The importance of finding the right therapist

Advice for marginalised groups seeking an inclusive therapist

Therapy is for everyone, irrespective of race, gender or sexual orientation, but ‘finding the right fit’ is most important. Finding the right therapist can take time, and often people don’t know where to start. Anthony Davis explains the importance of this and how best to do it.

Finding the right fit for a therapist does not always come easy. You may try out a couple of therapists before finding the right fit for you; generally, someone you feel comfortable around, trust and have a connection with. A common misconception of therapy is that you should click instantly with the first therapist you go to, though this is not always the case.

Sometimes people may look for a therapist of a similar ethnic background, gender identity or sexual orientation. For instance, I’ve had quite a few clients come to me because they are looking for a Black therapist, a queer therapist or a male therapist.

Having a therapist with similar traits to your own establishes a level of understanding and likeness from the offset, which can put some people at ease and make them feel more comfortable to open up. However, it is important to note that for some, it doesn’t matter if their therapist is different to them or from a different background, and therapy can work just as well.

I have noticed in my practice that underrepresented groups sometimes struggle more than others to find the right fit for a therapist. While it would be difficult to explore all of these groups within this article, some examples include Black and minority ethnic groups, who may struggle to find a therapist because of a lack of representation, fears of stigma around mental health or cultural and religious associations to mental health. The LGBTQ+ community may similarly struggle to find the right therapist not only because of their gender identity concerns or sexual orientation but because they fear disclosing such personal struggles with their mental health.

Nevertheless, there are therapists out there from underrepresented groups and those who are specialists in helping them, including organisations which work particularly with these groups. It’s also possible to search directories to find therapists who specialise in particular communities or with specific issues. There will always be people who can help you, so try not to feel disheartened if you don’t find the right fit for a therapist instantly.

Work has a huge influence on mental health, so it is vital that employers harness a culture which encourages discussions around mental health and has easy and inclusive measures in place for all employees to access support, including underrepresented groups. This culture should be inclusive, empathetic and kind. Some of my clients from underrepresented groups report feeling othered at work and experience microaggressions towards them. While this is just one example, it is clear that more needs to be done to support employee mental health. One way of doing this is through therapy.

Therapy is an opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings with a trained professional. It differs vastly from speaking to a friend or loved one because, as therapists, we are trained and qualified to offer an unjudgmental, unbiased space to explore your issues. Therapy is not advice-giving; it is meant to help you explore and develop insight into your areas of concern and develop your solutions to these problems. 

Ultimately, therapy is really about you and what you bring to a session, so keeping an open mind, especially in the first session, is important. It can be hard opening up to a stranger but allowing yourself to get to know your therapist will open your eyes to how amazing therapy is and how it changes lives.

Tips for finding the right fit with a therapist:

  1. Do the initial search and ensure they are registered with a professional body –Ensure your therapist is registered by a professional body such as BACP. On the BACP website, you can search their directory to find a therapist that is the right fit for you. Using this guarantees that your therapist is qualified and means they have to adhere to high professional and ethical standards. The directory also allows you to filter therapists according to the problem you would like to focus on, the area you are based in and if you want to work online or face to face.
  • Have an idea of the areas that you want to focus on – Coming to a session prepared to talk about what you would like to work on in your life or any areas of concern offers a mild structure to the session and makes it easier for your therapist to know what’s going on for you and what you need help with.
  • Reach out and see if they are the right fit – Keep an open mind and ask yourself if you can imagine building a close bond with this person. The first session is an initial chat to get to know each other and decide if you are the right fit to work with each other. You will usually set some areas to focus on and some goals to work towards. Be wary that it may take time to build the relationship, and there may not be an immediate click. Reaching out to more than one therapist at the start of your therapeutic journey may also be beneficial, so you can compare and decide which therapist fits you best.

Want to know more about therapy? BACP’s latest campaign, Therapy talks, aims to educate the public on how therapy can help, reassure them about seeking professional support and explain why it’s important to find a qualified therapist registered with a professional body.

BACP counsellor, psychotherapist and coach Anthony Davis, has over 13 years of experience working with individuals of various ages and backgrounds.

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