Finding a therapist
So you may have been thinking about therapy for yourself or assisting someone you know to access therapy. There are some important things to be aware of and consider.
To date, in the UK there is no legally enforced regulation of counselling and psychotherapy which means the titles of ‘counsellor’ or ‘therapist’ are not protected – there is no legal minimum qualification to practise under these titles. This means that someone who signs up for a cheap, few hours online course could then advertise themselves under the title in the same way as someone who has studied for years. There is a lot of debate about whether statutory legislation is needed within the field, however at this time, there are no specific plans to change this.
The question then comes up around how to find someone who does have the proper qualifications and is trained to practise in a way that is safe and competent; so first it may help to know what these look like:
In terms of training and qualifications for therapists, it is recommended they should have completed an appropriate diploma, or course that included a minimum of 400 hours therapy training.
Generally they will have completed the following process of training;
An introduction course around the basic ideas and skills behind therapy,
A certificate in counselling skills to introduce the theories and ethics around different types of therapy, practical skills and self-awareness and
A diploma or advanced diploma with an in-depth study of the theory and ethics along with a supervised practise placement.
There are also a range of other qualifications, this list isn’t exhaustive as there are many available but some of the most common are, BSc (Hons) or BA (Hons) Degree in Psychology (or another social science) as a first step and then the person will complete a postgraduate programme in counselling. Also further on from this, Master’s and PhD degrees.
Many therapists will register or be accredited with a professional body, this is a voluntary process so they don’t legally have to however by doing this, there are strict guidelines on the training they need to have had, their practise and the ethics they follow. Therefore, it is good to look for a therapist who is registered with one (or more) but to be aware that each body will differ in their requirements for entry.
Some of the key guiding bodies to look out for are:
The Association of Cognitive Analytic Therapy (ACAT)
Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC)*
Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP)*
Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy
The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)
The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)*
British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT)*
British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC)*
British Psychodrama Association (BPA)
College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT)
European Association for Gestalt Therapy (EAGT)
Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP)
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
The Human Givens Institute (HGI)*
National Counselling Society (NCS)*
Play Therapy UK (PTUK)*
The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)*
UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (UKAHPP)
UK Association for Transactional Analysis (UKATA)
Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association (UPCA)
All professional bodies marked with * are accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).
These bodies have registers which can be used to go and find details for therapists local to you as well as other websites such as;
Pink Therapy for therapists with LGBTQ+ experience
Questions for a Potential Therapist
On finding a potential therapist, there are a number of questions that could be helpful to ask to ensure they do have the training and membership as set out above but also around their practise and how it fits with what you are looking for. This information may be on their website or you may want to send them an email or have an enquiry chat over the phone;
What is their background (how long have they been practising) and qualifications?
What professional body are they registered with?
What type of therapy do they practise?
Are they in supervision (they don’t have to name their supervisor but can let you know their work is supervised)?
Do they have a specialism (for ex. some therapists specialise and have extra experience in working with particular groups such as young people or the LGBTQ+ community)?
What experience do they have of working with the issue you’re experiencing?
How long do they think the therapy will last (they cannot give a definitive date but this gives an idea of their work being short or longer term)?
Is their therapy face-to-face, online or over the telephone – does this change around the current Covid situation?
How much do they charge per session and do they offer reduced rates for certain circumstances (if this applies)?
Do they offer a free introductory session (this may be shorter/over the phone, etc.)?
What is their policy with cancelled or missed appointments (for ex. how much notice needs to be given not to incur a charge)?
Do they have a waiting list and when could they offer availability for an appointment?
What is their confidentially policy?
If you have a disability, are they able to make reasonable adjustments to make it easier for you to attend?
What languages do they speak (particularly if English isn’t your first language)?
There is no ‘best’ therapist, but a key part of therapy is the relationship you have with your therapist. Therapy is a space to gain insight into yourself, to understand and explore how you see the world and how this impacts everyday life so it is important you are with someone you trust and feel safe with. Your relationship is different from any other in life because you are entrusting sacred thoughts and feelings to someone you may know very little about, this person won’t always be ‘nice’, they may challenge you and sometimes this may not feel comfortable but it is important you know that behind this, they are there for you – as support, guidance and looking out for your best interests.
I have had therapy before and it did not work...
A question worth asking yourself if you have had an experience of therapy previously and not found it helpful, maybe you didn’t gel with your therapist, is ‘do you like/get on with everyone you meet in life?’ – you probably don’t because we naturally get on better with some people and not so much with others, therapy is the same – a therapist may be perfectly nice as a person but we may just not gel with them.
It can be important to remember this doesn’t mean therapy as a whole doesn’t work for you – maybe it was the relationship, that type of therapy or a number of reasons so go out with an open but informed mind and explore the world of therapy.