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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Injugu

Your Guide to the Right Therapist

By Catherine Karega| Updated July 31, 2023

Listen, it seems like everyone has a therapist today. At least that is what they’re saying on the countless Whatsapp groups you are on, their testimonials of selfcare on Instagram, and the short but profound knowledge bombs on TikTok.

Where and how did they find their therapist?

In this article I asked an expert in the field about how to find a therapist and what to do in case it’s not working out. Roni is a trained psychologist and runs her own private practice called Mulberry Wellness.

We’ve had numerous conversations about this topic as professionals and people who've sought therapy services. I would say we share a desire to clarify the confusing waters of mental health care in Kenya. Here is a summary of our conversation.

Where should we begin in our search for a therapist?

First you should understand who a therapist is. A therapist is a trained mental health professional who helps individuals, couples, families, or groups deal with emotional, psychological, and behavioral issues.

Therapists are also known as counselors, psychotherapists, or mental health clinicians. They utilize various therapeutic techniques and approaches to assist their clients in addressing and resolving challenges, improving their mental well-being, and achieving personal growth.

Therapists typically have formal education and specialized training in psychology, counseling, or social work. They may hold different degrees such as a Ph.D., Psy.D., M.A., M.S., or M.S.W., depending on their area of expertise. The specific qualifications and licensing requirements for therapists vary depending on the country or state in which they practice.

Is there really any difference in calling them a counselor?

The term therapist is an all encompassing term used to refer to practitioners in mental health e.g. counseling psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and in some contexts licensed social workers. The difference is in their academic training and therapy modalities.

You talk about their training and qualifications. How and when can I check their credentials?

The simplest way to verify their credentials is to ask them directly during your sessions. They should be willing to provide you with information about their education, training, and professional licenses.

Many therapists have websites or profiles on mental health or professional platforms where they list their qualifications, certifications, and licenses. Look for information about their educational background, areas of expertise, and any affiliations with professional organizations.

For example, here in Kenya, LinkedIn would be a great place to establish this information about your potential therapist.

Thanks for bringing up Kenya specifically, what are the qualifications for one to practice therapy or offer mental health care services in the country?

According to the Counsellors and Psychologists Act (2014) in Kenya a "legally qualified counsellor or psychologist" and "duly qualified counsellor or psychologist" means a person registered as a counsellor or psychologist under the Act or, a person who is registered by the Board under section 24.

At least that's how it looks in the books. Though we have made huge legislative strides in the field of mental health practice, as a country we are yet to actualise licensure of counselors and psychologists full operationalization of the Board. We are currently relying on the regulation provided by the associations affiliated with the practice of psychology. such as KpsyA, KCPA, PPAK etc.

So let's say I’ve identified a therapist I would like to work with, how do I approach them?

Try to make an early connection.

Some therapists avail opportunities to meet with them or contact them briefly before starting therapy sessions. This allows the client to be acquainted with the therapist and to ask as many 'house-keeping' questions as possible. This can be done via a virtual meeting, a phone call or email.

We have both heard cases of clients and their therapists not matching or clicking. Usually this results in (most often) the client walking away with a negative impression of the practitioner and therapy in general. What do I do if my therapist is not a good fit?

If you feel that your therapist is not a good fit for you, it's essential to address this concern and consider your options. The therapeutic relationship plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of therapy, so feeling comfortable and understood by your therapist is essential for making progress. Here are some steps you can take if you believe your therapist is not the right fit for you.

  1. Reflect on your feelings.

  2. Discuss your concerns with the therapist.

  3. Seek feedback from the therapist.

  4. Consider a different therapeutic approach.

  5. Seek a second opinion if needed.

  6. Explore other therapists.

  7. Be patient with yourself during the process.

  8. Prioritize your well-being.

How do I tell my therapist that we’re not working out or I don't feel comfortable going on with them?

  1. Self-Reflect: Take some time to reflect on the specific reasons for your discomfort. Identify what aspects of the therapeutic relationship or sessions are causing you to feel uneasy or disconnected.

  2. Choose the Right Time: Find an appropriate time during a session to bring up your feelings. It's best to address it when you have enough time to discuss the matter thoroughly without feeling rushed.

  3. Be Honest and Open: Be honest and open with your therapist about how you're feeling. Express your emotions, concerns, and any issues you've been experiencing in a clear and direct manner.

  4. Use "I" Statements: Frame your feedback using "I" statements to express how you personally feel rather than making accusatory or judgmental statements. For example, say, "I feel uncomfortable when..." instead of "You always..."

  5. Avoid Blaming: Focus on sharing your feelings and experiences without placing blame on the therapist. Keep the conversation centered on your emotions and perceptions.

  6. Give Specific Examples: Provide specific examples of situations or interactions that have contributed to your discomfort. This can help your therapist better understand your perspective.

  7. Request Clarification: If there are things your therapist has said or done that you didn't understand or that bothered you, don't hesitate to seek clarification.

  8. Ask for Changes or Adjustments: If there are specific changes you'd like to see in the therapeutic approach or the way sessions are conducted, express your preferences respectfully.

  9. Be Patient and Open to Discussion: Be patient and allow your therapist to respond to your concerns. Be open to discussing their perspective, as they may offer insights or clarifications that help you see things differently.

  10. Collaborate on Solutions: Work together with your therapist to find potential solutions that could improve the therapeutic relationship and address your discomfort.

  11. Explore Alternatives: If, after communicating your discomfort, you find that the issues persist or the disconnect remains, be open to exploring other therapeutic options or considering a different therapist.

Therapy is a journey of vulnerability and courage. As such, it is essential to go on this journey with a professional who is qualified technically and who matches you relationally. I hope the insights from Roni help to make the process of finding a therapist a little simpler.

By Catherine Karega, MA Clinical Psychology

Veronica 'Roni' Mugure is the founder of Mulberry Wellness Kenya.

She is a Clinical Psychologist driven by a passion for the human condition and an immense love for chocolate.

She adds warmth and enchantment to therapy, making self-discovery a delightful journey.

Follow her

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