How to choose the right therapist
Complementary therapies are becoming very popular, and the range of therapies - and therapists - on offer can seem vast. So how do you even begin to choose?
The provision of most therapies is unregulated by law, or (like hypnotherapy) only subject to voluntary regulation, which makes it difficult to sort out those who are reliable and well trained from those who aren't. So here's my guide to picking the right person to help you.
Don't just pick the nearest person or the first one you come across. A bit of research is time well invested and will ensure you are happy with the therapist you choose.
Begin by thinking about anything practical that might affect your choice. For example, do you have any preferences about seeing a male or female therapist? Can you attend evening, daytime or weekend appointments? Do you have transport or do you need someone on a good bus route?
Personal recommendation is a good way to find someone, so ask around. You might be surprised how many people you know have used a complementary therapist already.
If this doesn't help you could try asking your GP or their practice nurse, now and then they will make a recommendation. Sometimes they are unable or unwilling to do this because NHS staff are not usually trained in complementary therapies and don't have the knowledge to guide you. Plus the NHS as a body is only supportive of complementary approaches in very limited areas, such as using hypnotherapy for IBS symptom relief. You can look at the CNHC website, this is the voluntary regulator for a number of different therapies, and those registered are required to meet high standards in training and practice.
Otherwise, you can look online, as most therapists have websites. See which sites appeal to you; is the therapist open and honest about their experience and qualifications, are they knowledgeable about their therapy? Do they give you the information you need, or the opportunity to find out more?
I find it quite scary that in my nearly 20 years of practice, only a few people have asked to see my insurance or qualifications. You are perfectly entitled to see these. When you speak to a therapist for the first time, ask about their training, insurance and professional memberships. Despite the lack of compulsory regulation, the larger therapies at least have dedicated professional associations. I would always see a therapist who belongs to one or more of these groups; they work hard to encourage high standards of training, enforce a code of ethics and offer a complaints procedure if (rarely) you need one. It's not a legal requirement for most therapists to belong to one of these bodies so if they do invest money in membership you know they take their business seriously.
Ask if there is regulation for the therapy you're thinking of using and whether the practitioner works within it. (In case you are wondering, I work within the voluntary regs for hypnotherapy).
If your therapist has letters after their name, ask what they mean. Unless they are a recognised qualification such as a BA or BSc, they will probably be private qualifications awarded by therapy training bodies.
Explain why you are considering therapy, and mention any medication you take or health concerns you have. This allows the therapist to check that they can help you in the way you want them to. Some therapists (including myself) offer free information sessions to allow you to go into this in more detail. Check prices, and how many sessions you should expect to have, although it's often tricky for therapists to be exact about session numbers. Every client is different.
It's good to chat for a while to make sure you are comfortable with the person you have chosen. Personality counts for a lot, especially if you are going to be talking about personal areas such as your health or emotional issues.
Take your time, do your homework and you will find the right therapist to help you.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and The Hypnotherapist's Companion, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rae Waller.