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How to choose a psychotherapist

Can psychotherapy help me?

Psychotherapy can benefit anyone with emotional, social or mental health problems, such as:

  • anxiety or an inability to cope or concentrate
  • problems dealing with stress or recovering from stressful situations
  • lack of confidence or extreme shyness
  • coping with the effects of abuse
  • feelings of depression, sadness, grief or emptiness
  • extreme mood swings
  • difficulty making or sustaining relationships, or repeatedly becoming involved in unsatisfying or
  • destructive relationships
  • sexual problems
  • difficulties coming to terms with losses such as bereavement, divorce or loss of employment
  • eating disorders
  • self-harm
  • obsessive behaviour
  • panic attacks and phobia
  • addiction.

Your therapist will work with you to help you understand your problems and what lies behind them. Depending on what you want to achieve from the sessions, they might help you to find better ways to cope with your problems or help you to identify changes in your life to improve your emotional wellbeing.

Choosing a therapist

It is important to choose a therapist you can work with and trust. The better the relationship between you and your therapist, the more you are likely to benefit from psychotherapy.

When searching UKCP’s Find a Therapist – our database of therapists – think about whether you:

  • would like to see a therapist who specialises in a particular problem or issue
  • are interested in a specific type of therapy
  • would prefer to see a man or a woman.

Initial phone call

When you have found a potential therapist it is a good idea to talk to them on the telephone. You can find out whether the therapist feels able to help you with your problem and discuss practical matters such as whether they have appointments at a time and place that suits you and how much they charge. A phone conversation will also give you a sense of what the therapist is like and whether you would feel comfortable working with them.

Therapists often use answering machines to avoid interruptions during their client sessions, so don’t be surprised if you don’t reach your chosen therapist straight away. Leave a message and they will return your call.

Meeting the therapist

You can meet your first choice of therapist for a single session to talk about what you are looking for from therapy and find out about their training and experience. This will help you to decide whether they are the right therapist for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for more information before you make up your mind.

Before agreeing to see a particular therapist, ask yourself:

  • Would I feel comfortable telling them about intimate details of my life?
  • Do I feel safe with them?
  • Do I like their manner towards me?
  • Could I be completely open with them?

Many people don’t find the right therapist first time. If this happens to you, it is not your fault. You have already decided you would benefit from therapy, so it is worth trying again.

Find out about some common types of psychotherapy available