Q. How can I find a counselor I can trust? I want to find some one who is qualified to help me with my particular problems and someone who will be understanding and helpful. What do you suggest?
A. Choosing a counselor should be done with care and thought. It is best to obtain the recommendation of someone you know and trust. If you have a friend who has had a good counseling experience this is an excellent recommendation. A trusted doctor or minister can also make referrals. Once you have the name of a counselor, think about what you want to know about that person and about counseling before you make your initial phone call. Remember, you are purchasing a service from a professional and you have the right to ask questions.
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
1. Are you licensed by the state? What license do you hold?
When you choose a licensed professional you are safeguarding yourself from someone unqualified to treat you. Licensed Independent Social Workers, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors and Licensed Psychologists have all had post graduate training, several years of supervision following their degree, and they are required to keep their training current with additional continuing education.
Psychiatrists have a medical degree, they are doctors before being trained in psychiatry and they have stringent licensing requirements and continuing education requirements in order to practice. However, with managed care, most psychiatrists see patients only for evaluation and then provide medication as needed. They don’t have the luxury of spending a full 50 minute hour with a patient on a weekly basis.
2. How much do you charge for each session? Will my insurance pay for this? How do you expect payment?
3. How long will my appointments be?
Most counselors see clients for 45 or 50 minutes once a week. After several weeks, depending on the problem, interviews can be spaced farther a part. You have the right to express your opinion about this.
4. How many years of counseling experience do you have?
Usually, the longer anyone does something the better they get at doing it.
5. What are your areas of specialization? What types of problems do you see most often? Most counselors see a variety of problems but they often have a specialty. Specialization may be in treating marital problems, parent/child problems, depression, panic disorders, substance abuse, sexual abuse and many others. It will help to find a counselor who specializes in your problem as this person probably has additional training in this area.
6. What is your therapeutic orientation? Are there particular techniques you use?
Look for a counselor who can explain their methods in simple language and who doesn’t become defensive at being asked this question. Choosing a therapist with a similar world view is important no matter what. This is especially true if your faith is very important to you or if you want to explore spiritual issues. To do otherwise is like trying to communicate in two different languages.
In your early sessions with a therapist pay attention to how comfortable you feel and to whether you feel understood. If your counselor doesn't seem to understand you, discuss this with him or her. As therapy continues notice whether you are learning about yourself, making changes in your life and gradually feeling better. Therapy needs to move at your pace and according to your goals for yourself.
I hope these ideas will help you find a counselor who is right for you and who can help you with your problems.
“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.” Proverbs 15:22 NLT