Tips for Choosing the Right Counselor for Your Needs

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There comes a time in everyone's life when they simply aren't sufficiently equipped to deal with stress, grief or change. During these times, many people consider therapy as a viable option for getting through a specific situation. Unfortunately, many people don't follow through with counseling, simply because they don't know how to choose a therapist. Here are five tips that will help you find a counselor that can meet your needs: 

1. Meet the Counselor

Before you discuss any important topic with a counselor, you should schedule a session strictly to get to know the person that you've selected. When you enter his or her office, do you feel immediately at ease or are you more on edge? Is the person easy to talk to? Try to remember that just because one counselor is right for someone doesn't mean that that person is right for you. It's okay to continue your search if you don't feel like the therapist that you've chosen is the right fit. 

2. How Can She Help

When you choose a counselor, be sure that he or she can help you in a manner that you're comfortable with. He or she should give you a sort of road-map to your therapy, and your counselor should be able to tell you how he or she will know that you are ready to move on from therapy. Will you meet once a week? Do you need to meet more often? Your therapist should be able to make this clear after one or two sessions.

3. Help Yourself

A good counselor helps you help yourself. Much like a teacher teaches you how to learn, a counselor should provide you with resources and encouragement in finding your own way. Your counselor should not simply soothe your feelings, but provide you with necessary tools to help you soothe yourself. You should expect your counselor to question your feelings and encourage you to explore your reasons for feeling the way that you do. Don't expect a counselor to tell you whether you what you are feeling is right or wrong; that's for you to decide. 

4. Experience

The counselor that you select should have experience helping others with your same problems. For example, you wouldn't visit a drug addiction counselor for help in dealing with the loss of a loved one. While you may not be able to put your feelings into words, you do know the specific situation that you're dealing with. Find a therapist who has experience helping people who have been in your shoes.

5. Be Wary of Guarantees

No counselor should offer you promises or guarantees. If a counselor guarantees that he or she can "heal" you in a matter of weeks, walk away. If he or she promises that you'll be feeling better by the end of the month, look elsewhere. Therapy is extremely individualized; what can take one person only sessions to work through may take someone else months, or years, to navigate. While your therapist can certainly offer you hope, he or she can never offer guarantees.

Don't put off getting the help that you need because you don't know how to find a therapist. If you follow the five tips above, as many times as you need to, you'll be sure to locate a counselor who is ready, willing and able to help you work through the issues that you are dealing with in a healthy way.

About the Author:

Vince Gilbert blogs about higher education and counseling.  If you are interested in becoming a counselor, you might consider applying for a masters degree in school counseling at Wake Forest or Seton Hall.

Photo by: fpra
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