It can be a minefield trying to find a good therapist in the private sector, the voluntary sector or the NHS. That’s not to say that there are not very good ones in all these areas, but how do we know? Organisations such as the NHS will be setting their internal standards and will have ways of managing underperforming therapists, so the standards in the NHS are usually pretty reliable. But what about the private sector? I recently found my name on a rating site and had it removed. Does that sound dodgy?
You would think that a rating site would be an excellent resource for people struggling with psychological problems who just want to find the best therapist. This could be the case if we also know the problems for which the rater sought help, social factors, their expectations, motivation levels, willingness to engage, readiness to change, support, the severity of the problem, the complexity of the problem, and other factors which are all perfectly usual but may influence therapy. Of course, all of these will be discussed in a good assessment, but for the person looking for a good therapist, without having this information to hand a rating could be fairly meaningless.
I like to offer help in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to people with a range of problems. Short term work with someone who is perhaps experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression, perhaps with the aim of a return to work, can often offer quick rewards for the client which is a pleasure to be a small part of. Longer term work with people who have perhaps experienced trauma, may have relationship difficulties and who may find it difficult to function on a day to day basis requires patience, bravery and hard work on the part of the client. The relationship between client and therapist will be longer and there may be a few bumps along the way. Working with the bumps would form an important aspect of the therapy, and will not be comfortable, although every effort should be made by therapist to be supportive and understanding through this challenging experience. Working with the bumps is ultimately rewarding for both the client and the therapist
Earlier this year surgeons again spoke out against having their death rates publicised as they feared that this would deter doctors from taking on more complex, risky work. This is the same for therapy. If therapists become fearful of being rated they will be averse to helping clients with greater need and this would be a shame.
This still leaves us with a problem, the problem of how to ensure that therapists are as good as they say they are on their websites, and I am afraid I don’t have the answer for this one. My best advice is still that given by my colleague Dr Jane Blunden elsewhere on this site: phone a few therapists and see if you can get a sense of them on the phone, don’t be shy to ask them about their experience in the area you need help with (you can go as far as to ask “how many people with this problem have you treated and how many of these have been successfully treated”), ask them where they have worked and for how long, ask them anything you like.