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Choose the right therapist

I believe that psychotherapy is a key part of any transformational programme. It is not just for ‘clinical’ level of problems such as anxiety or depression. Anyone who wants to better themselves, to become the best person they can be, will benefit from psychotherapy.

It is the nature of our mind (unconscious mind) to protect us from change sometimes. This means that we cannot 'see' what needs to happen or we cannot access our ‘unresolved material’ alone. This protection is a kind of gift. Our unconscious mind has strangely positive intentions in 'doing' our worst habits or behaviours: repressed emotions, inner conflicts, habits that we are ashamed of or annoyed with – are gifts. We can think of them as ‘unactualised spiritual lessons’ (Jeff Brown). Yet it is necessary to face our challenges, our fears, our most negative emotions in order to work through them and become ‘bigger’.

So the decision as to whom we choose as our therapist is an important one. Psychotherapy in safe hands allows us to re-experience the feeling experience, safely, little by little so that we can resolve and let go of the troubling issues. 

So we have to be sure that our practitioner has the capacity to hold us safe. We want to be sure they have developed the tools to see us through to bliss and joy that is waiting for us, integrated and intact. I have known too many people who went deep with an ill-equipped therapist and ended up stumbling through life without an intact adult sense of self. If we touch into such wounds with the wrong person,we can end up drowning in them.

‘There is a significant difference between therapists who can swim in the deep end, and those that cannot.’ (Jeff Brown).

So my advice to you is to spend a lot of time researching and talking to therapists before you choose one, and, if at any point in the process your instincts tell you that your therapist cannot facilitate your healing, listen to that. 

Credentials to look for

Two of the most important things to look for in a psychotherapist is firstly accreditation with a recognised body and secondly registration with an organisation like the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). This is the kite mark of a high quality psychotherapist, and puts them on a par with other registered health professionals such as doctors. UKCP registration means that they have had 400-500 hours of face to face training to masters level, at least 30 hours of personal psychotherapy, and high levels of supervision (UKCP requirement is 1 hour of supervision for 3 hours of client work). It also requires ongoing professional development amounting to 50 hours per year.

It is also a good idea to ask any prospective therapists about their past and current/ ongoing professional training (at what level, how many hours?), their qualifications, and their ongoing investment in supervision (frequency of supervision, ratio of hours). Also enquire about whether they have had an in-depth clinical placement as part of their training. The psychotherapists own personal commitment to their own ongoing psychotherapy is important (how many hours, is it ongoing). Interview them, ask as many questions as is feasibly possible. If they tell you these things don’t matter – you will, of course, know that this is NOT the person for you.

It’s about personal qualities too

Did you know that AT LEAST 50%  of the work in psychotherapy is down to the personality and personal traits of the person who is the psychotherapist and what matters is the relationship created between client and psychotherapist. It is about how much you can trust the therapist and feel that the therapist has deep empathy and unconditional positive regard for you. You may be telling this person things that you have never told anyone else (things about what you feel, think, say or do) and no matter what, you must feel that this person radiates a kind of 'love' towards you, unconditional positive regard. It is all about feeling safe and held.

How do we know we have found this kind of person. Someone once told me the ‘fruits of the spirit’ of such a person are one who shows:

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • humility
  • self-control.

In order to find out about what type of person the psychotherapist is, I also recommend that you test a few out. Many have a free initial session, where you can get a feel for how you feel with this person. It is most important that you feel safe, seen, valued and that you feel this is a person with whom you can dive into the depths of yourself and know that he or she will be there to guide you on the most important journey of your life.

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