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Choosing a Counselor

If your mental health is standing in the way of you living a happy life and pursuing your calling, it’s time to find help. In choosing a counselor, always keep in mind that you are the consumer, purchasing a service from a professional. You have choices about beginning such a relationship and the form their help will take. These are some questions you might ask:

1) What are your techniques of training, experience, and specialization?

2) Which particular techniques do you use?

3) Will you discuss my treatment plan with me?

4) What happens if we disagree about my goals?

5) Are you licensed by or registered with the state?

6) Have you ever had a charge of unethical conduct brought against you?

7) For what length of time do you usually work with clients?

8) Is there anyone else with whom you will be discussing my case?

9) Have you had experience with other clients in my situation?

10) Do you charge for an initial consultation?

11) Do you charge for a telephone consultation?

12) How much do you charge for each counseling session?

13) Will my insurance pay for this counseling?

14) How long will our appointments be?

15) If I decide that I would like to work with you, are there any other interviews that you require me to complete?

Many therapists gain clients through word of mouth, and a recommendation can be valuable. But just as you won’t necessarily like all your friend’s friends, you won’t necessarily “click” with your friend’s choice of therapist, either.

A good therapist for you is one that you feel comfortable with. You need to like and respect your therapist, or you will not be open to what they say to you. You should also feel comfortable with your therapist and free to say anything to them without feeling they would judge you or think less of you. This is very important, since there might be things that you tell a therapist that you will never tell another person. You need to trust them and trust their judgment.

It is a good idea to give a therapist at least two sessions before you decide if you can work with them. If you still feel uncomfortable after the second session, it might be time to find someone else. You should be prepared to feel nervous and uncomfortable at times with your therapist. After all, they are not meant to be a friend who will nod and agree with everything you say. Sometimes, you might feel discomfort as your therapist slowly moves you towards areas in your life that are blocking you and things you don’t want to deal with. This is why the trusting relationship is so important. When things start to get hard in therapy, you need to feel reassured that your therapist is there to help you and is ultimately on your side.

Occasionally, you might get angry with your therapist, and a good therapist will be able to cope with that and not get angry back at you. An angry therapist is not a good sign, and although rare lapses are acceptable, since we are all human, a therapist who routinely displays frustration at your slow progress or inability to move past a certain difficulty in your life, is not the right therapist for you.

The best client/therapist relationship is one where you are able to look back and see that, during the difficult times in your life journey, your therapist was there, like a patient parent—listening to you, and hoping for and watching your recovery. When you finally “get there,” they are almost as pleased as you are!


If you are having a mental health crisis, please seek help immediately. If someone you know is having a mental health crisis, please help them get help. Contact the following organizations for information about 24-hour crisis services in your area:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's 24 hour toll-free crisis hotline, 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) can put you into contact with your local crisis center that can tell you where to seek immediate help in your area.

The SAMHSA Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator and the SAMHSA 24/7 Treatment and Referral line at 1.800.662.4357 provide referrals to alcohol, substance abuse, and dual-diagnosis treatment facilities, including facilities that offer sliding scale fees and other special payment arrangements. Dual-diagnosis services provide integrated treatment for individuals who have both an alcohol or substance abuse problem and a mental illness.

The Child-Help USA 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453) crisis line assists both child and adult survivors of abuse, including sexual abuse. The hotline, staffed by mental health professionals, also provides treatment referrals.

To locate therapists, you can go to this link:

Do everything you can to seek help. Please don’t hesitate to contact a trained and licensed counselor to help travel with you on your journey to recovery.

[i] Mchugh, Beth, “Finding a Good Therapist,” Your Online Counselor, 2007

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