Finding a therapist that is right for you or someone you love can seem like a daunting process. These days, we search for everything online; where to have dinner, which veterinary clinics has the best rating, how long it will take to get from point A to point B...and of course, where to find a counselor for support.
Googling the word “counselor” or even more specific “children’s counselor” will return millions of hits, leaving you to sift through website after website questioning how to even know when you have found one that will meet your needs? Most people are pretty private about their counseling experience, and therefore there are not very many places where you can find ratings for mental health professionals.
Counselors are not unlike your doctor, hair stylist, or CPA…they’re people that you bring into your life to support you, to help you out. This quick guide is meant to assist you make an informed decision.
1. Initiating the search: If you are wanting to use your insurance provider to help cover the cost of therapy for you or your loved one, ask them for a list of approved behavioral health providers. This is the best way to insure that most of your cost will be covered, in most cases your only financial contribution will be your co-pay. If you will not be utilizing your insurance provider start your search by using a reputable website geared towards mental health professionals. Psychology Today is a great example, as they perform background checks on their members to ensure their professional license listed stays current.
2. Licensing: In my opinion, the type of professional license is not as important as making sure the counselor you choose HAS one. Licensed Psychologists (LP), Limited Licensed Psychologists (LLP), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), Limited Licensed Professional Counselor (LLPC) Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) are just a few of the many credentials you will see floating around. Having a license means that there is an organization checking to make sure that quality of service is maintained, for me, that is comforting.
3. Specialties: Counselors, just like many other types of professionals, have specialties. While, counselors are similarly trained, and most will be able to offer support for a very wide variety of mental health concerns, you want to find a professional that has a wealth of knowledge supporting individuals with the concern you are seeking counseling support to address. For example, if I am seeking grief support for my 15 year old son, I would want to focus my search on therapists who specialize in (first) grief, (second) children.
4. Counselor Demographics: Yes, we’re human too! Counselors know this matters. Counselor- client relationships are often very mentally intimate, as a client you are sharing aspects of your life that are difficult, stressful, devastating etc. Let’s make this as comfortable for you as possible. When choosing a counselor, is it important that this person is male or female? Older or younger? Soft spoken or matter of fact? Often you can get a feel for a counselor by the wording in their profile, or the look of their website. Can’t get a feel from their online presence? Give them a call, most counselors will provide an initial consultation over the phone at no charge.
5. Try it out: I think this is the most important step. If you’re unsure about a specific counselor, make an appointment, sit and talk to them. Do they appear knowledgeable? Easy to talk to? Friendly? Whatever your criteria may be, test them out. As a counselor, I encourage clients to do just this, especially if after I speak with them, I feel that they are not comfortable or that they have never been to see a counselor before.