Everyone can benefit from venting their feelings and taking the time to examine their lives. However, many people are nervous to make an appointment to see a counselor or other mental health professional. There is still a sort of stigma that maybe people who see a counselor are crazy or unstable or depressed. Unfortunately, that stigma is very untrue. Millions of people see a counselor at some point in their lives, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, you should be proud of yourself for admitting that you’d like a little extra help and seeking it out. Besides being willing to participate, the most important step to successful therapy is finding a counselor that you trust and enjoy working with. Here is how to pick the right counselor for you.
Ask for Referrals
Where do you look for a counselor? You should ask for referrals from other professionals. You might want to start with your primary doctor. You might not want to ask your friends or family, because you might not feel comfortable seeing a counselor that already knows someone close to you. If you’re insured, you could also call your insurance company and ask what counselors in your area accept your coverage. Other sources of referrals might be your religious institution or pastor, or an Internet search that verifies counselors and has reviews by patients. Start with the doctors you’re referred to.
There are many different types of counselors, and they all have different combinations of letters after their names. There is no one kind that’s better than another. Your counselor should, at the very least, have a Master’s degree in some study of mental health. They should also have supervised clinical experience, and some kind of certificate, registration or license. A board certified counselor, for example, has to take a special test to show their competency. You can check with all professional organizations to be sure that your counselor truly is a member.
Have a First Appointment
Schedule a first appointment. You’re going to be evaluating your counselor just as they will be evaluating you. You’ll start by explaining your reasons for seeking therapy, and your counselor should then discuss certain things with you. They should discuss their approach to therapy, how they would help you with your problem, confidentiality, how long they think it might take, and how often they’d like to meet with you. You should be determining whether or not you feel comfortable with the counselor. It may take some time to get to know them, but you should trust your instincts. If you don’t trust them or think you’d be uneasy talking to them, you should try to find someone else.
You should ask questions of your counselor. Ask them if they have experience treating your types of problems, and they should. Ask them how they would treat you, and their ideas should match your own notions of what might be helpful to you. Feel free to ask anything you want to know, and consider if your counselor is open to answering.
Have a Second Appointment
If you think the counselor might be for you, schedule a second appointment. At this appointment you might begin to discuss your primary problems in a more detailed fashion. Are you still comfortable talking to this counselor? If you aren’t, you are under no obligation to return. Otherwise, continue to give counseling a chance, and see your counselor as regularly as necessary.
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