Finding a therapist: Your guide to finding quality care

When you choose to find a therapist, you are making a big decision. Therapy is a huge investment of time, money and emotion. Potentially it is also one of the best decisions you may ever make and can be life-changing.

Why I have written this guide

Therapy is an unregulated industry. This means that although it is unethical, immoral and potentially dangerous it is not illegal for anyone to call themselves a therapist. The internet is littered with people calling themselves ‘therapists’ with no appropriate qualifications. Unfortunately, there are also many so called ‘accrediting bodies’ who are operating unethically by validating these ‘therapists’; making them look legitimate.

 

This article is aimed at helping you to find a legitimate therapist, hypnotherapist or psychotherapist. There are many people working in the area of complementary support who are genuine and honest about what they are, their qualifications and how they can help you. It is those that are claiming to be something they are not that should be avoided.

Where can I find a therapist?

Go no further until you have checked out the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) website which guarantees that the therapist you choose has received the highest level of accredited training. This is what they say: ‘We are an independent organisation, accountable to the UK Parliament. Our reports help Parliament monitor and improve the protection of the public.’

You can use the link below to check or find a registered therapist:

https://www.professionalstandards.org.uk/check-practitioners

By searching via the PSA website you are taking your best first step towards finding quality care. Remember this is a huge investment in you. Once you have found a potential therapist don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good therapist will be happy to answer anything you ask.

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How do I know which therapist is right for me?

It is good to start by considering what you want to achieve from therapy. There are different types of therapy available and some may be more appropriate for you than others. Whatever you choose, your therapist should always offer an initial, no obligation, consultation. This should:

  • Give you the opportunity to explain why you feel you need therapy

  • Allow you to say what you would like to achieve

  • Describe any help you have received or are currently receiving (e.g. from your G.P.)

  • Help you to see if there is rapport between you and your therapist

  • Listen to a thorough explanation of how the therapy works

  • Help you to find out how the therapy can help you

  • Give you an idea of how long it can take to achieve your goals

 

A therapist working ethically and honestly will tell you if they think their particular form of therapy is not right for you.

What ‘red flags’ should I look out for?

You may be feeling understandably nervous about starting therapy. You may be at your most vulnerable. Everybody would like to feel better quickly so beware of falling prey to the kind of rhetoric you want to hear and watch out for the following:

  • A therapist who is working outside of their competence (i.e., without appropriate qualifications/experience)

  • Use of words such as ‘treat’ or ‘cure’; a good therapist is there to help and support you

  • Outrageous claims, false promises and miracle cures

 

In my experience positive life change happens when a client and therapist work together over a number of sessions. Commitment and hard work are likely to yield lasting results; over-the-top claims of a 'cure' and promises of instant results are not to be trusted.

How do I know I am safe?

If your therapist is registered with the Professional Standards Authority they will also be a member of a professional association such as the Complementary and Natural Health Care Council (CNHC). This is what they say: ‘We set the standards that practitioners need to meet to get onto and then stay on the register. All CNHC registrants have agreed to be bound by the highest standards of conduct and have registered voluntarily. All of them are professionally trained and fully insured to practise.’

Associations such as this operate Codes of Conduct and Ethics by which their registered practitioners must abide. A copy of the CNHC code can be found here:

https://www.cnhc.org.uk/code-conduct-registrants 

 

The CNHC regularly audit their members to ensure that they are completing minimum requirements for supervision and continuous professional development. A Standards Enquiry procedure is also in place to explain how you, as a client, can be supported by the association should you have cause for concern.

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What else should I look for in my therapist?

Insurance: This is a must! Check that your therapist is fully insured for the work that they are doing and that their insurance is up to date. You are well within your rights to ask for evidence that they are insured to work as a therapist. An insurance company gives you another point of contact should you have any concerns about your therapist.

Confidentiality: You should feel reassured that your personal data remains confidential. Your therapist should have a Privacy Policy that is openly shared with you. Check their website and if it isn’t available ask for a copy. All therapists are bound by UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) and should make clear how they handle your personal information. Many have ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) membership. The ICO is ‘The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

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You can search the register here to find out if your therapist is registered: https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/what-we-do/register-of-fee-payers/

Establishing a working relationship: Your therapist should ask you to sign/agree to a contract/terms and conditions that explains how you will work together, what to expect and how you will both be kept safe. Be aware that this applies whether you are working face-to-face or remotely. If anything in the contract lacks clarity or causes concern, ask your therapist to explain everything to you so you are absolutely clear about your working relationship.

Enhanced DBS: Therapists can apply for a criminal record check to show that they have no outstanding issues with the law and are fit to work with people. This is a service offered by the UK Government. There are different levels of DBS check. If you are looking for a therapist to work with an individual under the age of 18 or a vulnerable adult it is expected that the therapist will hold an Enhanced DBS. More information about this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service

In summary

Finding a therapist can be tricky and there are many things to consider if you want to get it right. A good therapist’s reputation will travel mainly via word of mouth so ask around. Ask your GP. They may have heard from their patients about therapists who are working successfully and ethically with the issue that you need help with.

Be aware of those ‘red flags.’ The outrageous claims, the bogus qualifications, lots of qualifications gained in a short space of time, claims to have ‘invented’ a new therapy, the detailed testimonials that sound too good to be true probably are!

Do your homework. Take your time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even after meeting or talking to your therapist for the first time you don’t ‘feel right’, trust your instincts and look elsewhere.