You’ve decided you want to seek help from a professional counselor. Congratulations! Now, you ask yourself, “How do I go about choosing a therapist?” Clearly there are many professionals out there. So, it’s important that you first answer a few questions, starting with location. Some people want to meet at a site close to where they live while others might want some place close to their work place. Others, may want someplace away from both areas for privacy reasons. There are no wrong answers; it’s all about what works best for you.
Once you have decided on where, you can focus on who. Start by thinking about the characteristics you want your therapist to have. Do you prefer a male or female? Are you looking for help in a particular area such as grief, trauma, relationships? Do you want someone who is older or younger? What hours are you available? How much experience do you want them to have? Once you have a picture of your therapist in mind, you can begin your search.
Since we are in the age of technology, most people go to the internet to start the search process. You can look for a professional by going to a specific website such as Psychology Today. By typing in a city or zip code, the site will take you to a list of professionals in that area with information about who they are and what services they offer. Please know that only providers who sign up to be on this particular website will be listed.
Another option is using a search engine such as google, bing or yahoo. Simply type in words such as “counselor” or “therapist” and the city you want. Be aware that this type of search may be limited in the number of providers that pop up. This may have to do with how the provider has put their information into cyber space and/or the choice of words you use in your search. You may want to use several different word choices. Lastly, you can use your insurance website to find providers in your network. Just know this list may not be fully up to date since providers may change periodically.
Now that you have a list of several providers that meet your criteria, rank your choices. Starting with your first choice, call them to make sure they are accepting new clients. If they are, ask to do a free phone consultation with you. I offer this to all my clients before our first meeting. It allows me an opportunity to get an idea of what the potential client is looking for to make sure I would be a good fit for them and it gives them an opportunity to ask me questions to make sure they are comfortable with me. This can save a lot of time and money up front since the most important part of counseling is a strong therapeutic relationship. If you are not comfortable with the person you are working with, it will be hard to trust them enough to be completely honest. So, don’t be shy about asking questions.
If you like what you hear, schedule your first appointment and begin your healing journey!