Here are some useful suggestions of what you should look for in a CBT therapist (hereafter simply referred to as therapist), and what to expect in therapy.
You should consider if your therapist has sufficient qualifications, knowledge and experience of using CBT therapy. It is useful to check if your therapist is accredited with an approved organisation such as the British Association of Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP), and is listed on their CBT register at www.babcp.com. The BABCP is considered the principal organisation for the practice and development of CBT in the UK. It is only those members who currently meet their standards & criteria as suitably qualified, experienced & continuously developing CBT therapists are accredited.
Your therapist will likely show respect towards you and your views as an individual and strive to make you feel comfortable, at ease and able to gain your trust. In this regard, within individual styles, your therapist will commonly be as warm, friendly and able to empathise with your experiences rather than belittle or mock you.
Your therapist will offer to explain the process of therapy and what will be involved. As such, your therapist will be realistic about how CBT can help you and acknowledge where CBT may not be able to help. This means regular reviewing of progress, and may even entail suggesting other approaches or therapies as more appropriate for your problems. However, this should also be a balanced decision taking into account that sometimes significant breakthroughs in therapy are achieved following persistence and determination.
A therapist will often seek to collaborate with you and involve you in planning of treatment and interventions. As such, the therapy should be structured and yet flexible to accommodate pertinent issues as they arise. A collaborative agenda of issues should be set with each session so that you are actively involved in the therapy, and have an understanding of the roadmap of the journey in therapy.
A therapist will also likely allow you to be sceptical, especially at the beginning and not seek to convince you outright. In fact a little scepticism and curiosity is beneficial in therapy as long as you are willing to try suggestions before dismissing them totally. In this regard, guided self-discovery facilitated by the therapist is seen as a more powerful process rather than simply being told what to do or not to do.
A therapist will tend to value the therapeutic process and strive to build an effective therapeutic relationship with you. Within this you can expect your therapist to uphold confidentiality within therapy asides from exceptions such as issues of serious risk and legally obliging circumstances. These exceptions should be explained up front so that you are well informed.
A therapist will also likely encourage you try strategies and ways outside of therapy in the form of homework or assignments between sessions. In this way, they will encourage you to become independent and become your own therapist in time as you build up useful tools for life to address your problems.
It may also be useful to know, particularly in private therapy, if your therapist has a current disclosure issued by the criminal records bureau (CRB) and does not have outstanding convictions. This is important as therapy involves working at very personal level with vulnerable individuals and it helps if the therapist has had this check. In the NHS, therapists and other clinicians are required to have a current CRB disclosure appropriate to their level of contact with clients.
For further information, please see this Department of Health publication by Roth and Pilling (2007): Cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT) for people with depression and anxiety: what skills can service users expect their therapists to have? http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_078536