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How to find a therapist: 4 ways to access counselling

If you are considering seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist, the first thing to explore is where to find the therapist.

The process of finding a therapist can often seem more complicated than it needs to be; I have created this blog series to help you get clear on what options you have and how to go about finding the right therapist for you.

What are your options for finding a therapist?

1. NHS therapists

Any therapy offered through the NHS should be free of charge, there are a number of ways to access NHS counselling and therapy services.

Your GP

You can self-refer for therapy via your GP. Some surgeries offer in-house therapy where others will provide a referral to services offered elsewhere. The external services will usually contact you once your GP has passed on your details, or you may be given a number to contact yourself.

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)

This NHS programme offers therapies for common mental health problems which you can refer to yourself without going via your GP. Most areas in England have an IAPT service, but the therapies they offer are likely to vary from place to place.

To find your local IAPT service, click here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/

Waiting lists for NHS therapy

Sadly, it’s very common for there to be a waiting list to access NHS services. Whilst you are waiting, you can ask your doctor for a number to ring to find out the length of your wait.

Exploring alternative options like self-help books, medication, complementary therapies or activities that support good mental health (such as gardening, exercise and peer support) can help before your therapy begins.

2. Charities that offer therapy

Some community-based projects or charities may offer accessible therapy sessions either for free or a lower cost.

If the difficulty you are experiencing concerns a specific issue, it may be that charities or organisations that offer support with what you are facing can help you.

You can also consider:

3. Therapists through your work or education

If you are a student, your school, college or university may offer a free counselling service. This is usually accessible without contacting your tutors or GP.

If you are an employee, your employer may offer an Employment Assistance Programme (EAP) which may provide a limited amount of free sessions. You should be able to access this without contacting your manager or GP.

4. Private therapists

There are many reasons why you might consider going privately. Often this is to do with waiting lists for free services or the common limit on the number of sessions you can access or the type of therapy that is on offer.

Whilst private therapy is a financial investment, you get the benefit of choice and in many forms. The process of seeking private therapy is different to the rest of the options above, due to how much say you have in the therapist you end up working with - the choice is entirely up to you.

Where to find a private therapist

It’s important to find a therapist who is trained and registered to an ethical body, so you can ensure you are getting a professional service. There are a number of directories where private therapists list their services. These include:

Both these directories require listed therapists to provide proof of their professional qualifications.

How to choose a private therapist

Sometimes the benefit of having choice in the process of finding a therapist can feel overwhelming and confusing.

You may notice words you don’t understand and find yourself scrolling through lots of profiles, not knowing who is best to contact or how you should do so.

I am writing a series of posts that help you to work out what kind of therapist you are looking for and how to identify who to send an enquiry to. I will also be writing about creating your enquiry email and what to include. You are welcome to follow my instagram to keep up to date with these posts here.

If you think I might be the right therapist for you, you are welcome to email me to arrange an initial 15 minute phone or video conversation. This process will help us both to work out whether we might be a good fit for working well together. If not, I’ll be able to support you with finding someone who is. My email address is: info@elsieowen.com

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