With more and more of us going to see a therapist, how do you find the best therapist for you? Having made the decision to be brave and smart enough to seek help in the first place and perhaps selecting the type of therapy that best suits your needs, how do you go about choosing the one you want to work with?
As a full-time professional hypnotherapist, I think there are 4 key components to finding the best therapist for you. I call them 'The 4 C's' and they stand for 'Competence, Confidence, Congruence and Chemistry'. I think they are all vital, all inter-related and I'll share with you how you can go about finding these. Back when I had therapy, I wish I'd known of them. I would have made some different choices.
It's totally possible to find these 4 inter-related characteristics and when you do, you're more likely to find the best therapist for your needs.
1. Competence. Does the therapist have the right training that deals with your specific needs? Rather terrifyingly, anyone can set themselves up as a therapist. So, to mitigate this check out official directories for your prospective therapist. This will tell you a bit about the person's training and skill. For example, as a hypnotherapist like me, you'd check out the likes of the GHR. For a more general therapist, check out the likes of the BACP and so on.
Some therapists can be incredibly well qualified on paper. However, some can be very technical, or cold and some offer no humanity. As therapy is so intimate, it's vital to make to make sure they have the right manner for you. Be selfish!
So, ask for explicit examples about how the prospective therapist has successfully dealt with your issue. This is key in finding out how they may be able to help you.
2. Confidence. I think this falls into two distinct camps. On the one hand there is the confidence that the therapist can inspire you with on speaking to them in your free consultation (see below). If they're not projecting confidence from themselves, then how are they going to help you have the confidence to help yourself?
Equally, there's the confidence that can be demonstrated through what others are saying about them that may give you confidence in choosing to work with them. So, check out their Google reviews and on-site reviews. If they've got any media coverage too, all of these will be indicators that help you choose one therapist over another.
3. Congruence. Imagine for a second that we're talking about you potentially seeing a personal trainer to get fitter. Would you see them if they were morbidly obese? Well the same goes with therapy. I think a therapist sends out a poor message if the areas that they help clients with, they have a problem with themselves. For example, if you're seeing a therapist about a lack of confidence and the therapist comes across as very timid, is that right? Therapists have problems too, (we just have a lot of coping skills) and whilst none of us are perfect, there can be a Shakespearian quality in that some therapists need a lot of therapy themselves.
Again, be selfish in whom you choose!
4. Chemistry. Feeling that your prospective therapist is right for you is vital. Even if they have everything else above, it's vital you both have this. If you're going to be opening up and trusting someone, you have to know it's right for you.
The easiest way to check this out is by having an initial chat with them on the phone. A good therapist will be happy to offer you some time where you can explain what you need, the therapist can ask you questions and equally, you ask them whatever you want. For example, I offer a client a free 20-minute consultation
I have two very clear rules when considering potentially working with a client. Can I help you with your problem and do I want to help you. Life is too short and therapy can be a draining experience if you work with a client who you just won't get on with or be able to help.
I don't try and be my client's friends and be pally. In fact, I can be pretty direct if needs be. That's not everyone's cup of tea. And if I sense a client and I won't get on, I'll suggest they work with someone else. Honesty is very important.
If you don't have this very important initial consultation, then therapy can be like an old-school blind-date that's goes wrong i.e. the person seems great on paper and when you meet them, it's a whole different kettle of fish.
Whilst the '4 C's' give you some good groundwork, the only way you're going to know is by having a real conversation with someone. Ask a lot of questions and be comfortable with the answers you're getting. Plus, these 4 rules are important to be followed during therapy too. If it's not working for you because of the above, or for any other reasons, stop it.
And if you do all of this, hopefully, your experience with therapy will be one that your bravery and strength deserves.