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How to Choose The Right Counselor or Therapist

Updated on January 19, 2010

Counselors Are Like Shoes-You Need a Good Fit

When you are looking for a counselor or therapist, you need to find someone you feel comfortable with. This is hopefully going to be a person that you can "spill your guts" with, or they won't be able to help you, which is a waste of time and money on your part. Not to mention that it can be very frustrating, and sometimes actually do more harm than good! The first thing you should do is this:

  1. Sit down and really think about what you feel like you need counseling about. What is troubling you? If it is something about your marriage or relationship, look for someone who specializes in marriage and/or couples and family counseling. Is your partner willing to go with you or do you want to go alone? Personally, in this area, if your partner is willing, I think it is best to both go together and have sessions where you each go alone. That way the counselor or therapist (which is basically two names for the same profession) is able to see you interact together, and then hear what each of you has to say on your own.
  2. If you have a troubled teenager or a child, find a child psychologist. These type of professionals are better equipped to deal with children and teens. They have chosen that particular age group to work with, so their degrees and classes, along with experience have been centered on that age group.
  3. If you are able, and have a friend or someone you trust to confide in, see if you can get a referral from others who may have heard of or used someone in this field before. This gives you a great "head's up" going into it, because you know ahead of time what to expect.
  4. Don't be afraid or ashamed to go for help. This is the most important thing. Everyone has problems, some of us more than others, and there is no shame in asking for help. Through many years of therapy, off and on, I have learned to form boundaries to protect myself emotionally, how to be assertive without being aggressive, how to stop being self destructive (most of the time...), how to deal with being bipolar, how to come to terms with divorce and grief, and many other things.
  5. One thing I hear the most when I suggest counseling to someone is "I don't know where to start!". I remember feeling exactly the same way the first time I went. Luckily, I had a great therapist who made me feel very comfortable not long after I arrived, and before I knew it, my "hour" was up! I felt better just after one session, and continued to go to her for a couple of years. Now, I have had a couple of not so good ones, that I just couldn't relate to, but I just tried another until I found one that worked for me.
  6. If you have health insurance, call first and see if they even take insurance. Many don't, which is unfortunate. Or, they may want you to pay up front and then file your own insurance forms yourself. Now, if you don't have insurance, a lot of states and towns have a branch of the MHMR in your area. I know Texas does, and most states have some form of an agency for this. Here you will pay according to a sliding scale, depending on your finances, and you not only can get counseling (basically a social worker), but medication as well. The bad aspect of these places is you only get 15 minutes with your psychiatrist, but if you actually suffer from depression or some other emotional disorder or mental disease, these places can literally save your life.


Please Help Yourself or Someone You Love

 If you or someone you love is suffering, please encourage them to get help, and don't hesitate to get help yourself. For some reason that seems silly to me now, I was afraid to face the "inner me". I actually thought I was the only one in the world that felt like I did. I was scared that if I was honest about my feelings, they would lock me up and throw away the key. I had watched my poor mother and seen her decline and where she ended up, and that was my worst fear-that I was going to have the same fate.

Well, I have had some hospitalizations, when new medications have gone really bad for me, but other than that, I have mostly been fine. I am less impulsive, more emotionally mature, and much less sensitive to things I used to over-react to in the worst way. My counselors and therapists have helped me learn coping skills I hadn't learned while growing up. They helped me learn to be more loving and trusting of my husband now and to let go of jealousy. They taught me about protecting myself from "toxic and negative" people. They even helped me learn why I was always choosing the wrong types of men for me. And most of all, I learned it's ok to be HUMAN, and it's ok to make mistakes sometimes. Most important of all, they have not only saved my sanity (such as it is, lol!), but have probably saved my life.

Don't hesitate to go if you feel like you need some help. It's not nearly as "weird" as you imagine it is before you go. When you finmd the RIGHT one, you will leave feeling much better than when you walked in!


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    • Laura Thykeson profile image

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas


      After reading your comment, since I had never read Siddhartha, I found a synopsis of the story on the web, so I would know what you were referring to. Sounds like you found a great therapist, one I would have enjoyed going to myself! The basic concept of the story reminds me of how I have come down to trying to get through life. I now receive many hours of joy and peace through meditation just watching nature-the interaction of the birds on my feeders, the changing of the leaves with the seasons, and always, the peace of water. Thank you for your comment. You taught me something I didn't know, and I am always grateful for that!

    • oxycontinworld profile image

      oxycontinworld 8 years ago

      My first therapist was brainy liked me, that helped. He recommended I read Siddhartha. It was excellent.