Three things to consider when choosing a therapist

Welcome to Part Three of my four week newsletter series on online therapy. Choosing a therapist can be pretty daunting, as when you do so it is usually because you're struggling with an aspect of your life and understandably want to get the best help possible to get back on track, or find a new path.

If you are thinking, online therapy may be for you, check out my webpage, is online therapy for you? If you have not read it already you may also want to check out part one in this series, describing the different types of online therapy and what they entail.

The fact of the matter is that there are many of us, advertising our services, experience, expertise and desire to help. When it comes to therapists, such as myself, providing treatment online, the pool broadens, no longer defined by location or access. Sometimes an online therapist may be recommended, other times we look through the Internet for a profile and most likely a face we feel we could trust and connect with.

In an attempt to help you a little bit more, I have outlined 3 questions you may consider when looking for a therapist, reflecting a little about who I am as a therapist throughout. I hope it goes some way in helping you begin your journey.

1. Do they have the qualifications YOU are looking for?

As I imagine you are aware, many different professions can provide psychological treatment, such as psychotherapists, psychiatrists, counsellors and of course clinical psychologists like myself. These titles often mean different things for different people. For some the words clinical psychologist can be confusing, perhaps off putting, the idea of seeing a counsellor more attractive; for others it provides reassurance of comprehensive training and experience.

Regardless of what qualification your therapist holds, it is important you feel safe in the knowledge that they do possess such qualifications, and are registered with their professional bodies (the majority of those advertising their services are an ethical and trustworthy bunch, but it can be good to check if you are unsure). Most therapists will provide their registration numbers on their website. You can also search for them on their professional bodys website. Such information may be particularly comforting, if you are beginning online therapy.

All psychological therapists providing services online and via the telephone, are recommended to undertake a course in online therapy, to ensure existing skills and expertise are translated into this way of working as effectively as possible, providing you with the service you deserve.

I am currently studying to become a certified cyber facilitator, specialising in online therapy and supervision with the online therapy institute. This training has opened my eyes to so many important things to consider when providing services online, and as always, the more you learn, the more aware you become of what you do not know.

2. Do they have the experience/provide the type of treatment YOU are looking for?

Some people come to therapy already having an idea of the type of treatment they would like to try, perhaps something they have heard about from a friend or family member, something they have read about or has helped them in the past. You may want to check my and any other therapist’s profiles to see what type of therapies they provide and what type of problems they treat.

As a clinical psychologist, I am trained and experienced in a range of different psychological treatment, having developed particular interest in cognitive analytic therapy, mindfulness and compassion focused therapy. All therapists have a particular style of working that they develop over the years, continuously evolving of course. I tend to work quite integratively, combining aspects of different therapies, depending on my clients goals and needs. Other therapists may however specialise more in a particular field. It may be that at this stage you don't really know what it is you are looking for, which is how many clients feel.

The main thing is that whomever you choose to see, you feel able to ask any questions you might have, and over time (as relationships are never built in a day) feel safe and contained with the professional you are working with.

3. What do your instincts say? Can they make YOU feel contained and safe?

Research has consistently demonstrated that the relationship between therapist and client can play a huge part in how effective talking therapies might be. It is because of this, as well as the fact that online therapy is quite a new idea for many, that I offer a free initial consultation of any of the different online therapy formats (video conferencing/telephone/instant messaging/email). It is important you get the opportunity to suss me out. It is not just about whether or not I think I can help you, but whether you think we could work together to help you.

Although therapists vary in how much of themselves they bring into their relationships with their clients, with psychoanalytic psychotherapists bringing and what is referred to as a blank slate, to other therapists choosing to share parts of themselves when they feel it is relevant, each and every one of us will bring some of our personal characteristics into our professional relationship with you. This will undoubtedly play some part in your decision.

The amount of themselves your therapist brings into their relationship with you, may also play a part; with some clients not wanting to know anything about their therapist, and others feeling the need to know a little from time to time in order to feel at ease.

The longer I have practised, I have moved from being a therapist who rarely shares anything, to someone who does so when I feel it will help develop a relationship, and is relevant to my client's progress. There is one thing about me that I have shared freely on my website, some of my blogs and from time to time on social media; and that is that I have a disability.

I share this because it has been an important part of my journey into providing therapy over the Internet and via the telephone, driven by my understanding of how inaccessible the world can be, my own self care needs and my passion to improve the accessibility of psychological therapy. For some of my clients, with and without health difficulties, this has helped them feel comfortable in the knowledge that I know what it is like to experience difficulty. I imagine for some, this would lead them to choose another therapist, and that of course is okay too.

I hope this has given you some food for thought, and after all that reading making you consider if you were to speak to a therapist, what would you be looking for, I will in true psychologist style, leave you with this quote:

“There is a leap of faith with any conclusion the mind can conceive.”
― H. Mortara

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Don’t forget to check in next week, for the last week of my online therapy series, where I will be sharing some of my personal and professional reflections regarding working this way, in addition to some exciting plans I have in terms of developing this aspect of my service in the future.