There's scarce an individual walking among us who wouldn't benefit from some form of therapy. The benefits of talking through your problems, no matter the size or how insignificant you may feel they seem, are well documented. Sometimes we turn to friends and family who can often act as very proficient confidants, however there will be times in our lives when we could really use the help of a professional.
The reasons we find ourselves at the counsellor's door will vary greatly from person to person. Whether you're going through a difficult break up, struggling to let go of a past experience that's affecting you now, battling with anxiety or grieving the loss of someone you love, there are ample reasons to seek professional help. But if you've arrived at the point where you're ready to talk (well done, that's half the battle) how do you know where to go? Here we run through some of the key ingredients to look for in a therapist.
1. The relevant qualifications.
It may seem like a no brainer but it's important that if you're seeking help, you're doing so with someone who has trained in the area that is best suited to you. Some therapists will have educational experience in the area of couples therapy while others will be more specialised in the area of grief, for example. Make sure their qualifications are readily available when finding the right one for you.
Regardless of the reason for which you're seeking help, one of the greatest things that can be taught through therapy is the importance of self compassion. To get through whatever it is that's ailing you, you must learn to be gentle with yourself and not your own worst enemy. So, naturally, it's important that your therapist can exercise great compassion when talking with you.
At some point throughout your journey, it's likely that you'll feel the need to shed a few tears, which is aboslutely OK and a very natural reaction when working through personal issues. It's a release and it's healthy. It's super important that you feel relaxed and comfortable enough whilst sitting opposite your therapist. This is your time, this is to help you, so being completely at ease with the particular individual you've chosen to guide you through, is of paramount importance. It may take you a while to get comfortable enough to delve into deeper issues, but your gut reaction will tell you if they're a good match for you, on a personal level.
4. Going above and beyond.
Any good therapist will know that it's not enough to only be available on a certain day at a certain hour and never accessible beyond these times, and that such restraints can serve only to induce anxiety in clients. Though you as a client should respect their boundaries, a really fantastic therapist will have a work specific phone so that you can drop them a text if you're feeling particularly ropey, or squeeze in an earlier or last minute appointment if needs be. They will understand that you may be feeling vulnerable, and know that this is not a sign of weakness, but a part of the process. They'll get back to you when they can.
5. Their methods.
When you first sit down face to face with your therapist, of course the majority of time will be spent determining why it is that you are there. What's also important during that first meeting is that you get a sense of their particular methods, whether it's cognitive behavioural therapy or another psychotherapeutic approach.
6. Trust your gut.
You may have met with a very lovely and very capable therapist, but as this is such a personal thing for you, it's very important that you admit it to yourself and to the therapist if you'd rather go with somebody else. They are used to this and will probably tell you that it's totally ok if you decide they're not for you. It's not a slight on them, it's just about finding the right match for you, to see you through this difficult time.
Most therapists adopt approaches that allow for you yourself to resolve your issues, through talking about your feelings and the events that lead you here, with their guidance. But it's important that your therapist doesn't just sit there staring at you. Yes, they absolutely must listen and listen well, but a good therapist will engage with you, giving you alternative ways of thinking about a certain situation, asking questions to help you uncover some truths and generally giving feedback as you go. They mightn't have the answer to all of your problems in one simple sentence, but they will be able to assess and analyse situations to help you get there.
The right therapist for you will allow for a very sure feeling of trust. Not only can you trust in their confidentiality, their motivation to get you to where you need to be, but you can trust in what they are telling you. They are trained to help you arrive at your goal, so you must feel as though you can trust in their ability and know that while at times it may feel like you're not getting anywhere, one day, when you come out the other side, you'll know that you were.
Caroline Foran @carolineforan