Deciding to find a counselor is a big step. But the process can feel a bit more daunting when you realize just how many types of counselors exist. Counselors are individuals. And while they all go through training, personal, and professional development, their therapy practices can be highly individual.
How do you find the best counselor for you? I've drawn from some personal experience and expert advice, to bring you tips that can help you find a great therapist.
1. Identify the Areas You Want to Work On
The first step to knowing which counselor is right for you is identifying what parts of your life need the most attention and improvement.
Are you looking to figure out why you keep getting into certain types of relationships? You may want to work with a counselor who typically deals with dating, relationships, or even couples issues.
Do you struggle with depression or anxiety? A counselor that specializes in working with these issues is probably your best bet.
Do you have complicated family issues? You may wish to work with a counselor that specializes in family therapy or family dynamics.
Are you still working through issues from your past? You'll likely want to meet with a counselor specializing in trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and resolving past issues that are impacting your current well-being.
Counselors will often list their areas of expertise on their website or bio. If you're unsure, give their office a call, and ask about the specific areas you want to improve.
2. Identify Qualities You're Looking For In a Therapist
Think about the type of therapist that would make you feel most comfortable. Do you prefer to talk about sensitive topics with a male or a female? Do you prefer someone more experienced, or are you okay with a relatively new counselor?
3. Go Over Your Budget
Unfortunately, for most of us, our budget is a factor. Counselors should be upfront about the price of their services. Many counselors also have a sliding-fee scale for lower-income individuals. There is no shame in asking, as office staff will be well-acquainted with these questions.
If the prices are still out of your budget, consider seeking help from a community mental health center. You can also look into online counseling (like BetterHelp) which is often more affordable, especially if you don't have mental health coverage through insurance.
4. Shop For a Counselor
First, identify a few counselors in your area that might be a good fit. Take the time to read their website or bio and look at their credentials.
If you feel comfortable, ask your friends or family about any counselors have seen. Get their input as to the strengths or drawbacks of the counselor.
If you need to, make a list of the pros and cons of each counselor. List any attributes, areas of expertise, etc. that stand out to you.
Your final step is to schedule an appointment with your top pick. Remember, you are under no obligation to continue with a counselor you do not feel is a good fit. If the first option isn't working, explore your next choice.