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How To Choose a Therapist

How to choose a therapist

Deciding who to talk to about the things that really matter to you is an important and very personal decision. There is a compelling body of research that shows  the effectiveness of different therapies to be pretty much the same and that what matters is not so much what a therapist does but the way that they do it. Different styles of relating suit different people and so it is important to find someone who is right for you. How a therapist  does what they do will depend on a number of things including their training, experience and the degree to which they understand their own psychological processes. Trusting your own instincts is important, but there are also  specific questions  that that you might want to ask a potential therapist . These might include,

Whether the therapist is qualified 

‘Counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are not legally protected titles and so you can’t assume that someone calling themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist is necessarily qualified. A diploma qualifies a therapist to practice. Academic qualifications such as an MSc or a PhD are important in driving research forward, but do  not necessarily mean that a therapist is qualified to practice. A potential therapist should be open to talking about their training and how what they do is supposed to help.

Whether they have a system for resolving complaints

Therapists who belong to a professional body are subject to a complaints procedure within that body and should be willing to give you details about this. Those who are not members of professional bodies usually have an arrangement to involve a third party if you have a complaint. Again, they should be willing to give you details about this. 

Feeling aggrieved  with your therapist is a very usual aspect of therapy.  It is important to distinguish between issues that need to be worked with therapeutically (such as feeling disappointed that your therapist  will not see you outside session times) and your therapist behaving unprofessionally. 
Unprofessional  conduct includes,

    - making sexual advances - or accepting them. Sometimes clients who have had a particular life history feel compelled to make sexual advances towards a therapist. This is part of the therapeutic work and the therapist should decline in a manner that is not humiliating.

    - suggesting or accepting a  business or financial arrangement other than payment for sessions. What you pay for sessions should be agreed in advance and you should receive plenty of notice in regard to any changes. 

    - divulging information about who their clients are or what they talk about to a third party without good reason. Confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of therapy. However, there are limits to confidentiality. These are listed below.

What the limits of confidentiality are

Therapists  are legally obliged to pass on any information they receive from a client in relation to terrorism and money laundering. They are also legally obliged to refrain from telling their client that they have done so. Therapists in Scotland are also legally obliged to pass on information about hit and run road traffic accidents. Therapists have the ethical freedom to report serious crimes and may feel that they have a moral duty to do so. Therapists also have the ethical freedom to break confidentiality if they think that their client or a third party is in danger. Therapists working in agencies may be obliged to do so. You may want to ask a potential therapist about the circumstances under which they would consider breaking confidentiality.

Therapists in Britain are ethically obliged to discuss their work with  a colleague they have chosen as a  supervisor. Supervision is a confidential relationship and therapists are obliged to take measures to preserve their clients’  anonymity in  supervision. Therapists may also have a psychological executor. This is someone who will  destroy any confidential records and notify clients if the therapist becomes incapacitated or dies. Potential therapists should be willing to give you detailed information about who else may have access to information about you and in what circumstances.