Therapy is scary, daunting and terrifying. Therapy is hard work. But therapy is worth it. Therapy is trust, openness and honesty. Therapy is worthwhile.
In therapy, you will discuss intense, traumatic, personal feelings. In therapy, you open yourself up to being vulnerable. And that is why finding the right therapist isn’t just ‘a good thing’ but it is necessary.
Often, when asking about your therapist people might ask if they are ‘nice’ however this is really the wrong question. A therapist doesn’t need to be ‘nice’ and you don’t need to necessarily like them, but you need to trust them and feel comfortable with them. Sometimes, it will take several tries to find the right therapist. You may feel after a first session that you don’t feel like you can work with them, or it may get to the point where after 6 months of therapy you don’t feel you can go any further with them – this is OK.
It can be really difficult when navigating NHS shorter-term therapies to find the ‘right therapist’. You may have been waiting 6 months for therapy, you’re finally at the top of the list, you have your first session and you instinctively know you won’t get on with them. Our advice would be to bring this up with the service as soon as possible.
For longer-term therapies either on the NHS or privately, it’s important you find the right therapist as you will be seeing them for quite some time. It may feel awkward, but speak up if you don’t think you can work with a therapist – it’s not worth wasting months of important therapy time with the wrong therapist just because you wanted to be polite.
Remember, you can always specify characteristics that you want your therapist to have, even with the shorter-term NHS therapies. For instance, you may prefer a male therapist, or you may prefer someone who is LGBTQ+ or BAME. It’s not guaranteed that these will be met, but you are allowed to ask.
It is also important to consider the type of therapy that you are getting. The NHS is meant to offer several types of therapy through their Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. These therapies are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, interpersonal couples therapy and psychodynamic, however, the most commonly offered is short courses of CBT. For more information about the types of therapies offered by the NHS and what they treat please see here.
Remember, you can always specify characteristics that you want your therapist to have
Hi! My name is Emma and I am 22 years old. I study Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Manchester and would, ultimately, like to do a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa for 11 years now. More recently, I have been diagnosed with PTSD but this is still something I am just beginning to talk about. I have now been in ‘true’ recovery for my eating disorder for almost 2 years and I am beginning to discover the real me – it is so fun!
I have been working with my current eating disorder therapist for around 2 years now and I am finally beginning to talk about situations that I have never once felt ‘okay’ discussing before. Previously, discussing such things wouldn’t even cross my mind, they were simply off the agenda.
My therapist is kind, understanding and non-judgemental. She makes me feel listened to. She is respectful and empathic, and even more importantly, she is honest – she will call me out. From our first session, she listened to me and she made me feel valued. She trusted my thoughts and opinions, and subsequently, I trusted her. She has seen me hit some high points in my life and she has seen me at my lowest. She has given me time, space and encouragement, so that now I am able to discuss and tackle things which I know are leading me through my full recovery process. Something that, in 11 years of eating disorder treatment, I have never been able to commit to.
Finding the right therapist is, in my opinion, about finding someone you can trust. Someone you know you can be honest with. Someone you can truly be yourself in front of. It doesn’t matter if your therapist is a world-leading expert or newly qualified, if you feel safe and comfortable with them, they are the right therapist for you.
I have been treated by a world-leading expert in child and adolescent eating disorders and a world-leading expert in adult eating disorders, but I never felt valued or comfortable enough to open up to them. And my current therapist is highly qualified and incredibly talented, but she is more than that, she is safe. She lets me feel my emotions. She understands me and she always has time for me.
You are worthy of recovery. You deserve recovery. Your life is worth the fight. And, if you don’t feel safe or valued by your therapist, it’s OK to find someone else. Not just OK but necessary. If you can’t be fully open and honest with them, bin them (well, not literally but I’m being dramatic for effect). Because recovery is worth it. And, you really do deserve hope, and happiness, and life. YOU deserve it all.
Remember, you are NEVER alone.
From our first session, she listened to me and she made me feel valued.