How to find a therapist – and know they’re right for you

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  • Finding a therapist you click with – and can afford – can be a daunting task. Here’s our guide to getting started with the right person for you

    If you’re searching the Internet for how to find a therapist, know this: therapy is one of the most powerful ways you can invest in yourself, whether you’re struggling with your mental health, looking for help navigating your relationships, or just want understand yourself better.

    There are all sorts of reasons to start therapy, but with so many different types available, it can be difficult to know where to start.

    You may want to talk to someone virtually (you can read our guide to online therapy here), but if you’re more interested in traditional talk therapy, read on to find out how to get started.

    Don’t miss our guides to exercise and mental health, chronic stress and mental health apps while you’re here.

    How to Find a Therapist: Your Guide

    Can you get therapy for free?

    Before looking for a private therapist, you may want to investigate whether you can get free sessions through the NHS. It’s as simple as making an appointment and talking to your doctor about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. They can refer you to an NHS psychological therapy service (IAPT), or you can refer yourself here.

    In all cases, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll likely have to join a waiting list before you can start. You’ll also be offered a limited course of sessions, usually between six and twelve, so if you’re looking for something more long-term, going private may be a better option. If the cost of therapy is a concern, we have listed some organizations below that offer therapy at a reduced fee.

    You may also want to check if your workplace has any schemes to provide free or reduced advice. If you have health insurance, this may also cover the cost of a certain number of sessions. It’s worth checking with your HR person to see what might be available to you.

    How to find an accredited private therapist

    There are a number of professional bodies that allow you to search for a registered therapist near you. The following list of mental health charity Mind is a good place to start:

    You’ll find that some of these sites allow you to filter your search by specific mental health issues or topics, from addiction, to stress or anxiety, to low-grade depression.

    When reading therapist biographies, you may come across terms for different therapy styles or schools of thought, such as “person-centered‘ or ‘humanistic‘therapy. BACP has a brilliant A to Z about the different types of therapy which you can use as a reference.

    “I strongly suggest that if you are interested in a specific type of therapy that you have come across in your search to research it a little more and to seek out therapists who practice that modality,” says the therapist Anthony Davis in a video for BACP.

    How much should therapy cost?

    According to the service marketplace Bark, the average cost per treatment session (which usually lasts 50 minutes) is £45 and the maximum is £75. But you’re likely to see some therapists charging more than that (up to £150 per session in some cases).

    Sessions tend to happen weekly, so you can expect to spend around £200 a month in total. There’s no doubt that private therapy is a big financial commitment, especially considering that psychotherapy tends to take years, not months, to see the best results.

    If you are on a lower income or benefits, there are a number of organizations across the UK that provide therapy at lower prices. The Free Psychotherapy Network has a brilliant list of places that offer therapy at a reduced fee, such as Bersås association or the one Society for Analytical Psychology which has psychotherapists across the UK. The listing also details opportunities to start therapy with a trainee, which can cost as little as £5 per session.

    Mental health charities can also offer support. For example, Anxiety UK has a pool of 400 therapists across the UK who charge fees on a sliding scale, from £15 to £50 per session, depending on what you earn. The charity also has a fund to help people who cannot afford the reduced prices. You can refer yourself via the Anxiety UK website and the charity will help you with the next step.

    How to know you’ve found the right person

    It may be a good idea to see a few different therapists before deciding which one to go forward with, advises Honey Langcaster-Jamesa Chartered Psychologist and Director of Services at On Set Welfare, a company specializing in working with celebrities and those in the public eye.

    “Different therapists will have different therapeutic approaches and ways of working with their clients,” says Langcaster-James.

    “They will also bring different life experiences and of course have different personalities and personal characteristics as well,” she shares. Top tips: it can be helpful to try more than one therapist, both to see which type of therapy might suit you best, but also to see which therapist you feel will be able to help you.

    There are also some important warning signs to look out for. “You may find that some therapists are not trained to take into account your culture, background or trauma,” says Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind. “These situations can make therapy an unhelpful experience, and sometimes can even worsen our mental health.”

    It’s worth talking to therapists who specialize in the issues you’re dealing with, but the type of relationship you have with someone can be just as important. “It’s often about a good ‘therapeutic alliance’ or what kind of relationship you can create with your therapist, and that can be a very personal thing,” says Langcaster-James. “But it’s also worth considering that you may not always experience the most effective therapy with a therapist who you really like as a person or who is very similar to you.”

    She continues: “In fact, sometimes a therapist who challenges you or you’re not quite comfortable with can be what you need to have a ‘breakthrough’ because you can explore your discomfort or perhaps a trait that triggers you within the framework of therapy . But ultimately the most important thing is to find a therapist who can create a safe working relationship so that you can learn about yourself and grow and heal.”

    What will the therapy feel like?

    Good question. It’s normal to experience nerves, anxiety or even guilt about starting therapy, the expert explains. It takes courage to decide to confront your deepest thoughts and feelings—especially with someone you’ve never met before—so congratulations on getting this far. And remember, there are many different ways to help with mental health if therapy isn’t for you.

    “Mental health support and treatment can come in many forms, including talk therapies, medication, complementary and alternative therapies, peer support, and self-care techniques,” says Buckley. “Different options or combinations of options work for different people at different times”.

    In the end, any investment you make in your mental well-being, no matter how large, will be well worth it.

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