How to Find the Right Therapist?

by | Apr 25, 2023

What do the letters behind therapists’ names mean? How many sessions will I need? What kind of therapy is right for me?  

Finding the right therapist is paramount to the success of your therapy, one might argue. Nobody wants to start and stop and start again in this already uncomfortable, to say the least, endeavour. Whilst it is not difficult to find a therapist these days, thanks to Google & Co, it remains challenging to decipher the many letters behind their names and to decide which one to go for – apart from liking their picture and location perhaps.

Here are a few points to consider when looking for a therapist privately:

a) Theoretical Orientation
b) Qualification
c) Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Counselling Psychologist or Clinical Psychologist 
d) Frequency, Regularity
e) Treatment Length
f) Financial Sustainability
g) Shortlisting
h) Chemistry! 


Theoretical Orientation

It can be confusing and frustrating to wade through this jungle. There is no right or wrong therapeutic approach. It is more like tackling issues from different angles sometimes also in different ways.

For example, I work with an integrative relational approach. In short, it takes into account unconscious psychodynamics whilst also drawing on cognitive behavioural methods. You can read more about what this means here.

You might also find that many therapists have undertaken more than one training.


In the UK, counselling and psychotherapy are not protected professions. This means anybody can register themselves as a therapist. Scary.

To ensure your therapist is properly qualified check that they are accredited (not just a registered member) with one of the following governing bodies: UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy), HCPC (Health & Care Professions Council), BACP (Member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy), or BPC (British Psychoanalytic Council). 

This will ensure that your therapist has undergone many hours of rigorous training and supervised clinical practice before they receive their accreditation status. 

Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Counselling Psychologist or Clinical Psychologist

An accreditation with any of the above organisations also means that your therapist would have undergone their own therapy (to know what’s yours, and what’s theirs, and how this might effect each other).

Clinical psychologists accredited with BPS (British Psychological Society) would not have had any therapy themselves as part of their training requirement. However, they too would have undertaken a significant amount of supervised practice and may utilise a variety of therapeutic approaches. 

Frequency & Regularity

Generally, high frequency does not equal getting there faster. There are differing theoretical principles underpinning the variety in frequency and recommended treatment length.

For example, a Psychoanalytic psychotherapist would see patients 3-5 times a week, a Psychodynamic or Integrative Relational psychotherapist might see patients once or twice a week, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) treatment may take place irregularly for a limited number of sessions, and DIT (Dynamic Integrative Therapy) is usually 16 weekly sessions.

Most relational therapists work with regular session as this tends to best support unconscious emotional processing. Volatility in regularity and frequency can seem unimportant but often turn out to be stifling the progress.

Treatment Length

Length of treatment usually depends on complexity. This means the more factors that impact on a problem, the more aspects there are to discuss, the more time is required. 

When you seek therapy for a particular reason (presenting issue), for example a bereavement or being signed off work for stress, your therapist might suggest a certain number of sessions (time-limited episodic treatment is the term in psych-speak). When during treatment you discover that more issues connect to the presenting issue, the contracted length of treatment may be renegotiated.

Exploring in-depth what makes life difficult for you and work out how to achieve your goals is usually helped by not setting a time limit. In this case an open-ended treatment plan is agreed. Some therapists may suggest a minimum time commitment to assess the effectiveness of the work.

Most open-ended contract endings are negotiated in a conversation between you and your therapist, whereas time-limited agreements are defined in length from the onset. 

Financial Sustainability

Making therapy sustainable over the entire treatment period is arguably the most important point. Therefore, it is always best to discuss this right at the beginning and get an understanding about cancellation and holiday policies. Therapists, like other professionals, tend to raise their fees occasionally and this is something you will want to understand and take into account. Equally, sometimes life changes may occur that make a renegotiation of a contract inevitable.

If money is of the essence, some therapists offer lower-cost arrangements and there are several low-cost services in London who offer subsidised therapy.

Shortlisting from Online Directories

Let’s face it, wading throught the jungle of online therapy directories can be tiresome and the temptation to choose quickly based on location is high. However, you are entrusting your therapist to help you with what’s most pressing for you so it might be worth taking some time for the selection process.

As mentioned above, always cross-reference with the accrediting bodies and maybe check out their private websites (like this one). There are more directories available, Google can help you find them, these are my recommendations:


To get a sense of how a therapist works and discuss some of the above, make a shortlist and arrange for a brief initial phone or video call. Most therapists will offer this for free. Sometimes just hearing them talk can give you an indication of whether you feel you’ll be able to work with them, and that’s ultimately most important.

“Courage is the Commitment to Beginn without the Guarantee of Success.”– Johann Wolfang von Goethe