Before even thinking about choosing a therapist, your first step should be to see your GP (doctor) to rule out any medical cause of your problems. Once you have ruled out that your problems are not caused by a medical condition, you can then look into the uses of complementary or alternative medicines and decide which one or ones may be for you.
But you should discuss the possibilities with your GP — they may have some useful advice. Most doctors, these days, are familiar with the more well-known therapies, such as acupuncture.
What should you look for in a therapist?
Once you have made the decision to see a therapist, it is vitally important that you feel comfortable with your chosen one. These days, nearly all practitioners have their own website, where you will find information about the therapies they offer, and for which sorts of conditions they offer help. Look at what their qualifications are, the names of the professionals bodies they belong to, and what fees they charge.
How should you contact the therapist?
Depending on the type of therapy you are seeking, some people prefer to make contact with a therapist via the contact page on their website. But it is generally considered better to make the initial contact by telephone, and it is not uncommon to find that a therapist uses an answering machine. This is so that they will not be disturbed whilst working with clients. Leave your name and a contact number, and it’s always best to state a time when it will be convenient for the therapist to contact you.
When you talk to the therapist on the telephone, they will not be able to make a proper assessment of your problem, nor the number of sessions that you may need, or the total costs involved. A detailed assessment can only be made at a personal meeting.
Check to see if the therapist offers a free initial consultation. If you are nervous or apprehensive about your first meeting with the therapist, ask if you can be accompanied by a friend or relation.
At your initial consultation, it is advisable to review the therapist’s training and qualifications where applicable. Most complementary and alternative therapies are accredited, so some form of training should be able to be proven by the therapist.
How much should a therapy cost?
You will need to know the cost of each session in advance. Ask the therapist to estimate the number of sessions you may need, the length and frequency of the sessions and what the total cost of the therapy is likely to be.
You should also ask whether your therapist offers concessions to, for instance, students, senior citizens, the unemployed. There may also be a charge for missed appointments, and possibly other charges. Be sure you know exactly what you are paying for. Remember that you are the customer and you are paying for a service. Therefore, when engaging a therapist, you must ask the right questions.
Don’t feel intimidated by therapists that you meet. Look around until you find someone whose style and answers you feel comfortable with. Just because you are having some problems doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you want, what you need and what sounds right to you.
Does your therapist have a Code of Ethics?
All therapists are required to work within the ethical guidelines for their respective disciplines. Those that are members of associations are expected to adhere to the specific Code of Ethics as set by their association.
Will your therapist respect your privacy?
The short answer is yes, they should. All therapists have a duty of care and confidentiality to all clients, whether they are past or existing clients. Client confidentiality protects the information presented by clients in therapy sessions. All information conveyed by clients is treated with the strictest confidence and will not be shared with a third party.
The recording of all client information should not include the client’s name or contain details that will identify the client. All client information should be kept in a secured filing system or, if electronically stored, it must be password-protected and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
However, there are exceptional circumstances when client confidentiality may be broken. For example, if a client conveys that they are at risk of harming themselves or a third party, the appropriate agency may be informed.
Is your therapist insured for liability?
All therapists should have an insurance policy which provides full cover for public liability and professional indemnity.
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For more on this subject, go to What to expect from a good therapist.