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How to find the right psychologist/therapist/practitioner for me?

In the article ‘Is therapy really suitable for me?’, I wrote that finding the right practitioner/therapist is very important for anyone receiving therapy. Everyone does have a choice to find the right person to work with. If you are looking for therapeutic support for the first time, or you want to find another practitioner, here are some useful principles which help you find your suitable companion in your journey.

Principle 1: Check the therapist/practitioner’s qualifications

Practitioners with different trainings deliver different therapeutic experiences. In the UK, you find different practitioners who identify themselves with different titles. To verify their qualification, type the name online and make sure that the practitioner’s title is tied with an official accreditation body. Accredited psychologists and psychiatrists are on the HCPC register and thus those practitioners’ names can be found on the HCPC register website. Here I give a quick overview:

  • Coach: On my website I have elaborated on how a coach works to help clients fulfill their potential and work towards actualizing their life goals.

  • Counselor: a qualified counselor would have completed at least level 5 counseling qualification. Many are trained with person centered approach but may also receive further training in other approaches.

  • Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is the only professional who prescribes medication. They make most of the clinical diagnoses regarding mental disorders and other specific conditions. In their training they undertake some psychotherapy training, notably Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT). However, most of the practicing psychiatrists who provide full-length therapy would also have completed the additional and separate psychotherapy training.

  • Psychologist: A psychologist must have completed doctorate level of clinical training and under Health Care Professionals Council (HCPC) accreditation. Most of the practicing psychologists come from either the clinical psychology or counseling psychology branch. They would have received training of at least 2 or more therapeutic models (see principle 3 for sampling reference). They would also have had work experiences with a range of client groups and different work settings.

  • Psychotherapist: A qualified psychotherapist is trained from a (or more) specific therapeutic approach and has obtained the relevant official accreditation body/bodies.

Principle 2: Check if the practitioner’s covering work areas cover your confronting issues.

Spend some time to identify your needs. Find out what you want to address the most. There are different genres of issues practitioners work with. You can choose the one who covers your needs.

Areas of focuses include (but not excluded to):

  • Mental health difficulties: depression, anxiety, substance-induced mood disorder, social phobia (social anxiety disorder)

  • Mental disorders: psychosis and psychotic disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, PTSD

    • Anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias

    • Psychotic disorders: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, brief psychotic disorder, delusional disorder, substance-induced psychotic disorder, paraphrenia

    • Personality related issues and personality disorders: borderline personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, etc.

    • Phobias: fear of heights (acrophobia), flying (aerophobia), confined or crowded spaces (claustrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), blood (homophobia), thunder & lightning (astraphobia), being alone (autophobia), water (hydrophobia)

    • Trauma and PTSD

  • Abuses: physical, emotional or sexual abuse; institutional and workplace abuse/bullying

  • Academic and work induced stress and difficulties: performance anxiety, workplace bullying, future planning,

  • Addictions: alcohol, substance, smoking, online, sex

  • Behavioral conduct problems or disorders: oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder

  • Cultural related issues: race/ethnicity, religion, gender, class, age

  • Dissociative disorders: dissociative identity disorder, depersonalization disorder, dissociative amnesia

  • Learning difficulties and disabilities: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, special educational needs (SEN).

  • Life sufferings and advertises: grief, bereavement, pandemic caused stress,

  • Physical illness and dealing with terminal conditions: Cancer, HIV

  • Relationships problems: couple, family, siblings, workplace relationship, peers, etc.

  • Sexuality: sexual orientation, sex addiction, sexual dysfunction

  • Somatoform Disorder: somatization disorder, undifferentiated somatoform disorder, hypochondriasis, conversation disorder, pain disorder, body dysmorphic disorder (Body dysmorphia)

Principle 3: Therapeutic approach

Different practitioners are trained with a wide range of therapeutic models. When you look at a practitioner’s experience, you may want to find how they practice shapes their experiences, including their expertise and strengths. Here I give a general list of the different approaches you may find on their profile:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Approaches – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Dialectic Behavioral Therapy; Mentalization Based Therapy; Acceptance Commitment Therapy

  • Person Centered therapy (talking therapy)

  • Psychodynamic therapy

  • Transactional Analysis

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

  • Gestalt Therapy

  • Brief Solution focused therapy

  • Art Therapy/Sand play

  • Family therapy

  • Couple therapy

  • Group psychotherapy (e.g. group psychoanalytic therapy)


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