Insider’s Tips to Find a Good Counselor
Updated: Mar 3
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A few months ago I tried to help find a counselor for a friend who lives in a different state. I didn’t have any counselor connections; I didn’t know anyone there. My friend’s medical doctor provided a list of area counseling agencies from a psychology website. The list was nothing more than a yellow pages list of addresses. When life provides no answers, I go to Google. As a counselor I was shocked at how hard it was to find a qualified resource. Sure, Google found some sites, but it was difficult to know who would be a good fit for my friend. I called some counselors but ended up talking to their receptionists who were mostly interested in insurance coverage. I left messages for counselors. I got nowhere.
In counselor training it’s common to discuss how difficult it can be for people to come to a point emotionally where they are ready to seek counseling. It wasn’t until I tried to find a counselor for my friend, that I realized how difficult the logistics of finding a counselor can be.
I know the life changing power of counseling. I have watched couples with no hope left for their relationship, renew their commitment and passion for each other. I’m convinced counseling is worth every effort it takes to get there. I want you to be able to find a counselor when you are ready for counseling without adding to your stress. Here’s how I recommend friends and family find a counselor.
1. Personal referral. A personal recommendation is the best way to find any product or service. Talk to the people you know, ask if they know a good counselor. You may be surprised to learn who has seen a counselor. You may find you have a connection to a counselor you didn’t know you had. If you know someone who has benefited from counseling, their recommendation is golden. Having someone you trust describe the counselor is by far the best way to start when choosing a counselor. Fortunately, my friend ended up receiving a personal referral from someone who knew a counselor in the area and it’s been a great experience.
2. Professional referral. Your medical provider may have a list of counselors they recommend, especially if you are prescribed medications for a mental illness like Major Depression. Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which has provider recommendations. This is mostly a financial arrangement but at least you know the counselors are legit.
3. Internet. The information superhighway is a great tool for finding counselors. Obviously, you will want to search for counselors in your local area, unless you have a private jet you can fly anywhere to get counseling. It may also be helpful to check out professional associations with a chapter in your area. For example, you could look up the Idaho Counseling Association to see counselors they recommend. When you go to a website, look for pictures, bios, videos, and blogs, to give you clues to what the counselor is like. The more you know about a counselor, the better choice you can make.
4. Try one. The only way to really know if you have found the best counselor for you is to meet with them. Simply set up a counseling appointment and try them out. When you experience their personality, approach, and perspective first hand, you will know if they are a fit for you.
Please don’t delay getting counseling in the effort to get the perfect counselor. You will not find a perfect counselor, we are human after all.
Don’t settle for a counselor who isn’t helping you, but don’t be too picky either. Stay with a counselor for at least two or three sessions before trying a different person. It’s common to feel unsure after the first session.
Ultimately, with counseling you will get out of it what you put into it. It’s up to you. The counselor matters but your willingness to engage in the process is critical.
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Answers to questions you may have about counseling.
1. How much does it cost? Counseling services have a wide range of cost. Many insurances cover the cost of counseling for a certain number of sessions. Contact your insurance provider to check on the coverage you have for counseling services. Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides a number of counseling sessions as an employee benefit. Please don’t let cost deter you from getting counseling; quality counseling is available for you regardless of your resources.
2. How do I know if they are legit? First, make sure the counselor you are considering has the appropriate credentials. Check to make sure they have a Master’s Degree or Ph.D in counseling or a related field and have a license to practice in your state. In most states you can go to the website for Bureau of Occupational license and look up the counselor to determine if they are licensed and in good standing with the licensure board. Here is the link for Idaho.
3. What is a counseling theory? A counselor’s theoretical orientation is basically how they view what is most helpful for people. If you are interested in specifics, your counselor should be able to clearly communicate their theoretical orientation and what it means in practical terms. Don’t get caught up in finding the best theoretical orientation, academics have been arguing it for decades. The individual skill of the counselor matters more than theory.
4. How can I find a Christian counselor? It may be important for you to have a counselor who shares your religious views. The best way to find a Christian counselor is to ask for a referral from your pastor. Some counselors advertise their faith on their website. Feel free to ask a potential counselor about their faith and how they integrate spirituality into the sessions.
5. How long will it take? Counseling sessions are typically one hour in duration. The number of sessions will depend on insurance coverage, counseling theory, and what the client wants. You and your counselor will likely discuss a recommended duration shortly after the first session.
6. What should I expect? I found this article from PsychCentral written by Steve Bressert, Ph.D., helpful in describing what you can expect when you come to counseling, click here and enjoy.
When looking for a counselor, it’s ok to ask questions. Please ask lots of questions, it’s how you get critical information. The better information you have the better decision you can make when finding a counselor.
Don’t let the logistics of finding a counselor derail you from getting help. Counseling saves lives, provides hope, and restores marriages every day.
I love connecting with you, share in the comments or in social media what you learned from this post. If anyone you know is considering counseling or should, please share this blog post with them.
Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or would like to schedule a session.