Finding a therapist: A step by step guide.

This will be useful for anyone looking for a therapist.

Maybe you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the choice and find the websites hard to use. I get it.

So here’s a little guide that hopefully will make things easier for you. You can jump to the step that you want to using the menu below. Or read from the beginning.

Send it to anyone who needs some assistance.

I’ll be adding and updating this article to improve its use.

Love to you on your journey x

GUIDE MENU

What is therapy?

An umbrella term that encapsulates a vast array of services developed to help people heal.

These include using sound, the body, movement, plant medicines, role play, art and loads more. The most ‘mainstream’ is; ‘talk therapy‘. And this is what most people mean when they say: ‘I’m seeing a therapist’.

So unless you have approached someone offering an alternative to talk therapy you will be sat in a room, on hopefully a comfy chair, with 50 minutes between you and a therapist. How that therapist approaches working with you will depend entirely on the modality/modalities they’ve trained in and who they are as a person. Below is a buzz word section that includes insights into the main talking approaches to give you a sense of what you might be looking for.

Please understand there are 400+ modalities. I’ve only included the ones you’ll tend to find on any main therapist directory.

Talk Therapy Buzz Words To Know

Integrative Therapist – A therapist that integrates a variety of approaches into their approach. For example: They might be predominantly psychodynamic with some CBT and then a pinch of Person-centred.

Person-centred/client-centred – The answers are within you, the client. The premise of person-centred is: it’s far more effective if the client stumbles across the answer themselves rather than the therapist giving one. In a person-centred approach the therapist will strive to see things from the client’s frame of reference, rather than project their own.

Psychodynamic – It’s about pattern recognition. People’s patterns of behaviours can lead to maladaptive behaviour in attempts to cope. Psychodynamic psychotherapy at a fundamental level is helping somebody gradually elaborate these patterns and collaborate with them to explore where these patterns come from to give someone the chance to alter these patterns and reduce their suffering.

Solution focused – Lets co-collaboratively find a solution to your problem together. The therapy may have a specific desired outcome.

Gestalt – Starts with the immediate present (the here and now) and goes from there. A Gestalt practitioner may draw attention to your bodily gestures and tone of voice. There might be drawing used or role play in a session. It’s a very broad modality, meaning there’s many different ways to practice it. One of Gestalt’s most well known interventions is the ‘empty chair technique‘.

Existential – There are four givens of existence: death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. The confrontation with the givens of existence is painful but ultimately healing. Learning to live well is to learn to die well; and conversely, learning to die well is to learn to live well.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Goal oriented. Attempts to change automated thoughts by altering behaviour. Often includes homework: thought logs, fear ladders & lots of reframing techniques to unpick negative thoughts. Is widely used by the NHS because it’s cost effective and one of the only modalities that can be scientifically measured.

Internal Family Systems – A person has many parts. Some are managing, fighting emotional fires and some have been exiled away. The goal in IFS is to unburden these abandoned parts from the past they’re stuck in, bringing them into the present moment harmonising a persons inner system. Sample session here. Find an IFS therapist here.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing – Uses rapid eye movements to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the emotional charge associated with the past. Sample session here. Find an EMDR therapist here.

Psychodrama – a form of group psychotherapy. This therapy provides an opportunity to explore life situations from the perspectives of the present, past and future in a physical space, using other people to represent your inner world. Sample session here. Find a group.

Transactional Analysis – Uses ‘parent, adult and child’ model to analyse transactions and determine what ego state a person is relating from. Also includes, games people play, life scripts and the drama triangle. Sample session here. Find a TA therapist (scroll to bottom).

Compassionate Inquiry – Aims to recognise unconscious dynamics that run lives. Drill’s down core stories people tell themselves – to see what story they are telling themselves unconsciously; and guide them to the possibility of letting go of those stories. Find a practitioner.

What is the difference between a psychotherapist and a counsellor?

In the early 20th century Sigmund Freud began psychoanalysing women with what he described as ‘hysteria’. This was the start of psychotherapy and it was thought of something for the ‘mentally deranged’.

Counselling also started around this time and this was a service to connect those with lower income to social services and support.

As the century proceeded counselling and psychotherapy started to drift closer and closer together. Today they are pretty much exactly the same. There are some counselling courses that are 2 years long and psychotherapy courses are 3-5 years. So there is a debate in the industry about whether counsellors can call themselves psychotherapists. It’s blurry. This article goes into more detail.

List of Low-Cost Services

There are low-cost services where you can see therapists for £10-30 a session.

It’s likely you’ll be matched with a trainee therapist or you can request a trainee from the provider’s website. There may be a waitlist but you won’t be waiting nearly as long as the NHS route.

HQ Therapy (the placement provider I work for in Haggerston/Dalston)

List of Low-Cost Services in London

Arbours Association

Extensive List of Low Cost Services

Reduced Rates

Please check with every therapist you talk to for ‘reduced rates’ for lower income or students if this applies for you. Lots of therapists hold spaces for clients under this bracket.

How To Browse Therapist Directories Effectively

Here’s one way. Answer these questions first:

  • Do you have a preference for the gender/sexuality/race of your therapist?
  • Do you want online or in-person (or are you open to both)?
  • What days/times are you available to meet someone weekly?
  • What modalities stand out from the buzz word list?
  • Why are you seeking therapy now? Is there a specific issue?

Okay great. Now browse the directories below and select 3 profiles that match the above as close as you can.

Book some free intro calls and see who you vibe with.

List of Directories

UKCP

BACP

It’s Complicated (includes option to be matched with ideal therapist + a depression test)

Counselling Directory

Well Doing

Psychology Today

Find A Therapist

The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network

Good Therapy

Harley Therapy Platform (can review therapists if this is your jam)

Other Routes To Go Down

National Health Service

GPs can refer you to the mental health NHS teams or you can also self-refer to your local IAPT service – see here to find it.

IAPT can work well for some people.  For others, a first therapy through the NHS can feel too short or lacking the depth required. There will usually be a waiting list and the therapy will usually be short-term and mainly Cognitive Behavioural.

Online Counselling: BetterHelp

There is a new kid on the block: For online video & messaging counselling. You pay a monthly subscription. This is a new way of receiving counselling which may suit some.

When you sign up for a BetterHelp monthly subscription, you receive access to four weeks of unlimited messaging in a counselling “room” with your counsellor. You can also schedule one 30-minute live phone, chat or video session a week, although longer sessions can be approved by each counsellor.

Any feedback or useful links/info to add please email: will.adolphy@hotmail.co.uk

Thank you!

Published by WillAdolphy

Trainee therapist, host of the 'Into the Void' podcast and Artistic Director of Flux Theatre.

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