Searching for an online therapist. You know what is the most difficult? There are so many options and so many smiling faces wanting to ‘help you’. How do you choose the right counsellor for talking therapy?
Well, finding the right therapist for you it’s not straightforward. You may have to try several times until you find the therapist you need.
But if you are paying attention to certain details when searching for a therapist, you will not end up frustrated. Yes, frustration comes up when you struggle to find the right therapist.
Where to look then?
1. Family and Friends Recommendations
Sometimes, family and friends are the best referral. They don’t need to sell you anything. If they recommend a service or a product to you, that should be because they really think it will help you. Still, the same therapist may not be a suitable match for you. Plus, you may feel awkward to tell your friend that X therapist wasn’t a good fit for you.
2. Psychology Today
Psychology Today is one of the biggest website that helps people find a therapist. You can also find Support Groups.
Type in the postcode related to the area you are living in. As the therapy is online, you don’t have to search only therapists in your area. But you can start with your area because the results are less overwhelming. Otherwise you will spend hours browsing for the right therapist in the entire UK.
To filter more, go to Issues and choose Anxiety and other issues you can relate to.
Let’s say you found a therapist that looks right for you. There are other things you should pay attention to.
First, it is really important to offer a free phone consultation at least. Most of the therapists offer such a free consultation. This way you will have the chance to speak with the counsellor and see if you like that person or not. It may not be the most important aspect, but it you will influence your client-counsellor rapport.
Check the Specialties / Issues section to see what issues is this therapist trained for. In the example below, the page only mentions anxiety as one of the issues, but it is not the therapist’s main specialty. The best thing to do is to arrange a free phone consultation to discuss and confirm if the therapist you chose can help you with your anxiety problems.
Check for the cost per session so it matches your budget.
Obviously, credentials matter, so check that too. Also, being registered with a professional body like BACP it is a good sign that this person is reliable.
3. Anxiety UK
Anxiety UK offers paid therapy services online as well. They narrow the range of therapies to talking therapy or counselling, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, hypnotherapy, Compassion Focused Therapy or acupuncture. Anxiety UK recommends these types of therapies for those who suffer from anxiety.
First, see what you can find in your area. However, look for therapists from other areas as well because you won’t have to meet them in person.
The next step is to read carefully their FAQ page.
They base the prices on your income, so the lower your household income is, the lower the fee. To receive therapy on the first 3 tiers and student rate, they require evidence (P60 or award notification showing current rates of benefit).
Counselling Directory is another excellent platform for finding a therapist to talk to online. It works similarly with Psychology Today. You can choose to see the results only for the online therapists and your location. Again, being online, it does not really matter if they are from your city or not. However, it helps you narrow down the results. Plus, you have the choice to see them in person in the future.
You can refine your search as much as you want. It is really nice that you can choose multiple issues you need help for. Also, if you are interested in a specific type of therapy, you can select the one you are looking for.
Once you choose the issues you seek help for, click Apply and results will be refined immediately.
You can also search for professionals who are currently offering a reduced rate from the categories listed.
So What Now?
There are plenty of resources you can choose from to find an online therapist for anxiety. All of them allow you to refine your search using different criteria: location, cost, type of therapy, etc. But it’s still not good enough. Still feels like browsing through a sea of therapists, and no one feels the right fit. A good rapport between you and the therapist is crucial, so don’t feel discouraged or guilty because you can’t decide easily.
Try first to see if any of the descriptions makes you click.
In the example below, I am a bit reassured to know the therapist has experience and maybe knows how to approach me. But it doesn’t tell me much. I like, however, the last sentence. It gave me a bit of hope. She or he will help me find the right treatment. So the therapist doesn’t have a ready-made recipe to cure my problems. With my last two experiences, I had this feeling they were using the same approach for all their clients.
Also, acknowledge your reaction when you see their profile pictures. I know, this is not a date site. You can’t choose a therapist just because you like how they look. But your mind will take in consideration this little detail. After all, profile pictures are communication tools meant to offer more cues about that person. For example, I can’t stand those cold, half-smile faces of some therapists. They have a vibe of superiority I can’t stand. I know they want to look professional and experienced, but there is so sign of empathy. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
For example, a research model has been developed to see how profile pictures can instill trust and generate more booking intentions on Airbnb platform. The research model is to be used in future surveys. However, the researchers expect to find a positive link between profile pictures and bookings.
Another study investigated whether Belgian recruitment and selection (R&S) professionals use LinkedIn and Facebook during their R&S procedures and to what extent. While R&S professionals claim profile pictures on Facebook do not provide signals on personality dimensions like emotional stability and agreeableness, they do recognize signals of extraversion and maturity.
In the picture below, the face of this guy is more serene and open. It feels like a human being wanting to help another human being. Obviously you can’t choose a therapist just because of that, but pay attention to this aspect when you search for an online therapist.
Finding an Online Therapist – In a Nutshell…
Go on one of these sites (or other) and filter the searching criteria to meet your need (therapist in your area, specialized in anxiety issues, offers online counseling at a price you find affordable and provides 30 minutes or 1 hour free consultation).
Open a new tab for each profile page that makes a good impression to you
You may have 5 or 10 or 20 open tabs. Now reduce the total number to ten (enough to give you plenty of options, but not too much to overwhelm you).
Contact each therapist (by phone or email) to request a free consultation.
Decide which therapist suits your needs and shows genuine signs of trust and empathy. You will share lots of things to this person so you must feel safe enough to do that, with no fear of judgement.
Therapists are human beings, not robots.They have unique personalities and styles. So it is ok if it takes a while until you find the right online therapist for anxiety.
Red Flags You Should Look For In Therapists
There is no informed consent provided to you.
The therapist allows you to vent forever without setting some goals to move forward.
The therapist doesn’t listen to your individual needs that cannot be covered by their specific training. For example, I was working with a CBT therapist online on social anxiety. In one session I mentioned to him my struggle to communicate and have a harmonious relationship with my brother, and he completely ignored that. I know he had a certain treatment trajectory, but he discouraged me when he ignored that issue without even trying to refer me to a different therapist that could help me.
If the therapist reroutes all your problems back to some aspect of your life (e.g. your parents or your childhood).
If you feel like the therapist is not trying to understand your point of view.
He or she tells you immediately what are the answers to your problems instead of leading you to your own solutions. Obviously they are the professionals and they are trained enough to have answers to your problems. The red flag should appear only when those solutions are rigid, not tailored to your issues and needs. Therapy is a collaborative approach.
The therapist checks for messages during the session. Unexpected things may appear, but it is a red flag when that happens often.
The therapist flirts with you
Tips on How to Make the Most of Each Online Session
Check your camera, microphone and see if you need headphones. Make sure your Wi-Fi’s working well, otherwise you will become anxious or irritated if the session you are paying money for is being affected by constant glitches / disconnections.
Turn off social media notifications so you won’t be distracted.
Use a laptop / tablet rather than a phone. Video calling drains the battery of your device. Plus, it is uncomfortable to have to keep your phone in one hand or make sure it doesn’t fall from the place you put it. That’s unless you have a phone tripod.
Privacy. That is important. Ideally you should be able to find a room in your house where you can talk without feeling uncomfortable knowing you may be heard by someone.However, with the coronavirus situation still ongoing many of us work from home and it’s tricky to find a time when you can be all by yourself. An alternative would be to go to a nice coffee and find a quiet place to stay for an hour. But this is feasible only after the lockdown is lifted. Other options include staying in your parked car or discussing with the members of your household and arrange to have privacy during your counselling sessions.
Stay comfortable. Make sure you are not in a position where you are tensed. Therapy itself may cause a bit of tension, especially in the beginning. So make yourself comfortable whatever that may mean to you (under the boundaries of decency of course).
Focus on your therapist instead of your image. During online sessions you can see yourself as well, and that can distract you and feel self-conscious. Concentrate instead on your therapist and look into his or her eyes when you talk.
Name your emotions explicitly. The biggest disadvantage of the online therapy is that those non-verbal cues of your body language cannot be seen anymore. So try to be less vague when you describe your feelings. You could use the wheel of emotions.
Finding an online therapist for anxiety seems like a daunting task. There are many websites where you can find many therapists. Use a reliable source and start looking for the right therapist. The filters offered by these sites are very helpful, but what matters is to ‘get a sample’. As much as uncomfortable and exhausting can be, approach as many therapists as possible until you find the right fit for you. ‘Shop around’ just like you do with your clothes. Find what works best for you.