Why see a therapist?
People can be suspicious of therapy, feeling that if they have a problem they ought to be able to simply talk to their family or friends about it. But often it's not that simple. Our family and friends are very involved with us, and at certain times, or with certain issues, it might be hardest for those closest to us to be able to help. We might feel there is something we want to say but we don't know how to say it, or that if trying to talk goes wrong a lot is at stake. With a therapist, nothing is at stake. A therapist is an outsider who listens non-judgementally, who enables you to talk uninhibitedly about whatever is on your mind, and who is skilled at helping you to share the fruits of the therapeutic process with the important people in your life in a way that can benefit your personal and professional relationships.
What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a psychotherapist?
A psychiatrist first trains and qualifies as a medical doctor and then does a further specialist training in psychiatry. This enables psychiatrists to prescribe medication for psychological problems, something that neither psychologists nor psychotherapists do.
Psychologist is a general term for someone who has studied psychology to degree level. A Clinical Psychologist will have done further training to be able to administer psychological tests (called psychometric tests) to help assess and diagnose psychological disorders. They are also trained in using research methods and statistical analysis. Some psychologists specialise in working as therapists but their training does not focus exclusively on the theory and practice of counselling or psychotherapy.
What distinguishes psychotherapists is that, in addition to their background (which may or may not include a degree in medicine or psychology), they have undergone a specialised training lasting a minimum of four years which focuses exclusively on developing the knowledge and skills needed to work as a therapist.
How do I know that my therapist is properly qualified?
Your therapist should be registered with one of the UK's professional regulating organisations (ie. UKCP, BPC, BACP - see Qualifications). You may ask your therapist which of these organisations he/she is registered with and you can check with that organisation that your therapist is a currently registered member.