Most therapists are trustworthy, giving their clients a safe and therapeutic experience. There is a small percentage however, that do more harm then good.
Let me be clear, therapy is not always comfortable and you will probably feel worse before you feel better. You may not always agree with your therapist or be upset or even angry with them at times, that's okay! and I would hope that you can address this with them.
What I'm talking about here are situations in therapy that leave you feeling disrespected, unheard, taken advantage of or more vulnerable.
Choosing a therapist who belongs to a professional body, is one way you can safely navigate the process. Although it isn’t a legal requirement; you need to be sure that help is available should something go wrong. This is rarely the case but with more and more people seeking therapy and with more and more bootleg courses being sold, it's a growing possibility.
Ask yourself 8 things when choosing a therapist...
- Is the therapist's priority is to give you an appropriate service where the focus is supporting you
- Do they have skills to match what you are looking for and work to a professional standard?
- Do they respect you as an individual, protect your confidentiality and privacy and work with you to help you make your own choices?
- Do you feel comfortable and that the relationship is appropriate? You can expect to feel safe and heard, that there are boundaries to this relationship and that your experience when working with them is important.
- Is there transparency in being honest about the work, the therapist’s qualifications or experience and methods and the legal obligations therapists have?
- Does the therapist talk openly and honestly about the risks, costs and benefits of working towards your desired outcome and the commitment that you can expect?
- If anything happens; which places you at risk of harm or causes harm in your work together, is this talked about so that you can repair the relationship or take action to limit any harm?
If your answer to any of these is no, address your concerns with your therapist if you feel able to and then decide if that therapist is right for you. Choosing a therapist can take time. It is okay to change therapist if it’s not working for you and you feel that you have giving it a fair go.
What do I do if I have serious concerns?
Check if there is a code of practice, complaints procedure if you and your therapist are unable to resolve something significant and you need support. This may be via the directory/register you found them on or the professional body they belong to.
The BACP have posted some examples and guidance here which you may find helpful (some of the content may only apply to BACP therapists):
REMEMBER most people have no problems choosing a therapist or with the therapy itself AND most therapists will try to address any problems you have.
Not all therapists are registered with a body, it is not a legal requirement. When you choose a therapist, check if they are registered or go through a directory which has a code of practice so you can report things if you aren’t happy. I have listed a few with accredited registers below: (BACP, ACC, UKCP, NCS)
Lastly therapists are human too, we will make mistakes and are in this profession because we genuinely want to help. Don’t let bad experiences stop you from getting the help and experience you deserve.
Accredited registers where you can choose a therapist:
- British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists https://www.bacp.co.uk/
- Association of Christian Counsellors https://www.acc-uk.org/
- UK Council for Psychotherapy https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/
- National Counselling Society https://nationalcounsellingsociety.org/
To find out more about counselling professional bodies: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/accreditation.html#whatisaprofessionalbody