There are thousands of therapists... hundreds of techniques and many different types of therapies... - Shapiro, F. 2004
What is counselling or psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a process in which you discuss a multitude of issues, events, experiences and memories with a therapist, with the aim of creating positive change so you can experience your life more fully and as being more satisfying. It provides an opportunity to understand yourself better, and more deeply, as well as, any problems or difficulties you may be experiencing. Solutions to what seemed to be intractable problems may reveal themselves to you as you understand these difficulties more clearly. Psychotherapy is a joint effort between you and the therapist. Progress and success may vary depending upon the particular problems or issues being addressed, as well as many other factors.
Participating in therapy may bring you a number of benefits, including, reduced stress and anxiety, a decrease in negative thoughts and self-sabotaging behaviours, improved interpersonal relationships, increased comfort in social, work, and family settings, increased capacity for intimacy, and increased self-confidence, among others. To derive such benefits may also require a substantial effort from you, including actively participating in the therapeutic process, honesty, and a willingness to change behaviours, thoughts and feelings. Even so, there is no guarantee that therapy will result in any or all of the benefits listed above.
Participating in therapy may also cause you some disquiet, including recalling and talking about unpleasant events, experiences and feelings, and feelings of anger, sadness, fear, etc. may be experienced. There may be times when your therapist will challenge your perceptions and assumptions, or offer a different perspective. The issues you present may result in unexpected outcomes, including changes in personal relationships. You should be aware that any decision on the status of your personal relationships is your responsibility alone. You may find in the early stages of therapy that you feel worse before you feel better. This can be a normal course of events. Personal growth and change might be achieved quickly and easily, but it may also be slow and frustrating. You should address any concerns you have regarding your progress to the therapist.
Not all therapists are the same.
A recent study of 119 therapists treating 10,800 clients showed 19 (16%) to be poor, achieving recover rates in the order of 50% and 79 (66%) to be average, achieving recovery rates in the order of 58%, with only 21 out of the 119 therapists, (18%) helping more than 75% of their clients to recover.
So how do you recognise a "good" therapist?
Research has shown that the benefit a client obtains from psychological therapy doesn't depend on the type of therapy offered, nor on the level of academic achievement of the therapist, nor the experience of the therapist, nor the age or gender of the therapist, but on the "facilitative interpersonal skills" possessed by the individual therapist her- or himself.
The qualities which are thought to make up a therapist's facilitative interpersonal skills are:
1. verbal fluency
2. hope for, and positive expectations for the client's recovery
4. emotional expression
5. warmth, acceptance, and understanding
7. alliance bond capacity
8. alliance rupture-repair responsiveness
How should you choose your therapist
If you are choosing a therapist, you need to keep in mind that the quality of the relationship you have with your therapist has an important bearing on the outcome of your therapy. The likely speed and extent of your recovery depends on the warmth you feel for, and from, your therapist. You should select one you feel comfortable with. One by whom you feel valued, who believes in you and expects you to get better. Who is warm and understands what it feels like to be you. If you aren't comfortable, valued, and understood, this will block the formation of a therapeutic alliance which is essential if you are to have a successful outcome from therapy. Discuss your feelings with the therapist and listen to her or his response. You are always free to leave at any point and make an appointment with another therapist. Keep in mind that the speed and depth of your recovery depends on your relationship with your therapist and you owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to select a person who is best for you.