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Finding a therapist that 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 to understand yourself better.
There are all kinds of reasons for starting therapy, but with so many different types available it can be difficult to know where to begin.
You might want to speak to someone virtually (you can read our guide to online therapy, here), but if you’re more interested in traditional talking therapy, keep reading 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 might want to explore whether you can get free sessions through the NHS. It’s as simple as booking an appointment and speaking to your GP about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. They can refer you to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT), or you can refer yourself here.
However, 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 12, so if you’re looking for something more long-term, going private could be a better option. If the cost of therapy is a concern, we’ve listed some organisations below that offer therapy at a reduced fee.
You might also want to check whether your workplace has any schemes in place to provide free or reduced rate counselling. If you have health insurance, this might also cover the cost of a certain number of sessions. It’s worth checking in with your HR person to see what could be available to you.
How to find an accredited private therapist
There are a number of professional bodies that let you search for a registered therapist near you. The following list by mental health charity Mind is a good place to start:
You’ll see that some of these sites allow you to filter your search by specific mental health concerns or topics, from addiction, to stress or anxiety, to low grade depression.
As you read therapists’ bios, you might come across terms for different styles of therapy or schools of thought, like ‘person-centred‘ or ‘humanistic‘ therapy. The BACP has a brilliant A to Z on the different types of therapy that you can use as a reference.
“I highly suggest that if you are interested in a specific type of therapy that you’ve come across in your search to research it a bit more and to seek out therapists that are practicing that modality,” says therapist Anthony Davis in a video for the BACP.
How much should therapy cost?
According to services marketplace Bark, the average cost per therapy session (which usually lasts 50 minutes) is £45 and the maximum £75. However, you’ll likely see some therapists charging more than that (up to £150 a session in some cases).
Sessions tend to happen weekly, so you could be looking at spending around £200 a month in total. There’s no doubt that private therapy is a big financial commitment, especially considering psychotherapy tends to take years, not months, to see the best results.
If you’re on a lower income or on benefits, there are a number of organisations across the UK that provide therapy at lower rates. The Free Psychotherapy Network has a brilliant list of places offering reduced fee therapy, like the Arbours Association or the Society for Analytical Psychology which has psychotherapists across the UK. The list also details opportunities to start therapy with a trainee, which can cost as little as £5 a session.
Mental health charities can also offer support. For example, Anxiety UK has a pool of 400 therapists across the UK that charge fees on a sliding scale, from £15 to £50 a session, depending on what you earn. The charity also has a fund to help people who cannot afford the reduced rates. You can refer yourself via the Anxiety UK website and the charity will help you with the next steps.
How to know you’ve found the right person
It can be a good idea to meet with a few different therapists before deciding which one to go ahead with, advises Honey Langcaster-James, a Chartered Psychologist and Director of Services at On Set Welfare, a company who specialise 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 of their own, and of course have different personalities and personal characteristics, too,” she shares. Top tip: it can be helpful to try more than one therapist, both to see what 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 key warning signs to watch out for. “You might find some therapists are not trained to consider your culture, background, or trauma,” says Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind. “These situations can make therapy an unhelpful experience, and at times can even worsen our mental health.”
It’s worth speaking to therapists who specialise in the issues that you’re dealing with, but the kind of rapport you have with someone can be just as important. “It often comes down to a good ‘therapeutic alliance’ or the type of relationship you can create with your therapist, and that can be a really personal thing,” says Langcaster-James. “But it’s also worth considering that you might 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, a therapist who challenges or you feel not quite so comfortable with can sometimes be what you need to have a ‘break through’ because you can explore your discomfort or perhaps a characteristic that triggers you within the context of the therapy. Ultimately though, the most important thing is to find a therapist who can create a safe working relationship for you to learn about yourself and to grow and heal.”
What will 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 for getting this far. And remember, there are many different ways to forms of mental health help out there if therapy is not for you.
“Mental health support and treatment can come in many forms, including talking 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”.
Ultimately, any investment you make into your mental wellbeing, however big or small, will be well worth it.