I began my therapy journey as a late teen. Unfortunately for me I had no idea what to look for in a mental health counselor and so after two failed attempts at finding someone I felt at ease with I stopped going to counseling all together.
Fast forward roughly ten years later when I realized that I did, in fact, still need professional help… Except this time, I had a much different, much better experience!
Because I’ve experienced both the good and the ugly in my search for professional counseling, I’m hoping to make your journey a little easier.
Let me start by applauding you for seeking counseling. Therapy sometimes has this stigma that only “crazies” see a therapist. Let’s squash that lie right now! You are being extremely wise for seeking help through this messy and sometimes overwhelming life.
A good counselor can help you piece through your emotions to get to the root of the matter. They will listen intently and lovingly guide you as you find your way to the other side of the hurt or fear.
Here are some tips for choosing the right counselor for you:
Search for a licensed mental health professional. Whether you end up with a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a Psychologist or any other title (there are many) make sure that they are trained and licensed. I personally have been through Biblically based lay counseling through my church and had a great experience with it, but I’ve also heard stories from friends who have not had good experiences with lay counseling. When in doubt, lean toward licensure.
Get recommendations from trusted family or friends. If someone is personally recommending a counselor that means they’ve had a good enough experience with them to suggest you might too. That says a lot.
Check with your insurance company. You may have mental health coverage to help with a portion of the cost. Check to see what that coverage is and who is in network. Note: Some therapists offer financial aid or scholarships that can reduce the cost, even if you don’t go through your insurance company.
Look for a Christian or Biblically based counselor. I understand that as you read this you may not call yourself a Christian. I am, and I find that anyone I am opening up to, asking advice from and getting truly vulnerable with I want to be someone who is like-minded and will give me good, God honoring advice. If you’re not a Christian I would still recommend looking for someone who has strong morals and values. At the end of the day, we all want to believe in good over evil, in hope, in purpose. You will find that in a Biblically based counselor.
Start calling potential counselors. Talking to your prospective counselor on the phone can give you a great impression of whether you will enjoy working with this person. Therapy is a vulnerable place and you must feel comfortable with the counselor that you choose. Use this time to ask any general questions you may have or just ask what their sessions look like. You may be surprised by how much clarity you can get through a 5 minute phone conversation. Don’t be afraid to say you are still searching and will give them a call back if you feel like they may be a good fit.
Go with your gut. Pray about who you should work with. The Lord will guide you along the way.