So you did it.
The hardest part, deciding that you will actually start this new chapter. Finally taking the time to peel back the layers of yourself and partake on a journey of healing. The months of back and forth, the internal dialogue where you convinced yourself that you can do this by yourself – silenced.
You have decided to get therapy, and that deserves a moment of appreciation all in itself. Understandably, the next stage of this journey may seem a little daunting too.
No doubt you’ve faced further questions as you’ve delved deeper into the world of talking therapy.
Practically, how do you actually find a therapist?
What type of therapy do you actually want to partake in?
How does budget affect your search?
Hopefully, this blog will do a little bit to take the ambiguity out of your search, and leave you feeling a little more equipped for the next steps ahead.
So What is Therapy?
This is a safe place, and we won’t start this off with any assumptions. It’s best to begin with definitions so we all are on the same page of what we mean by talk -therapy. Talk therapy is the practice of speaking with a qualified professional as you explore emotions, thought processes and behaviours. A trained counsellor or therapist should provide a judgement free environment where you are able to journey through problems, experiences and traumas, giving you the space to better understand yourself, your story and how to better cope with everyday struggles.
You can seek out talk therapy for a variety of different reasons, for instance (this is a non exhaustive list):
Therapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatments (such as medicine) for the issues above and other mental health problems also. It all depends on what works best for you.
When it comes to therapy, the length, type of therapy and who you desire to see can all be influenced by your initial reasons for seeking therapy. It’s useful to understand that different mental health problems may benefit from different types of therapy.
Different Types of Therapy
Not all talking therapies are the same, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is more effective than another. Therapy is not a one size fits all, so it will depend on you and what you believe you would respond best to. Different types may differ in their talking focus (some may focus on talking about past experiences and how they have shaped you, or a focus on talking about present problems and exploring practical steps you can apply in your day to day life), the therapist’s technique and the theory behind the practice. If you want to explore the different styles of therapy available, you can find a helpful list compiled by Mind, here.
Private vs NHS
So if you are based in the UK, you can get free psychological therapies on the NHS. No need to wait for a GP to refer you either, you can self refer directly to a therapy service. Understandably, wait times for this type of service can be incredibly long however (we are talking weeks and months) and also the types of therapy you can obtain are limited (only CBT). Due to the mounting waiting times and limited choice, many may prefer to seek out private counselling. Thankfully, private doesn’t have to equate to astronomical prices. Many counselling services offer a sliding scale for their costs, meaning the cost may be calculated based on what you personally earn. There should be no barrier for individuals accessing treatment for their mental wellbeing, and this approach means talking therapies are becoming more inclusive and available for a wider range of people. The sliding scale approach may mean that private counselling sessions can be a viable option for many.
Hopefully, at this point you may feel more affirmed in your decision to access therapy as well as have more of an inclination as to the type of therapy you want to explore. Now, arguably the most important bit, how do you actually choose a therapist?
By the very nature of therapy, you will be sharing some intimate, vulnerable and potentially painful thoughts, emotions and processes with this one individual. You are allowed and encouraged to take your time when searching for a good therapy- client fit. The ability to feel safe with this professional is imperative and shouldn’t be downplayed. Talking about professionalism, please ensure that the person you choose is qualified. This may sound obvious, but many well meaning organisations (such as Churches and charities) may state that they offer counselling services, where in fact what they are offering are helpers and listeners. Empathy is priceless and a good listener will always be appreciated, but there are individuals who have studied the psychological principles underpinning therapy for years, who have gone through rigorous training and also have to abide by an ethical framework. All this to ensure your wellbeing and safety are their number 1 priority. Not everyone is qualified to journey through everyone’s story, and that’s okay- but there are many people who are, and you deserve someone who can hold the weight of this process with you.
Choosing a Therapist
In preparation for this article, I decided to undertake some research to understand the most important factors someone may consider when choosing a therapist. My research was comprehensive, thorough and vigorous.
I asked Instagram.
What is important when choosing a therapist is completely subjective to the individual actually seeking therapy. For some, having someone of the same ethnicity is incredibly important when uncovering and understanding personal trauma that may be rooted in racism or a specific culture. For others, faith is an imperative factor for the therapist to hold. My honest advice is to understand personally what are the most important factors you want to see in your therapist and let that guide your search. Conversely, don’t be afraid to revisit and reconsider your priorities. Some of my least helpful experiences of therapy were with a Black, female Christian therapist (nothing profoundly wrong with this relationship, we simply didn’t gel) and some of my most transformative sessions have been with a white South African, female Christian. Have your priorities, but also do not be afraid to also take a chance with someone who may not fit what is ‘perfect’ in your head. Now I will add that every therapist should be able to cultivate an environment of safety, a place where you can feel vulnerable enough to be honest. Sometimes it may take a few (or many) tries before you find such a fit and I want to assure you that that is completely okay.
What if it doesn’t work with my therapist?
So you’ve taken the plunge, you’ve contacted someone who seems to tick every box. You have had your discovery call, and you are convinced that they are the one. You start, and despite your best intentions something just doesn’t seem right. You push through, but week after week, this gnawing feeling of disconnect remains and you find yourself frustrated and despondent after your hour sessions. Maybe this therapy thing isn’t for you? You’re still struggling with the emotional issues that initially prompted you to seek therapy, and this has simply added further stress and anxiety on your shoulders.
Firstly, let me emphasise this: please do not feel discouraged if your first (second, or third) attempt at talk therapy doesn’t seem to help. Remember, this is about you and your story. Sometimes, you find the right style of therapy and therapist on your first go and that’s incredible. But usually, and most often, it may take a bit of persistence and a few attempts before you find a therapist you genuinely connect with and feel completely comfortable speaking to. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed and that therapy is not for you. It means you understand what you need, and are self aware enough to realise that some styles/ therapists may work for others but may not work for you. But, there will be something and someone out there which is the right treatment for you and I genuinely am assured that you will find this. The decision to start therapy is a brave one, the process to obtain this is also a journey that can require courage and hope. But it is completely worth it.
Here at BARE Life Class, we are on a mission to create the UK’s first therapy directory for Black women and address the lack of provision, lack of engagement and lack of representation in this space for Black women in the UK. Complete a therapy form with BARE Life Class and we’ll connect you to a therapist in our network.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is one of the professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK. You can also use the BACP therapist directory to find a qualified therapist.
Other therapy directories we highly recommend:
- The Black, African, Asian Therapy Network
- Counselling Directory
- Psychology Today
- For Christian Therapists – Association of Christian Counsellors
Wanna learn more? Join our mailing list to get 50% off our masterclasses to help you Heal. Learn. Grow. We are on a mission to change the face of mental health for black women so that they can show up confidently in every space of life. Download our workbook How to set healthy Boundaries which comes with great worksheets and exercises to help you build your own boundary toolkit.