In a complex age of health crises, political turmoil and economic struggle, some have boldly come out and said that we all need therapy. That’s right, each and every one of us. And while prescribing everybody a programme of psychological care could well solve some of our societal issues, it would also be a bit of a logistical nightmare.
However, as we continue to recognise the benefits of different types of therapy, many are taking healing into their own hands through methods like self-help treatments and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), or holistic therapy. The latter in particular has become increasingly popular, and as the name suggests, operates on the basis that all components of our wellbeing are interconnected, and should be treated as one whole. These treatments work to supplement mainstream medicine and are expected to continue growing in popularity, with the global market predicted to be worth $404.66 billion by 2028.
But, if you’re interested in this type of therapy yourself and need to choose a holistic therapist, how do you know who’s for real and who’s a wolf in shrink’s clothing? Here are four important things to consider.
There are many different types of treatment that target the body, mind, and spirit. Methods range from acupuncture, homoeopathy, massage and breathwork, to talking therapies like CBT. Across this broad spectrum, different therapists each have their own areas of expertise — so you’ll find that some therapists you talk to will specialise in only a few types of treatment, and not subscribe to other styles.
To get a good match, you should first reflect on which areas of your life you’d like to understand better, and the treatments that could help you to do so. Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, search for therapists that specialise in those fields. Practitioners come from a range of different backgrounds — if, for example, you’re looking for aromatherapy, you’re unlikely to need a psychotherapist, and so on.
The main issue that people face when enquiring into CAM is that practitioners aren’t regulated the same way that conventional healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses are. Therefore, most don’t know what to look out for.
A good place to start is to check whether they’re accredited by any professional associations, such as the Federation of Holistic Therapists or the Professional Standards Authority. These societies vet the practitioners on their books, making sure that their techniques and ethical standards are up to scratch so that you receive adequate care.
It’s also worth checking whether the therapists on your shortlist are properly insured. Given the nature of their work, a responsible practitioner should be prepared with the relevant cover. As insurance experts at Salon Gold explain: “holistic therapists face a number of unique risks. Bodily harm, or mental and psychological damage (or a combination) may occur during a customer’s treatment”. Always check that they have an appropriate policy in place to compensate you in case something goes wrong.
It’s a therapist’s duty to help manage your wellbeing, and this is a large responsibility — whoever you choose needs to be able to prove that they are up to the task. When reaching out to practitioners, enquire about what areas they have been trained in and any work history that demonstrates their competence. A wide range of diplomas are available to certify holistic therapists, such as VTCT and BTEC qualifications — but besides these, do they have real-world client experience?
Reputation and word of mouth are helpful tools to assess if a therapist is the right fit for you. Customer testimonials are often freely available online, and these should be your first port of call: as well as Google and website reviews, consult specialist service platforms like Treatwell or Yell. Ask your friends and family for recommendations too, if they have any — this way, you can hear about patient experiences from those who you know have your best interests at heart.
When you start out with a new therapist, the first thing that they should do is book you in for an initial consultation. Treat this like a chemistry test — not a commitment to pursuing treatment with them. At this stage, you should discuss your goals for therapy and determine whether you trust their service to fulfil them. Do they understand your needs? Would you feel comfortable being vulnerable with them? If you have early concerns or feel like the connection is lacking, you might have to go back to the drawing board. Keep at it, though, and soon you’ll have found a trustworthy and compassionate therapist you can count on — and so begins your journey to greater wellbeing.