Making the decision to enter counseling can be difficult, and if you have never sought counseling services before you may be feeling lost about where to begin and how to find the counselor that will best meet your needs. Counselors are people just like anyone else, and they each have their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Whatever your reason is for seeking counseling, there are a few guidelines that will help you select one that will be a good fit for you.
1. Give Yourself 2-3 Weeks
Because the majority of people seek counseling out of a crisis or strong sense of urgency, taking time to find a counselor is usually not acceptable. The problem with this is that making a decision based on urgency can lead to less than desirable results. Set a goal for yourself, and allow yourself time to research your options and check in with multiple counselors. The first counselor that you call or meet with may not be the best fit for you, and that is okay. Give yourself permission to shop around a little until you find the right counselor.
2. Ask a Pastor, Friend, or Healthcare Professional for a Referral
Finding a good fit is going to be easier when you can get a trusted source to make a referral. Counseling is built on trust, and it’s helpful to know if a friend has had a good experience with someone.
3. One Size Does Not Fit All
Counselors have different ideas and theories that sometimes don’t work with certain people. Because of this, ask the counselor questions, such as:
- How long have you been practicing?
- What do you specialize in?
- Have you been in counseling before?
- What are your beliefs about Marriage, Separation, Divorce?
- Have you worked with (insert issue here) before?
- Do you offer a free consultation?
- What is your approach to counseling (methodology, goals, etc)?
- What role does God/Religion/Spirituality play in your counseling?
Once you've found a counselor that meets your needs and have begun counseling, here are a couple of guidelines to help both you and the counselor in the process.
1. No secrets.
If you meet with your counselor one-on-one, which is normal for family of origin issues, divulge everything you believe to be hindering where you want to be in your life. Your counselor might challenge you to dig deep into issues that you haven't dealt with in a long time. These conversations are difficult, but they are an important part of the healing process.
2. Tell the truth.
If you’re uncomfortable with setting, choice of words, etc, speak up and tell the truth. Your counselor needs your feedback to understand what therapeutic tools work best for your individual needs. If you feel something isn't a good fit for you, speak up. Your counselor is there to facilitate your growth and healing process. He or she is there to help.
3. Trust the Process.
Give the process at least 4 sessions before deciding about leaving/ending counseling. Don’t give up for good just because you had a poor experience with a counselor.
4. Keep your head up.
Your situation will probably get worse before it gets better. Don’t be discouraged. Your counselor does not have a magic pill, nor does any other counselor. Staying with the process is key in making significant life and relationship changes. The process of therapy can be compared to the process of physical healing. Sometimes it is necessary to clean out an infected wound before it can be bandaged and begin to heal. The same is true with mental and emotional wounds. We sometimes have to clean out the wounds before true healing can begin. This process is painful, but is ultimately necessary to get you where you want to be.
If you need help navigating the process of finding a counselor or have any questions about the therapeutic process please contact us at 256-283-2321.