A short guide to finding a therapist in the UK
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Trying to find the right therapist can feel like an uphill battle before you've even started. The process can feel very confusing, with lots of jargon flying around. This guide hopes to give you some guidance on your journey to finding the right therapist for you.
What is the difference between a counsellor/therapist/psychotherapist?
One of the confusing things for a lot of people is around terminology used by professionals working in the area. Many use their job title interchangeably, some argue there is not much difference in the way they work, others would disagree. To try give some distinction...
A counsellor - focuses on your issues in the here and now, looking at how your concerns are manifesting today and aiming to help you to resolve these and look towards the future. Counsellors tend to train for a minimum of three years at Diploma level, although some do train at Masters level.
A psychotherapist - will still be interested in how your issues manifest today, but they will have a focus on your past and childhood and how this has created any issues you are facing in the present. Psychotherapists tend to train for a longer period of time, up to seven/eight years sometimes.
A therapist - could be either a counsellor or psychotherapist and is a term that is used interchangeably. It is also worth noting that many counsellors and psychotherapists attend follow up training in new areas so although a counsellor may be focused on the present, they may also have training in psychotherapeutic techniques.
It is also important to point out that there has been extensive research showing that the relationship between therapist and client is the most important factor in positive change for clients. The majority of therapies have been shown to have equal efficacy.
Where do I actually find a therapist?
One of the positives of the digital age is the ability to search for therapists online and to shop around with little effort, from the comfort of your own home. There are a few online directories that allow you to search by your area, or concern, and be shown therapists available. Some of these are linked below:
What can I ask therapists when I make contact?
About their qualifications
Currently (2020) there is no statutory regulation of counselling in the UK, meaning that technically anyone can advertise as a counsellor or therapist and see clients. There are a host of short courses online, costing under £50 which promise customers a diploma in a therapy. Your therapist should have attended a training, lasting at least three years as a minimum, provided by a training provider who is accredited by an awarding body such as the BACP or the UKCP. Their training should also have involved a placement where they put their learning into action with clients and an assessment as to their competency has been made.
Therapists should have a membership with an accrediting body and be on their register. This evidences that their training has been to an acceptable standard and that they are committed to ongoing development post-qualification. Usually a membership also means they have signed up to an ethical agreement that guides their work in the best interest of clients. These member bodies tend to also have a complaints procedure too so you can make a complaint if necessary. You can see a list of UK awarding bodies here: The Professional Standards Authority.
It is important that you are comfortable with what an individual therapist is offering in terms of sessions and their way of working.
- What is their availability and does this work for you? If you are meeting in person, can you commit to getting to their therapy room for the sessions each week?
- Does the therapist only offer online work or by telephone? Are you comfortable with this? Do you have the means to do take part in this type of therapy? They are most likely to discuss this with you anyway if you make an enquiry.
- What do they charge per hour and does this fit with the amount you were wanting to pay?
- Do they have any specialisms? If you know what concern you want to work with, e.g. if you have had trauma such as a traffic collision, you may be best to find a therapist with training in this area.
- Do they have a contract you will complete with them? This is an important one as this demonstrates they are committed to working with clients to explain and agree on the service being provided. It also protects you if there is any misunderstanding about what is on offer.
A few additional thoughts
Hopefully this guide has been helpful in providing some guidance about what to look for when searching for a therapist and questions to ask once you have made contact. It is worth noting that you should try and search for a few different options before going with a therapist, try to make contact with a couple of options if you have them available. Of course, if you receive a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance this can be useful also.
Try to see if you can receive an introductory session to meet a therapist in person/online. Some charge a reduced fee for this, others will not charge for this, and it provides you both with the opportunity to meet and discuss your concerns and what the therapist can do to help. Remember, until you have signed a contract for services you are not bound to work with an individual therapist so make sure to take the time to find the right fit for you.
Good luck with your search.
Adam Rothwell MBACP is a registered person-centred counsellor in private practice. He sees clients online and in person in the South Manchester, Stockport and Cheshire East areas of North West England.