Most people, at some point in their lives, find themselves in a situation where a problem arises that they cannot solve on their own, be it sleep problems, problems with their partner, grief, handling of emotions, or any problem that causes them significant discomfort in their lives that makes them need professional assistance to be able to solve it and they decide to seek psychological help. In this situation, some of the first questions that should arise are: What do I need to consider when looking for a good professional? What requirements should I consider ensuring that the help provided by my therapist will be beneficial to me? The answers to these questions, and many others, are usually unknown to the general population that does not have contact with psychotherapy, and even to people who are already in therapy, and therefore I will try to give some guidelines in this article on how to choose a good therapist starting by describing the basic requirements and ending with some less intuitive questions, all of them can be grouped into 3 criteria summarized below:
Professional training: this first point may be the most intuitive of all, but it still deserves a section for some important questions that we are going to discuss. The professional you decide to attend for psychological therapy must have a minimum specific training to be able to offer therapy, which includes a degree in psychology and a health qualification that can be achieved with a PIR (Opposition to become a clinical specialist) training, MPGS (Master in General Health Psychology) or qualification in clinical psychology prior to the creation of these two. In psychology, there are many areas such as human resources psychology, sports psychology, Marketing or research-oriented psychology, areas that, although very valuable, do not enable or allow the person to offer psychological therapy of any kind (unless they also have health authorization). Any training other than those listed is not psychological therapy and precautions must be taken not to attend them due to the likelihood that their problem will worsen. A good way to avoid falling into the hands of an unqualified person is to ensure that your Therapist is a member of the official school of psychologists in their area since without it they are not allowed to practice. All official schools allow people to consult about their therapist by name, and the professional must offer you information on where they are registered and their specific training of which you have the right to know.
The type of therapeutic approach: this section is probably less intuitive for a person who does not have knowledge of how psychological therapy works. In psychology there are different types of therapy, which use different techniques to address and solve the different problems that we may have, being important to ensure that the one used by your therapist is one that is based on evidence and shows efficacy. Currently, in psychology, there are a wide variety of therapies, but not all have evidence of being effective, or have evidence of being harmful, and without training in the field it can be difficult to discern one from the other. The approaches that are based on evidence and with the best results are currently the behavioural approaches (behavioural therapy or behaviour modification) and the cognitive-behavioural approach (cognitive-behavioural therapy), which are the most used today. On the other hand, we have approaches that are not contrasted or with evidence of not being effective, among which we could name 'past life therapy' or that known as 'Therapeutic touch or Reiki', which should not be offered by professional centres as they will not help to solve the problems that you may have. To find out if an offered therapy is based on evidence or not, you can go to the website of the APA (American Psychological Association), the organization in charge of investigating the efficacy of different types of therapy, or conversely to the website of the APETP (association to protect the patient from pseudoscientific therapies) where you will find a list of uncontested therapies. As in the previous point, you have the right to know the evidence that supports the therapy that you are going to start.
Work method: every professional in psychology has certain differences in the way they work, no two therapists are the same, but there are certain requirements that the therapist must meet in their work, which we can summarize in the following points:
Evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment: the professional who treats you must evaluate the problems with which you arrive to find out how it was established and how to treat it. The normal thing is to use the first 4 or 5 sessions to evaluate and then receive an explanation from the therapist about what is happening to him and how he plans to fix it. If you do not receive an explanation of the problem from your therapist, or they do not explain what they are going to do, or you see that you are not being asked questions about the problem, you should ask why. If your professional tells you that they do not work that way, they are not doing psychological therapy.
Directivity: one of the key points of therapy, although it is often overlooked, is that the professional who treats you is an expert in human behaviour, they’re the ones who knows how to ask questions about the problem and how to treat it, and they should communicate their work appropriately. If you see that your therapist is not explaining what you should do, does not ask questions about the problem, or tells you that you have the solution, you are not undergoing psychological therapy.
Progress and end of therapy: as much as it may sound intuitive, the ultimate goal of all therapy, and of the therapist, is that the person who seeks it no longer needs it, to be useless to the person. This is achieved by working on the problem, according to the instructions provided by your therapist, to solve the problem, find out how it originated and learn not to fall back on it. If after a long time you see no results, nothing changes, or your therapist returns to the same point over and over again, your therapy may not be working, and you should talk to your therapist about it.
It should be mentioned that there are more points to consider when choosing a therapist, but these general guidelines should help you know the minimum you need to know.
Tommy G. Norheim