Updated: Jan 13
Anyone who has ever scrolled through the sea of smiling faces on a therapist directory knows that finding the right private therapist can feel daunting and overwhelming. Especially as we often reach out for help at our most vulnerable point.
This guide will talk you through how to use online directories to filter out search results and the different stages of assessing if an online therapist is right.
1. Beginning the Search
If you are brand new to therapy, you will likely begin by searching online using one of the many therapy directories available or by getting referrals from friends and family.
For all of these different avenues of accessing support, there are some important points and questions to keep in mind.
The Importance of Qualifications
Counselling in the UK is currently not a protected profession meaning individuals can advertise themselves as counsellors without completing any recommended level and standard of training. One of the benefits of using one of the online directories listed below is that to have their profiles verified, therapists will be required to submit copies of their registrations and qualifications.
The most well know UK professional bodies are the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP), UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), and the National Counselling Society (NCS). However, there are also many smaller bodies, which can be viewed here.
Members of these professional bodies have completed training that meets the minimum requirements for registration, and members have all agreed to follow the ethical guidelines for practice set by each professional body. This also includes committing to continuous professional development and adequate supervision of their work. These professional bodies also provide an avenue for therapy clients to report and gain support around any ethical violations by their therapist to a third body.
You can check if the therapist you are thinking of contacting is registered with a professional body by using the registration number or their name to search on the individual membership body registries. Most therapists will highlight which professional membership they are affiliated with and their registration number on their websites or directory listings.
Don't Forget Personal Preferences
One of the essential factors in determining the outcome of therapy is the quality of the relationship between therapist and client. We all this a therapeutic alliance.
Research tells us that client preferences are incredibly important in determining the quality of the therapeutic alliance between therapist and client.
When looking for a private therapist, think about who you usually work best with. Do you have preferences on gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, life experiences, or any other characteristic that feels important to you?
You may also have preferences about how you would like your therapist to work with you. You may prefer therapy sessions to be a space where you can talk while your therapist reflects back to you what they've heard, or you might want your therapist to provide more structure and take away homework tasks.
One of the great things about using a directory is that you can filter for these preferences and bring up specific search results.
How to Use Psychology Today to Find the Right Therapist
Psychology Today is one of the best know therapy directories in the world. All therapists listed on their website have had to provide proof of their registration with a recognised professional body. The website has several features that make it easy to find the right online therapist for you on their site.
Starting a New Search on Psychology Today
The first step in starting a new search on Psychology Today is to put your city or postcode into the 'Find Counselling' search bar on the homepage. You can also choose to put in an alternative city if you are looking for online therapy outside of your current geographical location. This can be particularly useful if you live in an area like London, where therapy prices are higher than in other parts of the country.
How to Filter Results on Psychology Today
Once you have entered a location, you will then be able to search for some of the specific preferences you have. On Psychology Today, this includes being able to search by referring issue, the type of therapy modality used, the gender of the therapist, the age of the client the therapist works with, if the therapist accepts your insurance and the typical price of the therapy. Click on 'More' at the far right end of the filter bar. You will also be able to select if you want a therapist with experience working with a specific ethnicity, with a particular sexuality, a therapist who offers sessions in a second language, and a therapist with experience working with a particular faith.
Finding an Online Counsellor on Psychology Today
Psychology Today has listings for both in-person and online therapists. There are two ways to find online therapists on Psychology Today. The first is to (after filtering by your preferences in the previous step) look for the listings that highlight on the right-hand side that the therapist offers online therapy.
You can then click through on the listing to view the full listing for the therapist you are interested in. Using this approach, you are still looking specifically at the geographical location you typed into the search bar. In our case example, that means looking at therapists located in Edinburgh. If you want to expand your search to online therapists across a wider geographical area, you can scroll down to the bottom of the search results and click on 'Online Therapy'.
A note: Unfortunately, Psychology Today does not let you carry over any filter preferences if you click on 'Online Therapy', so you will need to re-select any preferences.
How to Use Counselling Directory to Find the Right Therapist
The other extensive therapist directory in the UK is the Counselling Directory. All therapists on Counselling Directory have been verified as belonging to a recognised professional body. The Counselling Directory also has several sister sites for life coaching, nutrition, hypnotherapy, and holistic therapy, which can be accessed through the website. In this guide, we will only be talking about how to look for qualified counsellors through the site.
Starting a New Search on Counselling Directory
The first step is to begin the search by deciding if you are looking for 'In-Person' or 'Online/Phone' therapy. You can select both or only one of the options.
If you select 'In-Person', you must provide a physical location. However, if you only select online/phone, a location is not required to complete a search.
How to Filter Results on Counselling Directory
Once you have selected the type of therapy (In-person or Online/Phone) and clicked to search, you will be taken to a results page where you can further select your search criteria.
The filter bar is located on the left side of the screen and extends down the results page. Counselling Directory has one of the best filter options of any therapist directory, allowing you to be very specific about your preferences and needs.
You can filter by location, referring issue, type of therapy, type of session (in-person, online, telephone, or home visits), type of practitioner (individual or organisation), physical accessibility, session availability, price per session, any concession pricing, accepted insurance, type of client seen, and the language spoken.
There are specific preferences (like the gender of the therapist, religion, or sexuality) that you cannot currently filter by. However, Counselling Directory does allow you to search using your own keywords at the bottom of the filter bar. This allows you to look for specific words or phrases on therapists' profiles.
Finding an Online Counsellor on Counselling Directory
As previously mentioned, Counselling Directory makes it very easy for you to select that you have a preference for online therapy at all stages of your search.
On the results page, counsellors who match for online therapy will clearly show this on the search results page. You can then click through to view more details on the profile page of the therapist.
2. The Power of Websites and Social Media
Many therapists now have some form of an online presence. This might be a website or even include social media (like Instagram, TikTok, or Youtube) where they share content related to their practice and areas of expertise.
Social media can provide you with an idea of the therapist's areas of interest as well as their personality. Remember, therapy is relational work, so finding someone who resonates with you is essential. Social media can help you check 'fit' before you reach out to arrange first contact.
3. Contacting a Therapist
Once you have found some therapists who feel as though they would be a good fit for some of the preferences you have, the next step is to reach out.
You can do this through the details provided on someone's listing or their website.
It is generally helpful to provide a brief overview of why you are looking to attend therapy so that the therapist can tell you if your referring issue is one they work with.
Some therapists offer a free initial consultation which is usually 15-20 minutes long, and a space for you to ask generic questions about therapy. Others ask you to book in for a longer and therefore paid the initial session.
The point of this initial session is to check your suitability for online counselling, give you a sense of how the therapist works, go into more detail about your referring issue, and for you to ask questions of the therapist.
It can be helpful to reach out to at least a handful of therapists as private practices can be full, have waitlists, or get back to say the therapist is not suitable for your referring issue. It can also help to have a couple of initial sessions or consultations with different therapists to help you decide who you resonate with most.
4. During Your First Session
The first session is a place for both you and the therapist to decide if you would like to work together. Make a list of the questions you want to ask the therapist before your appointment or call. Some questions you may want to ask the therapist during this call include:
How long have you been in practice?
What qualifications do you hold, and what professional body do you belong to?
How much do you charge per session?
What is your cancellation policy?
Have you worked with clients experiencing similar difficulties as me?
Why did you choose to become a therapist?
What is your philosophy around helping? Are you more directive or more guiding?
How often would sessions occur?
How would we set therapy goals?
What is a typical session with you like?
Would there be homework between sessions?
If you are exploring the possibility of therapy with a couple of different therapists, ask them all the same questions so you can compare responses to find the best fit for you.
5. After A Few Sessions
You will typically know if a therapist feels like a right fit within 1-3 sessions of therapy. If you find you are having a hard time connecting or that therapy doesn't quite seem like a good fit, it is often to feed this back to your therapist so you can have a conversation about if you can change your way of working.
If not, they may be able to recommend a colleague who would be more suitable, or you can repeat the steps above to continue to look for a therapist.
It is not uncommon to try a few therapists before finding the right one or to find that you need different therapists for the different parts of your therapy journey.
I hope this guide helps you to find the right therapist for you. If you are struggling with anxiety or perfectionism, you are more than welcome to contact me to discuss online counselling at my private practice.
Till next time,