Help! I’m lost!

6 Top Tips for finding your way to Therapy.

 It’s such a daunting task, trying to find your way to therapy. For a start you’ve already identified that you have some issues. Perhaps you’re unhappy and anxious about a current situation; maybe you can’t stop thinking about your past experiences; sometimes it can be worries about the future or simply feeling overwhelmed with the stuff of life.  Whatever the problem, you know that you can’t carry on with that churning feeling inside your stomach, the irrational impatient outbursts and unhappiness you carry with you.  Even the family pets are starting to look at you differently!
As an Art Therapist, undergoing our own therapy is integral to our training. I have returned to personal therapy regularly over the years when I’ve needed more emotional support and a space to work things through. But even as a professional, I know that finding a therapist that suits me can still be a challenge. Adults often ask me for advice about how to find their way to therapy for themselves or their child. Sifting through the seemingly hundreds of adverts for counsellors and therapists to find the right one can feel overwhelming. So I’ve developed some top tips to make it easier. Comment below and share your tips or experiences, I’d love to hear from you.

1) Therapy is an investment in you. Can you afford to pass this up?

a) What impact is your problem having on you? Are your relationships, family life, work, or hobbies suffering? How long have you been bothered by this? We often let our emotional state fester, imagining that it will just get better on its own, or we ignore it until we reach a crisis point. Imagine finding some relief from that distress you’ve been carrying around with you each and every day. How does that thought make you feel? What value would you put on the possibility of improved mood, calmer responses, and a more relaxed and open approach to your relationships?
b) You will need to make time to attend regular sessions and make a commitment if you want to see and feel the benefits. The frequency may be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. Some therapy may be available without a fee via NHS or local authority provision, voluntary or charity organisations, or through some schools or workplaces. Some therapists and counsellors working privately offer limited reduced fee sessions or sliding scales of fees depending on circumstances. Can you prioritise the financial investment within your weekly or monthly budget?
c) If you had a sports injury or were injured in an accident, would you somehow find the way to pay for treatment to return you to your former physical ability and fitness? Why not allow yourself the opportunity to repair your emotional health? The impact can be far reaching and affect yourself, your loved ones, and how you approach the world.

2) Talking with your GP could be a good starting point.

a) Therapy is usually available through your GP. Whilst there may not be a fee attached to this, there may be a waiting list. Usually there is also a limit on the number of sessions you may access, as well as restrictions on the appointments available and the choice of therapy type or therapist. Think about how long you’ve been feeling distressed. If you struggle to trust in relationships, how will you feel having a time limit on this relationship? Are you restricted to when you can attend sessions? Do you have a preference about the type of therapy or the specific characteristics of a therapist?

3) Look for personal recommendations.

a) This can be challenging. Let’s face it, if you wanted your friends, family or colleagues to know the weight of this problem, you would have told them already, and you wouldn’t be feeling this bad! Or perhaps you have shared your concerns with a loved one and they are feeling helpless and uncertain of what support you need. You may be amazed to know that there are probably a number of people in your life who have attended some form of therapy. However, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your concerns within your close relationships then asking your GP, or a local professional, could be a starting point.

4) Always check credentials.

a) In the UK there is no law about who can use the term ‘therapist’ or ‘counsellor’.  Training differs widely. However, there are national bodies that require therapists to meet and maintain certain standards. Art Therapists are required to meet the standards set by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). We also have a dedicated body, the British Association of Art Therapists, who have specific standards relating to Art Therapy. You can check both their websites for members who are registered. Never be afraid to ask a professional which registering body they belong to, and which standards they follow. You wouldn’t invite a plumber to work in your house if they weren’t approved would you?
b) Check professional registers. There are a number of national organisations, which publish registers of counselling and therapy professionals on their websites. Usually you can search by locality, type of therapy, or type of concern. I have included some of the highly regarded organisations at the end of this blog.
c) Check that any prospective professional has had an Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) Check. Enhanced DBS checks are a legal requirement for positions involving therapy with children or adults.

5) Have a conversation before you commit yourself.

a) What do you look for in a therapist? This is a deeply personal issue. However, research suggests that the relationship between you and any potential therapist will have a big impact on the end results. You are trying to find a supporter, a partner, someone to be alongside you to look at thoughts or feelings that you may feel are impolite, frightening, dislikeable, or downright shameful. Personally, I want someone who may understand my dilemmas, who listens without judgment, who helps me think through my decisions, someone who is warm without being overly intrusive. What is important to you? Is gender, sexuality, cultural diversity, or religious belief a priority? After a conversation, it is usually possible to get a ‘feeling’ about whether you can build a relationship of trust and feel comfortable in the presence of another.

6) Ask, ask and ask again.

a) Consider what is important to you. Ask questions that are relevant to your situation. If you become anxious in new situations and struggle to process lots of verbal information, then make some notes during your initial conversation with any potential therapist or counsellor who will help you. Some of the questions I like to consider when contacting a potential therapist:

What qualifications do you have, and what training have you undertaken – what does that mean?
Do you belong to a professional therapy organisation and how can I check?
Have you got sufficient experience to help me?
Have you helped people with similar problems to mine?
How can you help me?
What happens in a session?
How often would I need to come?
Can I stop at any time?
How long will it take?
What if the therapy is not helping me?
How confidential is what I discuss with you?
How much do I need to pay for each appointment?
Do I get charged if I am unable to attend at short notice or if the therapist is unavailable?

I hope these Top Tips help you to navigate your way to a thoughtful, experienced and qualified therapist. I’d love to hear your thoughts about finding a suitable therapist or if you have any other tips to share.

Some British based professional Counselling & Psychotherapy organisations are:

British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)Tel: 01455 883300
United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) Tel: 020 7014 9955
COSCA Tel: 01786 475140
British Association of Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies(BABCP)Tel: 0161 797 4484
British Association for the Person-Centred ApproachTel: 01989 763863
British Association of Sexual & Relationship Therapy (BASRT)Tel: 020 8543 2707
British Psychological Society (BPS) Tel: 0161 797 4484
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