Some are fortunate enough to receive a recommendation from a friend or relative who has come across a good therapist. Even then, there is no guarantee that the particular therapist is suitable for you or your child. Here are some suggestions to help you in your search:
- Make sure that the therapist is qualified and has undergone thorough professional training in his/her discipline. Invariably, this means that the therapist is a registered member of a professional body that is recognised by the relevant government health authority.
- Determine for yourself if the gender or age of the therapist is important. In most cases, it is irrelevant, although occasionally, age or gender may create difficult dynamics between patient and therapist. For example, a female patient with a history of sexual abuse may not relate well to a male therapist, and a 10 year old child may find a 60 year old therapist too much of a grandfatherly figure.
- Determine for yourself the type of therapy that you prefer. Generally, psychodynamic therapy is non-directive, exploratory, deeper and of longer duration than cognitive behavioural therapy, which is directive and short duration. When in doubt, ask your prospective therapist which therapy their expertise is in. Keep an open mind and listen to your therapist’s recommendations.
- Decide what personality style in a therapist suits you. This is important because you or your child will spend at several sessions with the therapist before they can even begin to help you. The three qualities of a good therapist, irrespective of therapeutic technique, are genuineness, positive regard for the patient and empathic understanding. A good therapist is not necessarily a soft therapist. You want someone who can hold their patients accountable for their behaviour.
- Ask a prospective therapist as many questions as you like before you make up your mind.
- Do not be afraid to shop around. Seek a second, or even a third opinion, if required.
- Do not choose a therapist on the basis of lowest cost only. Your psychological health, or your child’s, is more important than money.
Always remember that you and your family have a right to have the best care available!