Have you ever considered seeking counseling with a therapist, but abandoned the idea because finding the right person felt overwhelming?
If so, you’re not alone. There are many factors to consider when choosing the best therapist for your specific needs and situation, so it can be hard to know where to start. To celebrate National Counseling Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a quick guide to help you navigate this process and get the guidance you need.
Find Your Why
Therapy isn’t something to fear. It’s a safe place where you will have a trusted professional that will help you with your mental and emotional health. It’s important to know that you don’t need a gameplan prepared for when you walk in the door. The most important step in your journey is to take that first step to initiate the change within yourself.
At your first session, your therapist may ask you, ‘Why are you here?’. While it isn’t necessary to have anything figured out prior to going to therapy, try to articulate what your intentions are for seeking help. Being able to open up to your therapist and express your feelings will spark change, growth, and ultimately begin your healing journey.
Take time to reflect and ask yourself the following questions:
- What does happiness feel like?
- What struggles are you currently facing?
- What is the change you wish to see in yourself?
- What does that change look and feel like in your day-to-day life?
- Are you trying to resolve a conflict within your marriage/family or are you grieving a loved one?
- Are you transitioning between life stages and need emotional support?
- Do you suffer from feeling anxious or depressed?
It’s important that you feel comfortable with the therapist you choose. Different therapists have different credentials and specializations, which can help you reach your therapy goals through specific treatment modalities. Your goals may change as you go through therapy. As you work to become your best self, don’t be afraid if what you want and need evolve from when you first started. The entire process is about making a commitment to your growth, and helping you find the outcome you seek.
Narrowing Down Your Options
The cost of therapy can be a heavy lift if your insurance doesn’t cover the full balance. Be sure to ask potential therapists if they work with your insurance provider, and how much they charge per session if they don’t.
Ask for Recommendations
Once you’ve chosen the type of therapist you’re looking for, ask trusted family and friends for any recommendations in your area. You may be surprised how many responses you get from people in your immediate circle saying they have had successful therapy sessions with someone specializing in just what you are looking for.
Different therapists will have different office hours, and some are booked up more than others. Take into consideration how often you’d like to meet with your therapist to get the benefit you need, and find out if your therapist’s office hours are convenient for you. Would you like to see your therapist in-person or are you looking for teletherapy? Also, think about the travel time and your mode of transportation, since travel time/costs can add up and may affect your desire and commitment to make it to your visits. Your therapy sessions should feel convenient and like they comfortably fit into your schedule.
Age, Sexual Orientation, Ethnicity, and/or Religion
When it comes to choosing a therapist that works for you, we encourage clients to take demographic factors into consideration. If you are seeking therapy due to experiences around sexual orientation, sexual harassment/assault, racial discrimination, or having experienced acts of hate, you may be more comfortable speaking with a therapist who is of the same gender identity or ethnic background. Also, consider whether speaking with a therapist who is closer to your age or practices the same religious/spiritual beliefs would play a role in how open and honest you will be able to be in your sessions. Holding back for fear of judgment or feeling like you won’t be understood will not set you up for success.
Choosing to Stay or Go
Before diving into therapy, you should clearly define what improvement looks like for you, that way you will have a way to gauge if your counselor is a good fit. It’s important to remember to give it some time before making a definitive decision to give up on the first therapist you try. It can take a few sessions for you to feel comfortable opening up during therapy. Sometimes you may instantly ‘click’ and feel at ease, as if you’re chatting with an old friend, but more often than not this will come with time.
Keep in mind that although counselors are professionals, they will need time to get to know you, your communication style, your biggest obstacles, and the best ways to help you as an individual. The right therapist for you will make you feel supported, safe and unjudged, and be able to help guide you toward arriving at solutions or clarity on your own, rather than simply giving you answers. If after four or five sessions you are still feeling stuck, or haven’t moved closer to your goals, it may be time for a switch.
At Integrative Counseling Services, we want you to feel comfortable with your care provider, even before step into the office. Explore our team page to learn more about our licensed counselors and specialized staff.
Need to speak to someone? Call our main office at 570-955-5479 to learn how our services can make a difference. If you’re experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, please dial 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Department. Help is available and professionals that are trained to help you navigate your current situation.