What Should I Look For in a Counselor?

An ornate clock with the words Time to Heal on its faceWhat should I look for in a counselor?  

How do I find a good fit?

For some people, the very thought of seeking out the professional help of a professional counselor is scary and intimidating.  Sometimes their social, family, or (sadly at times) faith community has implicitly or explicitly frowned upon mental health help, so there is a stigma to get over or through from their environment.

Other times, it is a matter of pride (seeing a counselor is a sign of weakness or that you are ‘broken’) or self-abasement (being too bad off to be helped) that the person has to overcome.  As for others, it could be horror stories of professional helpers imposing their personal values (e.g. “believing in God is your problem,” “Why not just get a divorce?” etc.) that become a barrier to seeking care.

Realizing the hurdles that some people face to even consider picking up the phone to seek out a professional counselor, having an idea of what to look for and find a good fit, is a helpful way of removing another potential hurdle.

Here are some helpful tips from WellSpring, a counseling agency in the Columbus, Ohio area:

  • Research different types of mental health professionals: counselors, coaches, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists to determine what may be best for your situation.  Consider asking your primary care physician for help.
  • Know what you are looking for: gender, experience, specialty, expertise, age ranges with whom they work, and location(s).
  • Decide how you will pay: Insurance or not?  What is the fee?  How do they bill? Do they accept credit card payments?  Are scholarships available?
  • Your counselor should be available and able to see you on a regular basis once you begin  counseling.
  • Referrals are a great help in obtaining a good therapist.  Ask your friends, pastor, coworkers, doctor, etc.
  • If you have several referrals, call each of them.  Talk to them and find out a little about each one.  Your initial conversation over the phone may not be too extensive, but it should give you an opportunity to see if it could be a good fit and ask them specific questions that you may have about therapy, the therapist, the counseling process, fees, etc.

Statistically, the majority of people in the United States believe in God and/or consider themselves to be spiritual.  Some hold more firmly to the values and beliefs of their faith’s worldview than others.

For Christians who consider biblical faith to be important, here are some additional things to look for and ask about when seeking a out a therapist:

  • If your pastor supports professional health care, ask if they have any referral ideas.
  • Google “Christian counselor” and research the agencies that you discover online.
  • Ask what the counselor believes about marriage and divorce?
  • Does the therapist attend church regularly (you do not need to inquire as to which church)?
  • Are they open to the idea of the use of Scripture as a potential element in the therapeutic process?

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