We are more widely accepting the idea of therapy, and banishing the stigma surrounding seeking support and going to see a therapist. A 2021 survey from YouGov and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) found that 85% of people agree that it’s a good idea to seek therapy for a problem before it gets out of hand. The same percentage also agrees it’s important therapy should be accessible to everyone who wants it .
More than 1.69 million people in the UK were referred to talking therapy on the NHS between April 2019 and March 2020, while many more sought help from private practitioners . Have you considered speaking to someone about your mental health since the pandemic? Do you know what to look for if that’s the option you have or want to take?
Finding a therapist, whether it’s for you or someone you know and love can be daunting - where do we look, what are we looking for, how do we know if we’ll get on? So let’s answer some of these questions.
Where do I look for a therapist?
Look online, search ‘therapists near me’, ‘in my area’, or with a speciality if you’re looking for something specific. For example, someone struggling with anxiety might seek out Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help them reframe their anxious thoughts into more helpful thoughts.
Speak to your place of work, or school or college if it’s for a young person. Our workplaces have a duty of care over our wellbeing at work, and it might be just the place to start looking especially if you have access to counselling through them. Otherwise, HR departments may be able to help you find someone suitable for you.
Try charities, often charity organisations for mental health have directories of accredited counsellors and therapists but they tend to be private, so that means paying for the sessions.
Always remember you can speak to your GP or healthcare provider for talking therapies available on the NHS, which are mostly free of charge if private therapy isn’t a feasible option. Keep in mind that waiting lists may mean it’s a while before you see someone though, so it’s always worth asking about other options in the meantime.
What am I looking for?
While finding directories may not be too difficult, knowing who to pick can be. Think about your needs, why you’re seeking support, and what outcome you might want from therapy. Asking yourself these questions might help figure out what you’re looking for:
What’s the current issue you’re facing?
Do you want a structured session plan with a specific number of sessions?
Would you rather have an open plan where you can keep going as long as you need?
What changes do you want to make in your life?
How best do you interact with others? Would you prefer online or in-person therapy? Friendly and casual or more clinical?
We’ve all got different needs when it comes to therapy, take some time to consider yours to help you look for the right person.
How do I know if they’re right for me?
With the rise in acceptance and people looking for therapists, there are more and more online options. This is great for those with limited mobility, who are unwell, or just have super busy lives and would prefer a video call to a face-to-face session.
Grace McMahon, Beingwell Life Coach, say to consider:
What’s your environment like for online therapy? It’s important to feel comfortable and safe so try making your space at home just that or think about seeing someone in person.
There isn’t one governing board for counsellors and therapists, they exist in the UK but as it currently stands anyone can do a course and call themselves a therapist and practice it. That’s why it’s important to consider credentials, accreditations, and qualifications.
The BACP has a directory of accredited counsellors and therapists who have taken a specific course to be put on their register. It’s a great place to start looking to be sure they have the right qualifications and accreditations for the job.
We can’t truly know if a therapist is right for us without speaking with them, but we can always change our minds if we realise we’re just not gelling. If you’ve found someone who seems like the one, or has been referred, or you're just enquiring for now, you can ask them questions, such as:
What’s their background and qualifications? E.g. accreditations, previous work experience, training.
What type of therapy do they do? E.g. CBT, general counselling, trauma therapy.
Do they have experience working with problems similar to yours? E.g. experienced in handling abuse, depression, eating disorders.
Are there any specialisms or requirements they might need to meet to best support you? E.g. their gender, understanding of LGBTQIA+ challenges, spoken language, or specialist therapeutic training.
For therapy to be successful we need to build trust with the therapist, we need to feel safe and comfortable talking about difficult topics, and we need to feel supported. If you don’t feel these things or something just isn’t quite right, then it’s okay to find someone else. It’ll test your patience but it’s worth it to create a solid relationship to help you in your therapeutic journey.
The therapeutic journey: it’s no easy feat this ‘journey’ malarky. Talking about our problems and learning to understand ourselves is challenging. Take small steps, make small changes, do the homework they set (if they do), keep going when it gets tough and be compassionate with yourself. Therapy is hard but it’s time to heal folks!
1. Public Perceptions Survey (2021). BACP and YouGov.
2. Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme annual report (2020). NHS.