By Robyn Robles
As your accidental resident writer of mental health related issues, I thought it was time for me to discuss a topic that is very important to me – finding a therapist. Not just finding a therapist, mind you. Finding a good therapist. And learning what a good therapist is. And firing any therapist who is not good.
I know what you’re thinking – “What do you mean ‘finding a therapist’, Robyn? I take what I’m given and say ‘thank you very much’. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
But here’s the deal – you aren’t a beggar. You’re a tax-paying (maybe) human (probably) member of this community and you deserve good healthcare.
If you think your therapist is not doing a good job, or if they’re just not doing the sort of job that you need them to do, then you should absolutely be showing them the door. You should be choosing a therapist with all the delicate consideration with which you would choose a spouse. After all, this person will probably know more of your deep, dark, twisted thoughts than even your partner will. And they’ll be the person you endlessly complain about your partner to. That’s not a job for just anyone. It’ll take a particular person to handle whatever your particular brand of traumatised is, and help you on your way to being a fully-functioning member of society.
So shop around. Ask for recommendations from other people who you know have been to therapy, from GPs, from the internet if necessary. Ask your therapist questions (I know, scandalous) to check whether they’re a good fit for you. And if for any reason you feel that it isn’t working out, don’t give up on therapy all together and ghost that psychologist like a tinder date who was too into clean eating. Try a different one.
Things that are definitely red flags to look out for in any mental health professional include:
- Belittling your problems. Key phrases to look out for include “everyone goes through that” and “it’s just hormones”.
- On the flip side, demonising your symptoms or making you feel like a lost cause is also a big no-no. You don’t come to therapy for judgement, I’m sure you get enough of that elsewhere.
- Refusing to tell you when and what they are diagnosing you with, or refusing to explain to you any diagnoses that you are given.
- Encouraging medication without any specialised therapy to back it up or it makes you feel out of your comfort zone.
- Pushing therapy without ever discussing medication.
- This is going to be a surprising one – not calling you out on your problems. Listen, a significant part of anyone’s therapy appointment is going to be you making mountains out of molehills and getting you caught in a twist for no reason. Because mental health problems do that to you. You have to find someone who is willing to listen, make you hear the cold hard truth; but who will also help you find tools to combat your mental illness. Letting you moan on about your problems without any move to find viable solutions is not being a good therapist, it’s being an enabler.
- For the other gays among us – if your therapist ever demeans your identity, then leave. I had a psychiatrist once tell me that I wasn’t bisexual, just confused. Guess who’s no longer on my Christmas card list! This also goes for any other minorities – if they’re making you uncomfortable with racism/ ableism/ transphobia/ anything else, leave.
As a disclaimer, this is far from being a comprehensive list. The information in this article is from personal experience, and does not constitute professional, medical or psychological advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions, or if any of the issues in this article affect you. And in order to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, I’m going to do a little offering of viable solutions of my own.
The UK Council for Psychotherapies offers ethical guidelines on therapy practices, so you can check for anymore specifics on how your own therapist should be acting.
GPs are an excellent first step to finding therapists or other mental health help in the UK. Anglia Ruskin, like most other British universities, also has a free mental health service, including counsellors, mental health advisors, and a drop in service for emergencies. You can find out more about that on their website. The SU at ARU also offers a well-being service, which is entirely confidential and student-focused.
And I’m going to round off this article with numbers for a few UK-based helplines – you have nothing to lose by sharing your problems with a fellow human:
Samaritans: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
MIND: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
BEAT: 0808 801 0677
Careline: 0845 122 8622 (Mon-Fri 10am-1pm, 7-10pm)
In a mental health emergency, call 999 or go to A&E if you are worried about your own safety.
Image: Adobe Stock License