What to look for in a therapist

Navigating the path of seeking and receiving professional help can often be confusing, disturbing and disillusioning. While the following is by no means an exhaustive list of what to consider hopefully it will identify some common pitfalls to be cautious of and increase the probability of you getting the service you require.

    1. Asking around – word of mouth referral can be useful but be aware that just because it was effective for others doesn’t necessarily mean it will work the same way for you.
    2. Construct a shortlist – given the nature of the endeavour and what it will entail it would be worth the effort to take your time and comprise a shortlist of potential therapists.
    3. Let your fingers do the walking – seek to “interview” a potential therapist over the phone by asking a set of questions that are important to you. Some may decline this and invite you into a first a session instead (see 4).
    4. Trust your gut – in conversation, whether over the phone or the first session, trust your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t continue and definitely don’t commit.
    5. Contract clarity – the more specific and clearer you are about what you are realistically wanting from therapy increases the likelihood of you achieving it.
    6. Negotiate a fee & stick to your budget – don’t be tentative in negotiating a reduced fee and be wary of the open-ended contract – we all could be “working on” our father, mother, brother, sister issues for the rest of our lives.
    7. Professional Association – being a member of a professional association binds the therapist to the association’s code of ethics and can provide some sense of redress should things do go horribly wrong for you.
    8. Reflective Practice – essential is that your therapist is engaging in a consistent level of professional reflection and supervision, preferably both, ie, for practitioners with full case-loads, fortnightly supervision is seen as a minimum.
    9. It needs to work for you – if it’s not working in the way you imagined it’s important that you talk about this with your therapist and if nothing changes don’t keep committing yourself to something that’s not working, go back to step 1.

Brett George is a consultant psychologist, counsellor, trainer & supervisor, in full time private practice & consultancy for over 20 years.

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