If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed when I asked a series of questions about therapy. I asked those who were seeing therapists: “When did you decide to see a therapist?”. The responses made it clear to me that the answer was that they waited until they were in crisis.
“I knew I needed one when I was having like 30 mental breakdowns a week”– Anonymous
I discuss a range of mental wellness topics, so it felt like a great time to interview a professional and gain their thoughts. So, for this mental health awareness week, I interviewed Marie-Louise Katsikare MBACP, a multilingual phycologist and put some questions about knowing when it is time to seek professional help and how to do it.
Are there any critical signs which signal it’s time to get professional support?
I’m a firm believer that anyone can benefit from seeing a counsellor. You don’t need to be in crisis in order to ask for help – it should be part of your self-care routine to have an hour a week for you to discuss how your week has been and talk through anything that came up for you. However, if you have been feeling anxious, low, or have something that has been affecting you psychologically for a prolonged period of time, you should look for a therapist.
I would also recommend speaking to your doctor. They can also advise you of any medicinal route (if this is something you are interested in, as well as any support that could be free for the NHS in your area.
There are different types of therapy. How do I know what to look for?
This is a tricky question. It really depends on what you would like to tackle in your therapeutic journey.
For example, if you are suffering from anxiety you could go the CBT route. CBT tends to be short term counselling, and it helps you find ways to tackle your anxiety and gives you tools to cope with it. The NHS uses this approach a lot. However, you could also go to a counsellor that may use a different approach, such as person-centred or integrative, that will use different types of therapeutic approaches and will look into your past experiences to see where the anxiety has come from and use this to find a way to alleviate this. I would suggest looking online and see if there is something that you feel you want to try.
How do I find a therapist?
There are many websites that advertise therapists close to your area in the UK. I would look at the BACP website, Psychology today and the counselling directory.
What should I look for in a therapist?
The most important thing to look for in a therapist is a good rapport. You need to be comfortable with this person that you are going to open up to. It’s not so much about the approach they use, and whether it’s person-centred, psychodynamic or CBT, it’s whether you feel good with them to spend an hour a week with and talk about the things that brought you to therapy in the first place. I would also suggest that you look into the counsellors’ area of expertise. For example, if you have had trauma in your life, look for someone that has experience in this.
Do I need to prepare anything before my first session?
Make sure that you are on time. Therapy sessions tend to be 50 minutes long, so you want to utilise your time as much as possible. Be prepared to talk about what brought you to therapy. You don’t need to talk about it in detail in your first session, sometimes it takes time for you to open up, and that is ok. A counsellor will never push you to open up before you’re ready.
What happens in a therapy session?
In the first therapy session, the counsellor will take down your history. This will include any health issues that could affect the therapy sessions, prescription medications you are taking and your registered GP surgery details. (This is down to if anything happens in your session and you need medical attention. It makes it easier to have this information). We will also need your address, date of birth and a contact in case of emergency. A counsellor will then ask what has brought you to therapy and discuss what you are hoping to achieve in therapy.
How long should I expect to see a therapist?
I get this question a lot, and it’s really hard to give a definitive answer. I would always say that you should definitely commit to at least 12 sessions (this is considered short term therapy) which is about three months.
I have clients that I have seen for that amount of time, but I also have clients that I have seen for over two years.
What options are there if you can’t afford private therapy but can not wait on the NHS list?
Definitely put your name down for any help the NHS can offer you as there may be cancellations, and the wait time could be shorter. Also, research low-cost counselling in your area. Many newly qualified counsellors are volunteers in various centres that offer low-cost counselling and are eager to help.
If you are interested in learning more about Marie-Louise and her expertise, then be sure to head over to her website.
Special thanks to Marie-Louise for the interview.