The talking therapies - how to choose the right one
The number of people looking for therapy is on the increase. Since 2014, almost 30% of British adults have tried therapy, where in a safe place they can explore their challenges with a professional counsellor or psychotherapist. This is a 40% increase since 2010, according to the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP).
Beware though – the counselling and psychotherapy profession isn't as regulated as medicine. It's a good idea to do your research to ensure that your therapist is registered with a professional body such as the BACP or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
How do I know therapy is for me?
Sometimes, there is a feeling of being stuck, behaviours seem difficult to shift yet some days are better than others. It helps to meet with friends, go for a walk and make some lifestyle changes. For others, the self-help books or mindfulness apps simply don't ever seem to help and the persistence of anxieties, feeling low, insecure and self-harm tend to escalate. This is where therapy can help – by talking to a non-judgmental professional who, with your agreement, can explore and join you in your quest for a happier existence.
How do I choose a therapist that's right for me?
There is a kaleidoscope of different therapy styles. It ranges from short term which includes Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR), and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). There are many long term approaches, including psychoanalysis, which occurs three or four times a week and also there’s open ended therapy. There are various schools of thought which therapists use and can be described as purist or eclectic, where only one model is used and others use a more holistic approach where two or more models are practised. These integrative approaches can include person centred, psychodynamic and gestalt or jungian, CBT and EMDR and transactional analysis. There really is a lot of choice.
What's most important is the relationship between you and your therapist and by having a face to face one off session will help.
What's the first session like?
The first session isn't like talking to a friend or neighbour nor is it like going for a job interview. The therapist is usually open and accepting of where you're at, what seems to be the problem that may be keeping you stuck, frustrated and unable to enjoy life. There's usually an assessment and this helps both of you to explore the presenting issues and if the client – counsellor relationship fits for both of you.
How often do I go?
This depends on you. Therapy is at times, dependent on the work or psychological approach offered, and is usually once a week at the same time, the same day, the same place and usually lasts for between 50 minutes and one hour.
How long do I need to be in therapy?
Some therapists' styles are short term (six to 10 sessions) and are usually solution-focussed, CBT, EMDR and/or NLP. Others work with you for longer, perhaps even years. This might sound disconcerting however it's notable how many people are enabled by this and are rewarded by having a more fulfilling life.
Lastly, how much will this cost me?
Choices are there too. You can harness free counselling from the NHS and Cruse Bereavement Care which will be short term although there is usually a waiting list. Prices range from £35 + per session with a qualified and registered counsellor/psychotherapist. Fees are sometimes negotiable and will usually offer concessions to the young, unwaged, the elderly or if your financial circumstances change.