How to Choose a Counselor

Making the courageous decision to begin counseling can be very overwhelming. The next step is to choose a counselor to work with. This can be very difficult. 
I encourage you to remember several things:

  1. Every counselor has a background and training. This will influence how he or she helps you. You can ask the counselor about their education, training, and experience.
  2. Each counselor has a personality that you may or may not feel comfortable with or like.
  3. Depending on whether you go to a private practice or a larger clinic your experience will be different. Typically you will have more personal care in a smaller private practice ; but, the cost may be higher.
  4. The method of pay (self pay versus insurance pay) may dictate certain procedures such as the need for a diagnosis in order for insurance to cover counseling sessions.

When I am meeting with someone for the first time I tell about any related training, describe office policies, ask for a brief mental health history, and offer a chance for any questions to be asked. The first meeting is an interview. You are determining if the counselor before you is the right one to help you through your current set of obstacles. 

So, dear reader how do you determine if the counselor is right for you in the world where resources are limited? You prepare ahead of time. Taking time to answer the questions I have included may help you create a list of things you are needing in a counselor. If you have a hard time answering the questions you may want to ask a support person for help.

Note your responses to the following questions. Reflect on what the responses tell you about yourself and what type of counselor may be best for you.

  1.  Do you prefer to be given advice or to be led to make your own conclusions? 
  2. Are you looking to move quickly in your sessions? If so you may benefit from a counselor who gives homework.
  3. Are you looking for a counselor who specializes in your area of concern? If so ask the counselor if they have this experience/training directly.
  4. Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Counseling is not easy and your willingness to weather the storm will help determine how honest you are and how open you are to feedback. In the meeting with a counselor be aware of any messages from your intuition.

Are you ready to be honest enough with yourself and a possible counselor about whether a therapeutic alliance can evolve? What else do you need to ask yourself in preparing for a first meeting?