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Finding the right therapist

So, you've come to the conclusion that you could do with someone to talk through how you've been feeling, and the impact that it's having on your life. Now what?

When I first meet someone I'm working with, I often hear how they've had a really difficult journey finding the right support. They had been to their GP who had told them of NHS waitlists; they'd found websites of accredited practitioners, with seemingly lots of qualifications, but still felt stuck:

'How do I know if this person is good? What if I don't get on with them?'

Knowing the kind of support you need can often be a minefield, so I thought I would share with you what I know of the Psychological professions, and where I think each profession can help

*bear in mind - many people are multiply qualified, and so often bring different approaches together!

  1. Counsellors: Your child's school may have a counsellor. Counsellor's are trained to provide an active listening space to help young people explore their experiences and help them to understand their feelings and experiences in an open and non-judgemental space. This talking therapy can help with expression and understanding, though counsellors do not often give advice, or use any structured models in supporting change.

  2. Child Wellbeing Practitioner (CWP) / Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP): These professionals are trained in Low Intensity CBT. This means that in addition to (often) an undergraduate degree in Psychology, they have undergone a further year's training in how to provide early intervention for common mental health difficulties like anxiety and depression, and for children - emotional experiences, communicated through behaviour. If your child is experiencing difficulties in any of these areas for the first time; they've been feeling this way for less than a year; they do not significantly self-harm or have suicidal plans and they feel motivated for change, then these practitioners are amazing at supporting improvements in just 8-10 sessions.

  3. Systemic Therapists / Family Therapists are trained to work with difficulties that either arise or are maintained in the context of family relationships. This can be anything from significant differences in approaches to parenting, support with separating families, or blended families, or specific relationship difficulties between the parents or any members of the families. Family Therapy is a NICE recommended intervention for a number of mental health conditions in children and young people, including eating disorders.

  4. Clinical Psychologists have undergone extended learning and research to a doctoral level (Usually 7-9 years in training). They work from a bespoke 'formulation' of all the factors (Biological, Psychological and social/familial) involved in a child and family's experiences, and are trained in at least two major evidence-based therapeutic approaches, though often draw on a number of approaches at different times within therapy, in order to support change in more complex or significant mental health difficulties

  5. Psychodynamic Psychotherapists / Child Psychotherapists: Psychotherapists work by understanding how difficult experiences can be expressed in behaviour and in relationships. It sounds complex but if your child has had some very difficult or traumatic early experiences, or very difficult experiences of care (or lack of care) they may find it difficult to understand why they feel the way that they do, or put into words exactly how they feel. Children and young people will often express their distress through their behaviour, or through complex and unhelpful ways of being in relationships. Child Psychotherapists can help young people to understand this better and find the words to describe their experiences, so that they can communicate - and get support for - their needs with people who care for them.

How do I know who I need?

Much of this depends on what you want out of a therapy space, and the reasons that you're seeking it. If your child's difficulties are at the more mild end, haven't been around for very long, and don't seem to impact their life too significantly - Low intensity CBT is a great choice. However, if you think that the difficulties are complex and have come from a number of different difficult experiences over time, then a Clinical Psychologist is a good start. Ultimately, the most important thing is that you feel that you can talk openly with someone, and that together you have a plan for sessions, and an opportunity to check and evaluate whether it's helping. At it's important to us that we match you to the right therapist, so that you know you're getting the right support from the start. Please drop us a line to find out more.


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