This brilliant informative and comprehensive article by Kate Holmquist published in the Irish Times January 2015 takes the mystery out of choosing a therapist. The most important aspect of successful therapy is the connection between you and the therapist. I encourage you to shop around and ask questions to satisfy yourself that the therapist you choose is a good fit for you.
“Therapy unlocked: a guide to finding the right therapist for you
There are thousands of therapists out there, but it’s not easy to assess their qualifications, particularly in the throes of a crisis. Here’s our guide to finding help.
When you have reached that difficult moment of emotional crisis where you’ve decided to reach out to a psychology professional, you will probably look online. Cue confusion. You see bewildering lists of accreditation letters – ICP, IACP, PSI, IAHIP, FTAI to name a few – and you notice that there appear to be several methods – Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Constructivist Psychotherapy, Couple and Family Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Humanistic Integrative psychotherapy.
You may see the words “counselling” and “psychotherapy” and wonder what the difference is. With so many phone numbers and emails you could use, for the uninitiated it’s a bit like putting a pin in an online map and hoping that the person who answers will be kind to you.
This feels like a shot in the dark, and yet you’ve never been more vulnerable because things have got pretty stressful for you to be phoning a complete stranger. As the phone rings, you may visualise yourself reaching Gabriel Byrne’s Dr Paul Weston of In Treatment, or Dr Jennifer Melfi in the Sopranos, Frasier Crane or even Sigmund Freud himself, with his goatee and couch where you will lie for an hour trying to remember your dreams. Who knows?
Finding a therapist is not like finding a dentist. Your friends will always have lists of dentists, and GPs and personal trainers to call. People tend not to discuss their therapists with each other, partly due to a lingering stigma in Ireland and partly because of the deeply private nature of the problem you are trying to solve.
Today psychotherapy in Ireland has developed to a high standard, even though there is no formal State accreditation of psychotherapists. Still, says psychotherapist Brendan Madden, many people still suffer for four or five years before seeking out a therapist and they may be at the end of their tethers, with sleep problems, anxiety or anger issues.
Whatever the reason for considering therapy, there’s no question that people feel extremely vulnerable when they finally decide to make the leap. Can you ask a friend? It’s a good idea, but you may not want to share your friend’s psychotherapist. Your GP may have a psychotherapist or counselling psychologist working in the practice, which can be a good place to start.
Finding a therapist may not seem as straightforward as finding a GP, but it’s actually a good idea to follow the same route. Do you feel comfortable with the person? Have they listened to you on the phone? Are they friendly, clear and otherwise consumer-aware (as in, telling you what they charge)? Are they nearby?
“In the same way we choose a doctor, we should allow ourselves the option of shopping around until we find someone we have a good fit with,” advises Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and Irish Times agony aunt. “This is not always easy and many people choose to stay with the person they first meet and this often works out well.”
Psychotherapists are trained to relate to and treat people who are distressed. They work to alleviate personal suffering and encourage change.
“The therapeutic relationship is very important and you have to be able to trust your therapist,” says Yvonne Tone, a cognitive behavioural therapist, one of the five “modalities” accredited. “It’s about collaborating with the therapist, working in a shared way to understand the problem, such as depression or anxiety, that you want to address.”