How to Choose a Counselor

Deciding it's time to speak with a professional counselor can be difficult. You've realized you need help, but who do you call? Do you talk to friends and family about a referral, or do you keep your therapy discreet? Do you simply pick a name out of the phone book? Or ask a religious leader for suggestions?

I like to remind people that they are able to choose their counselor, and a good fit is vital to successful therapy. Some research suggests that the fit between the counselor and the client is more important than the techniques of the counselor! When you start looking for a counselor, you'll want to find that good fit, and here are some tips to help.

1. Read about them. Most counselors have a website that explains their theoretical orientation and the psychological theories that guide their practice. Read their descriptions and see if you agree with them. One helpful website is 

2. Call them on the phone. Ask them if you can talk for a couple minutes to see if you are a good fit. Give them a brief description of the problem and ask them how they would help. Ask them how often they have worked with similar issues, and how long therapy would take.

3. Call a couple more counselors. Ask them the same questions. Tell yourself you are interviewing someone for the position of your counselor. Remember, you get to choose your counselor.

4. Choose your favorite. Think about all the conversations you had with different counselors. Who did you feel most comfortable with? Which one listened the best? Whose price and availability fit your lifestyle the best?

The relationship between counselor and client is special and unique. This is the person you will share your feelings with: your hopes, your fears, your worries, and your triumphs. A counselor will challenge you to reach your goals and help you avoid negative patterns of behavior. Find the counselor that you can open up to and that you can listen to.

After your first meeting with the counselor, ask yourself some more questions.
Did I feel safe? Did I feel judged or accepted? Did I feel listened to or hurried along? Do I feel like I can trust this person to guide me to my goals? If not, try a different counselor.

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