Stay safe, and learn how to tell when advice is worth following, with these tips

With psychological wellbeing more widely recognised in the public sphere than ever before, there is a lot to celebrate – including more varied therapies and practitioners, plus better access to them. However, this can also make it tricky to know who to trust when it comes to taking advice about your wellbeing. Here are a few strategies that can help you find the right support.

Examine the source

Social media gives everyone a platform to share information, which can be beneficial in normalising issues with wellbeing and mental health, as well as minimising loneliness. However, just because someone has their own experience of something you’re struggling with, does not mean they are experienced in working with this in others. It can be difficult to remember this online, where many people present themselves as experts. Researching what actually qualifies someone to give advice is essential before taking it.

Analyse qualifications

It’s both a blessing and a curse that there are so many different ways to enter a career in the helping professions. While online courses and qualifications enable greater access to wellness industry training, some of these options are incomparable to more traditional training routes, and yet this is not necessarily obvious in the letters after a practitioner’s name.

Psychological therapies, in particular, require training over several years to allow for trainees to build many hours of clinical and personal therapy. Yet, the industry remains legally unregulated, making it difficult to know if, and how well, a counsellor or psychotherapist is qualified. When approaching someone advertising their professional support, seek easily available evidence of recognisable qualifications that they are happy to explain to you.

Registration or accreditation with a recognised ethical body is important, as this is who you can register a complaint with, if necessary. If there is no overarching body you can consult should something go wrong in your treatment, you could be left in a vulnerable situation without emotional or financial support, and no consequences to the practitioner.

Don’t trust quick fixes

In today’s quick-fix culture, we often expect issues to be remedied with immediate effect, but when it comes to wellbeing, we should be wary of anything promising a speedy solution, or that sounds too good to be true.

Human psychology is highly complex, and the patterns that tie each of us up in emotional knots are as invisible to us as water to a fish. It takes time to understand and change these, and this process is more comparable to learning a new language than simply implementing a different tool. Any advice suggesting that issues can be resolved within a suspiciously short time frame should serve as a cautionary tale.

There is no silver bullet

Sound advice acknowledges that genuine wellbeing runs deep. There is no single remedy that can solve all of our problems, and those who claim that there is might be ignoring the complexity involved in being human. Of course, marketing campaigns will continue singing the praises of their products and services, but beware of the narrative of one solution-fits-all, human beings are far more nuanced than that. Plus, if it were true, we would all know about it and be doing it already.

Beware of power-plays

There is usually an uneven power dynamic in helping relationships; one person, feeling vulnerable and seeking help, goes to another person who is in a position to offer that help. However, this power dynamic should be carefully held and worked with so that the person seeking help is not deliberately or accidentally exploited or manipulated. Someone revelling in their power as an ‘expert’ who believes they have the power to heal others single-handedly, is likely to do more harm than good.

Overall, the old trope that if something seems too good to be true it probably is, rings true here. Our issues with psychological and emotional wellbeing do not arise overnight, they are complex knots that we have tied ourselves into over time – and they take similar time, sensitivity, and careful attention to unravel. We all know how tempting it can be to believe that someone or something holds the key to relieving us of our stress in a moment, it is a product of the society we live in. We all know the dangers of botched surgery from someone with substandard qualifications, promising the world for very little personal investment. It may be less visible when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, but our minds and hearts deserve the same respect and care when it comes to trusting who we approach for help.