The decision to Give Counseling a Try
You have decided to reach out for help on a personal, work, or family issue, but you are overwhelmed by the options. When you search for counselors near you, you find an exhausting list of therapists, counselors, and psychologists. And when you start calling mental health providers, you have a hard time reaching someone in their office. Some therapists don’t return your calls and several aren’t taking new clients. While you may be tempted to schedule with the first person that returns your call or takes your insurance, you want to find the best counselor for you and/or your family.
Let’s explore how to narrow down your search for a counselor so that you can choose the best counselor for you. While it is important to know your therapist is trained, licensed, and insured, I think choosing a therapist is a more personal choice.
Simplify & Discern Which Counselor is Best for You:
- Brainstorm What You’re Looking for in Counselor: While the demographics of the counselor you work with are important, so are the non-tangible things. Before you do research or make calls, write down any preferences you have in gender, location, and office hours of the counselor. Then, write down anything else that would make your counselor a good fit for you. Are you looking for someone that is easy to talk to? Or do you want someone that is knowledgeable on a certain topic? Hold onto your personal preferences, as they will guide your research and decision making.
- Ask Friends & Family for Recommendations: A personal recommendation is a great place to start your search. If you know someone that has been to counseling and loves who they work with, find out the name and contact information. We ask for recommendations on home repair companies and other medical professionals because we want to work with someone that is trusted by others.
- Do Online Research: Keep your preferences and recommendations in mind while you start your online research. You can do a search for “counseling near me” or counseling in the city you live in. And you can also search directories for counselors who have been verified, such as Psychology Today and Good Therapy. Read through the websites and bios in order to narrow down who you want to contact. Think about which therapist’s websites resonate with you. You may start to feel like the counselor understands you or your struggles.
- Resist the Urge to Let Insurance Dictate Your Decision: Many people start their search for a counselor with their insurance company or employee assistance program. Before you start calling counselors, decide on a counseling budget. Determine how much you can spend on this investment per week or per month. In this way, you will know if you need to go where your insurance will help pay, or if you can be flexible going wherever is the best fit for you.
- Schedule a Free Phone Consult: In today’s world of voicemail and email, you may not actually talk to a counselor before you schedule an appointment. But if you can schedule a free phone consult with the potential counselor before making an appointment, this will give you the best idea if they are a good match. Pay attention to the non-tangibles as well as the demographic preferences you listed. Ask yourself: Do you feel heard and understand? Was the counselor easy to talk to? Am I open to them coaching me to reach the goals I have identified?
People consult a mental health professional for many different reasons. And there are just as many different types of counselors, therapists, and psychologists to consult. When you invest in counseling, you are investing in yourself. It’s worth the time, forethought, and research to find the best counselor for you and your situation.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC works with anxious and stressed adults and teens who want to love their lives and relationships again. She offers both online counseling and counseling at her office in Independence MO (near Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit MO). Schedule a free 15-minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you.