Choosing a good doctor, in general, is not easy, but finding the right psychotherapist is twice as difficult. The cost of making the wrong choice is very high: the patient will suffer psychological trauma and will have difficulties accepting even qualified help in the future.

What are the educational requirements?

A good psychotherapist must meet a set of mandatory criteria – possess a kind of “minimum package” of guarantees necessary for the treatment process to begin at all. In countries with strict legislation, therapists who fail to comply with such minimum standards are screened out or additionally trained so that they eventually “grow up” to the standard.

A psychotherapist must have a degree in psychotherapy or psychological counseling. The international standard requires at least three to four years of training. This education may be obtained both from scratch or in addition to higher education: psychological, medical, or any other. It is important that higher education by itself, and even specialization in psychiatry, does not allow one to work as a psychotherapist.

Why do psychotherapists go through therapy?

Personal therapy experience of your own is mandatory. In most cases, 50-100 hours of personal therapy are sufficient for certification as a psychotherapist; for membership in psychotherapy associations, 200 hours or more is sufficient. This is the necessary minimum to ensure that the therapist’s problems are not unknowingly brought into the work with the client. Personal therapy is also important in the context of the sustainability of the professional, their safety and the safety of their clients, compliance with ethics and laws. The more hours of therapy, the less likely unethical behavior and abuse of one’s power. Many psychotherapists continue personal therapy for many years.

Another important criterion is supervision, during which the professional together with a more experienced psychotherapist analyses work with clients, reflects on the methods used, exchanges experiences, and understands how to correct mistakes. Supervision is mandatory for all practicing psychotherapists without exception, both beginners and experienced. 40-50 hours are sufficient for certification, but it is good if there are 100 hours or more, and 200 hours of supervision is required for membership in therapist associations.

Which ethical principles need to be followed by therapists?

Following the ethical principles of psychotherapy means that the specialist does not go beyond his competence, speaks openly and honestly about himself and his methods of work, ensures confidentiality and safety of patients, and complies with the law. The ethics of the psychotherapist is the main thing that confirms the safety of interaction with them. If there is nothing wrong with ethics, you will get all the information you need to decide whether to become a client.

What else could be helpful?

Here are a few other things that add a plus point to the professionalism of a psychotherapist. For example, a Ph.D. or a doctorate. It is not always practically useful in working with clients if we are talking about science in its pure form. To find out for sure, ask about the topic of work – professionals whose dissertations are practice-oriented will be happy to mention them.

Seminar and conference certificates indicate that the specialist is constantly learning new methods and approaches, which means that they are up to date on the latest research, constantly improving and communicating with colleagues. Keep in mind that not everyone has the actual opportunity to go somewhere regularly – so if your specialist does not do this, it does not say anything bad about his competence. Maybe he writes articles at the same time – it makes sense to read them to get an impression of his approach and style of work since the therapist’s personality plays a significant role in treatment.

It is also better if the specialist already had and has clients. The more clients there are, the more likely you are to get effective help, because not only does experience accumulate knowledge, but the number of hours of supervision and personal therapy increases as well. If the professional has focused counseling experience (e.g., working with pregnant women or victims of abusive relationships), this is an additional plus for those whose situations are similar.

Featured photo by Nik Shuliahin/Unsplash.