A number of people never get counseling because they are afraid they won’t get a counselor that helps them. This fear could cost them an opportunity to get the help they need or the opportunity to simply better themselves. Finding a counselor you feel comfortable with can be a daunting task but not a difficult one; it is one that will require effort on your part. You have to know what you’re looking for and how to find it. Here are a number of questions to ask and not to ask that will help you find the counselor that best suits your needs.

5 Questions to Ask:

Do you take my insurance?

There are many, many insurance panels. I don’t have the numbers, but on the national level it has to be in the 100s. This means that asking for a list of insurance panels that a counselor takes is somewhat useless, since you only need to know if they take one- yours.

Has he or she dealt with my problem before?

Just like normal doctors, some counselors specialize in specific issues. Seeing a trauma specialist for help with communication in your marriage would probably not be very effective.

When is the next available appointment?

This can be a deal breaker, as some clinicians (especially around the holidays) might be booked for the next month or even longer. Don’t be too suspicious of a counselor who has a lot of availability- they may be new to the area, recently changed their hours, or simply hit a lull.

What is their counseling style?

Each counselor, just like any trainer, has a distinct personality and style. If you need someone to challenge you constantly, then find a counselor who does that. If you need someone who brings warmth and kindness to each session, then make sure you find someone with those qualities.

Do they fit what you are looking for?

It’s okay to have a conception of what you are looking for in a counselor. Whether it’s an age, specific ethnicity, or religious beliefs, if it will make you more comfortable don’t be afraid to make those qualities known.

4 Questions NOT to Ask:

What is their education level?

Frankly, as long as they are licensed it simply does not matter. There are certainly differences, but I have never observed a consistent and substantive difference in the quality of service offered by Masters and doctoral level clinicians.

Is the clinician any good?

It is extremely unlikely that whoever your talking to about the clinician while looking to schedule has ever seen the counselor for a session. Also, they are paid to get you to come in so you’ll most likely get an answer that is both positive and generic. If you have doubts, either do more research online or just take the plunge.

How many sessions until my issue is resolved?

Like snowflakes, every counseling relationship is different. Most counselors have a pretty good idea how many sessions it should take for your problem to be resolved, but they will need to conduct the intake session before they can even give this general outline.

Can you convince my child/spouse/family member to come in to counseling?

Nope. An unwilling participant is unlikely to get much out of normal counseling, and counselors can’t spend all their time trying to convince people to come in to see them.

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