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How to find the right therapist or coach.

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

People often asking me this question. And my answer, the same way you find a good green-grocer, beautician, or doctor.

There no one-size-fits-all professional who can work their magic and change your life.

For many there may be a temporary relief (#placeboeffect) but sooner or later things return back to normal (science shows this hedonic tendency usually lasts around six months). Healing can become a treadmill of the latest gurus and fad idea.

Social media promote this - "Follow these 3 secret rules to become a successful millionaire!" "I can change your life in 3 easy steps", "change your life in just 24 hours" are not uncommon... and if it's worked for them... and you're desperate enough... why wouldn't it work for you?

Regulation of health and wellbeing professionals is regulated but also this fits within what is currently acceptable in society. It's far from the answer especially as there is no legal comeback from unregulated health and wellbeing practioners.

There is also the idea of 'doing the work' as a therapist so that you become more self-aware. For many regulated professions this is part of the training. As a psychologist I spent years having psychological therapy with some of the worlds most respected professionals. I chose my therapist training in psychotherapy because she was well qualified across a range of approaches and a seemingly switched on woman. I can honestly say looking back, I'm not sure what she was trying to achieve and it certainly didn't work for me once I ended the sessions. I way overstayed my relationship with her and here's why...

  • She was a young driven professional who was inexperienced in life. Her approach was all rational brain, text book.

  • She insisted on seeing me for an hour every week (this is also what many professional bodies recommend). This is an arbitrary recommendation. Cyncially I believe it's because it allows a therapist to make a living!

  • I do have particular neurological issues which she didn't take seriously. In fact she dismissed them which at the time felt liberating except now I realise I was ignoring the most important aspect of myself - the functioning of my nervous system.

  • I remember feeling like a failure during many of our sessions despite being a very competent psychologist myself. Desperate to escape I began to lie just to end the relationship. Looking back I can't believe I allowed this but I guess this is the power dynamic in therapy.

What works for you might be very different from what works for me. Often we look for someone who is highly qualified just as I did... my mistake. She had no understanding of the challenges in life, she was all text book.

So after every thing I've experienced plus being a therapist myself, this is how I would select my therapist.

  • Firstly, the greatest predictor of success in therapy/coaching is the quality of the connection in the relationship betweent the therapist/coach and client. This makes sense when we think about it from a nervous system perspective. Our nervous system feels comfortable with certain nervous systems. And ultimately we want to feel safe. Therefore I would select a small group of possible therapist hopefuls on the basis of shared values, background and experiences. I would also consider because safety is so important - it may mean that whilst we feel safe with the person, there is not much more beyond that connection.

  • Secondly, I would ask them their qualifications and importantly ensure they are not a one trick pony or using only their own methodology based on what worked for them. Its' helpful to know if someone has risen through their own challenging times but being able to detach and remain client focussed is essential.

  • I would speak/meet with them beforehand and ask questions including gathering information about how they manage their own life around contentment, health and peace of mind.

If you are going to invest in yourself and your future then be sure to look beyond the 'professional' mask and remember that you are as unique as your fingerprint and one-size-definitely-does-not fit-all.

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