habits Club. The feel-good community for Women who are looking to create habits that make their lives better. 

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