What to Look for When Choosing a Therapist 

Young woman sitting opposite a therapist on a couch smiling.

Whether you’re struggling with a particular challenge in your life right now, or you want to gain a better understanding of yourself, the support of a qualified therapist can be incredibly beneficial. However, finding the right therapist can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before.  

To help anyone currently trying to find a therapist, we have put together some useful information. It’s essential to know what to look for to make an informed decision that aligns with your needs.  

The Benefits of Seeing a Therapist 

In the supportive environment therapy provides, you can reflect on and explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The process can help you to learn new coping strategies for navigating life’s challenges and improve your relationship with yourself and others. 

That’s not to say that therapy is always easy; after all, confronting sides of yourself that you don’t like is an inherently challenging process. A psychotherapist will create a safe, reliable space for you to explore your unconscious (we call this ‘containment’) and help you to think about your habitual behaviours and thoughts. It is crucial you find someone you can trust, and stick with, when therapy reaches its most challenging points.  

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Therapist 

Qualifications, Training and Ethics 

Finding a therapist who has undergone training and has the necessary qualifications is essential, especially since it is not technically illegal (but completely unethical) for someone to call themselves a therapist without any training.  

Therapists who qualify from the British Psychotherapy Foundation adhere to a strict ethical framework set out by the British Psychoanalytic Council or the Association of Child Psychotherapists, and have a minimum of four years of intensive training, clinical work and personal therapy. This ensures they are trained to work responsibly and safely with people seeking treatment. 

You should always ensure that your therapist is registered with a recognisable and trusted accrediting body, as only those who have undergone training will be able to register with these organisations. The BPC, ACP, and UKCP are some of the most well-respected accrediting bodies in the UK for psychotherapy, as well as the BACP for both psychotherapists and counsellors. You should visit the accrediting-body’s website and double check that your therapist is on their list of approved practitioners. 

Most therapists will have had their own therapy during training (but not always), and we believe this is absolutely essential. The BPC and ACP, the organisations who accredit our courses, insist that any therapist on their registers must have had a prolonged period of their own psychotherapy or analysis whilst training. 

Personal Compatibility and Working Alliance 

The foundation of an effective therapeutic relationship is trust, which means it’s crucial to choose a therapist who you feel comfortable around. During initial consultations, it’s important to consider how you feel talking to the therapist. A good personal connection allows for a more open and honest dialogue; it also makes it easier to feel safe when being vulnerable.  

Therapy can be a difficult process, so you need to feel that you would be able to stick with your therapist during difficult moments and work through particularly confronting issues as they arise. 

Therapy is also an emergent process, and you won’t always know what will come up for you. Having a good working relationship with your therapist, or ‘working alliance’, is the essential framework that will help you stick with the process through difficult times. 

If you take one piece of advice from this article, let it be prioritising finding someone who you feel comfortable working with. 

Therapeutic Approach 

Many don’t realise that counselling and psychotherapy are different, and the type of therapy you receive will differ depending on the therapist you book. 

Counselling typically focuses on specific issues or periods in a person’s life. It is often considered a short-term process that provides immediate support and strategies to manage current situations or life changes.  

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, delves deeper into the thoughts and feelings that underpin an individual’s experiences and behaviours. It’s a longer-term process aimed at uncovering the root causes of emotional difficulties, which may stem from past experiences or deeply rooted psychological issues and unconscious drives. 

To complicate matters further, there are a multitude of different types of therapy to consider, such as: Psychoanalytic, Jungian, Humanistic, Gestalt, Existential, Cognitive-Behavioural to name just a few.  

In psychoanalytic / psychodynamic therapy, the type of therapy we specialise in at the bpf, you have the opportunity to explore your unconscious behaviours and beliefs, often venturing back to early childhood to uncover how it has impacted the present. 

The dynamic between therapist and client is also very important, as the client’s unconscious projections get played out in the therapy relationship. In other words, the way you behave in other significant relationships in your life will start to be acted out with your therapist, and their job is to help you to become more aware, or conscious, of these behaviours. The essential rationale is: once habitual behaviours are consciously known, you have the chance to be more in control of them and to decide whether they are helpful to you moving forward.  

It helps to do some light research about the different therapy types you are considering. One of the most important factors is feeling safe with the therapist you choose and discussing with them what you want from therapy. They will be able to tell you if the style they work in is a suitable fit for your needs.  

Arranging a Professional Consultation 

If you’re not sure where to start when narrowing down the directory of qualified therapists, it can be beneficial to arrange a consultation. This service provides you with an opportunity to explore your needs, discuss your readiness for psychotherapy and determine the best course of action. A senior psychotherapist can offer advice on the most suitable type of psychotherapy or treatment based on your individual circumstances. If appropriate, they can also help you find the right therapist who meets your needs and goals. 

Low-Cost Psychotherapy Scheme 

At the British Psychotherapy Foundation we want to ensure psychotherapy is available to as many people who need it as possible. So, we offer reduced-fee psychotherapy options in certain locations.  

With both low-cost intensive psychotherapy and low-cost once weekly psychotherapy available, we can help a range of people needing support. This affordable service is provided by bpf trainee therapists undergoing an advanced training in psychotherapy. 

Find a Therapist That’s Right for You 

You can find an accredited therapist to work with by looking at our online directory. Our members are specialists in psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, and Jungian psychotherapy, which is all about exploring your unconscious behaviours and beliefs.