How does one go about finding a counselor?

So you’ve decided to seek therapy. Perhaps you have a problem you want to tackle, a change you want to make, or an issue you want to discuss. Maybe you’re going through a major life transition. Maybe you need a sounding board or new skills. Either way, the time is right to find a counselor you can trust. But how do you find that person?

Others’ recommendations and word-of-mouth

Doctors, psychiatrists, school counselors, and bishops regularly give counseling referrals. Since they already know you, they can point you toward someone who may be a good fit for your needs. Ask your friends, acquaintances, and relatives if they know any good therapists. They can tell you what they like or dislike about the counselors they’ve worked with, which may help you refine your criteria.

Lectures, presentations, classes, and groups

In general, counselors don’t like to advertise. But they do like to talk about their area of expertise. Some give free or low-cost presentations to church, community, or professional groups. Others may offer community education courses. Some lead therapy or support groups, which can be an affordable introduction to therapy.

Nonprofit or community counseling agencies
Counseling agencies offer subsidized or reduced-cost counseling services, which are often provided by counseling interns. These interns generally hold a masters degree in counseling and are working to get their required supervised hours of experience for licensure. An intake counselor asks for some basic information and assigns you to a counselor. You may request certain counselor characteristics, in terms of gender, language spoken, or specialty, and the intake counselor will do her best to honor those requests. You may have to spend time on a waiting list, depending on current demand and space available. If the assigned counselor is not a good match, it is usually not too difficult to switch to another within the agency.

Referral lists and directories

The easiest place to find the names of counselors is in the phone book. Professional organizations (e.g., CAMFT and AMCAP) and media-based organizations (e.g., Psychology Today) have on-line directories that allow you to search counselors by such characteristics as location, specialty, gender, and price. After you get some therapist names based on your criteria, you may want to utilize…

Search engines, web pages, and blogs

This step is optional, but it’s becoming more common as more counselors are developing a Web presence. With a few names in hand, you may want to do a brief Internet search and see if the therapist(s) that interests you has a web page or blog you can look at. If they do, you’ll be able to read a little more about their approach to counseling and get a little preview of what to expect.

Good counselors aren’t hiding; you just need to know where to look.

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