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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What advice would you give to someone who’s considering which psychotherapist to see?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    Rob Montgomery

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    I am a Psychotherapist & Counsellor. I believe we are continually involved in the process of Growth and Change which challenges our assumptions of who … View Profile

    This question can be asked of every Psychotherapist as well as clients who are seeking to see a therapist for the first time. Most therapists attend therapy for their own personal reasons or for supervision which is a compulsory requirement to maintain their professional membership.
    Firstly, ask for proof of membership to a professional organisation. 2. Enquire how long they have been in practice and if they have experience in dealing with the problem.
    The initial session will determine how comfortable you feel about returning. Just on the second point, I would not get too hung up on how long a therapist has been practising – it is generally thought that the longer the better but I have witnessed newbie’s who are better therapist’s than long-timers. Chemistry is your best guide along with a professional setting where a code of ethics is displayed along with formal qualifications.

  • 1


    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Rob has offered you good advice.

    A couple of thoughts (based on being a client of a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist):

    (1) The first few therapeutic sessions are often spent “getting to know each other”. This is when you can ask yourself questions (which, as Rob implies, have no “right” answers - it is a matter of chemistry). Specifically: (A) Do I feel that this therapist listens to me in a respectful way? (B) Do I feel comfortable about sharing private things with him/her? (C) Can I build trust with him/her?

    (2) More specifically, ask your therapist what experience s/he has in using various therapeutic modalities (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Schema Therapy, etc, etc) with his/her clients. Ask him/her to explain to you which of these (and why) s/he thinks will be most helpful for you. 

    All the best.

  • 1


    A Jungian Analyst and Art Psychotherapist, Couples Therapist, and Psychoanlytic Psychotherapist, working with adults, couples and children. Supervision for qualified practitioners as well as those … View Profile

    Psychotherapy is a process, and it's an investment in yourself. It's not like buying a product off a supermarket shelf. When you're satisfied that the psychotherapist in question is a member of an accredited professional organisation, then go and meet them. Commit yourself to a few sessions because psychotherapy is fundamentally a relationship between people and it takes time for any relationship to grow. Give yourself time to familiarize yourself with both the process and the person you are seeing.

    Psychotherapists are trained to listen empathically and carefully. If you feel that you are being listened to in this way,  that you're being understood and that you are being given space for your own thoughts, then the chances are you'll be able to do the work you need to do with this psychotherapist, and there will be a good outcome.

  • 1


    Dr Toni Lindsay

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Dr Toni Lindsay is a clinical psychologist whose expertise is working with children, adolescents and adults living with chronic health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, … View Profile

    That's great advice that all of the other repliers have given!

    The thing that I always say to people who come to see me is that finding a therapist is a little bit like getting a pair of shoes that fit. If the fit with the therapist feels uncomfortable or difficult, then it's not likely to be very helpful. However, if you can feel comfortable with the person, it's likely to be much easier for you to get results.

    Other practical factors like location, cost and appointment availability will also impact on your decision. I'f you have a great therapist, but the cost or travel prevents you from going regularly (or as needed) it might be worth looking at some other options which make it easier. Taking the step to access therapy is a big one, so finding a good therapist who works for you is very important. 

  • 2


    Ralph Graham


    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    Which therapist? is a question not asked enough. 
    The tendency is to trust that the person you are talking to is an expert and that they will know what they are doing. All the knowledge and expertise in the world will come to little if the approach and attitude of the therapist is all wrong for you. I actually address past therapy with new clients as all too often they have had bad experiences before coming to me. And I promote the idea of auditioning a therapist as I am confident that in one session your intuition will tell you if you are in good hands or not. Some of the things on the list of therapist behaviour that are counter productive or needlessly upsetting for the client:
    1  Not being really listened to
    2  Not being taken seriously
    3  Reacting negatively or with surprise when the client relates what happened to them or what they did.
    4  Telling the client what is “wrong” with them, like “You are in denial.”  A misjudgement like this can wreck the session and the relationship.
    5  Persevering with trying to get the client to address something which is an issue to the therapist, NOT the client.
    6  Addressing something the client is not yet ready or willing to address.

    Just a few from a long list.
    Once the “charge” is removed from past bad therapy experiences  I find the client can move forward, relaxed and ready to “go to work.”
    Weirdly, the worst experiences have often been at the hands of those with the most training, so don’t think of a master’s degree as a guarantee of successful therapy.
    You may like to see an article on this subject on my website.
    Happy prospecting!

  • 2


    David Lawson


    We all have times when we need to talk with a person who really listens to us, someone outside our family or social circle - … View Profile

    I agree with my learned collegues with a summary: 1. Are they a member of a Professional  body. 2. Do you feel comfortable with them? 3. How hard is it to get to their office? 4. What is their waiting list or how soon can they see you and then regularly? 5. What is their experience in the particular area you want to talk about?6. Will they incoprorate yourspiritual beleifs (or worldview) into the counselling process?7. Do I feel connected and safe by the end of the first session? All the best on finding the person you can connect with.

  • 1


    Ash Rehn

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist, Social Worker

    Mental Health Medicare Provider of focussed psychological strategies, Counsellor & Therapist specialising in ‘sex addiction’, pornography issues, gay counselling, online therapy. For more information: View Profile

    Rather than just give advice on this, I have a number of questions I’d suggest asking a prospective psychotherapist.

    1. Are you an accredited member of a professional organisation?

    This is quite important as it means you have a means of making a complaint should the practitioner step outside of their association’s code of conduct. You can make your own enquiries about the community standing of the organisation or association. If the person is not a member of a reputable association it would suggest that they are not willing to adhere to certain standards of practice.

    2. What was your therapy training and how long did it take?

    A good counsellor or therapist does not stop his or her education simply when a qualification is achieved. Professional development must be ongoing. Some have likened the profession to a ‘lifelong apprenticeship’. If a counsellor or therapist gives you the impression they have ‘learnt it all’, they probably still have a lot to learn.

    3. How long have you been practising?

    This can give you a further idea of the psychotherapist’s experience.

    4. What is your theoretical approach?

    You might not understand psychotherapy to the same degree as the practitioner, but you can also do your own research about what approaches might best suit you.

    5. How often do you have supervision?

    Supervision for counsellors and therapists is not the same as supervision in a management situation. It means something completely different. It is about discussing professional issues in a structured way and ensuring the practitioner is taking care of their own well-being. It helps counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and social workers ensure their integrity and ethical practice. Counsellors and therapists in private practice will generally be paying for private supervision from a more or equally experienced person. The type and regularity of supervision should generally be in line with what is recommended by that practitioner’s professional association.

    6. Do you offer a 50 or a 60 minute hour?

    Also, how rigid are they in terms of time? Is sticking to a time limit something you will appreciate, or not? Some practitioners offer longer appointments as well. If you prefer a longer appointment, ask whether it is possible.

    7. What do the initials after your name actually mean?

    Again, it can help you when you do your own research to establish what these qualifications mean in practice.

    8. Do you have insurance?

    Uninsured practitioners should be avoided. Professionals will always hold appropriate insurance because it is a sign of their own confidence in their practice.

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