Counseling is a very personal journey, so how do you choose a counselor to work with? I offer some tips here on how to select an ideal match.
Choose a counselor based on fit
It is so important for you to have a strong, therapeutic alliance with your counselor or therapist. And you can’t have a strong alliance if you don’t feel comfortable or connected with them. There are lots of things that contribute to a strong alliance, including resonating with your therapist’s style of communication, their overall vibe, and you feeling like you’re benefiting from the working relationship. Basically, you must gel with your counselor. When you do, you can be truly open to explore tough, personal topics in counseling and get the most out of your work in therapy.
Schedule that first call
Now that you’ve picked a few potential counselors or therapists, the next step to choose a counselor is to schedule an initial conversation. While not every counselor offers this initial point of contact free of charge, many do. (If they don’t explicitly state somewhere on their website or directory profile that they offer a free initial consultations or screening, maybe consider calling or emailing to see if this is possible.)
This initial conversation is a great chance to get a feel for the counselor’s style and approach to care. You can also ask some questions to learn more about what working with them is like. And this counselor will likely ask you a few questions as well. They’ll want to check in on your goals and needs for counseling to make sure they are qualified to help with your specific needs, based on their training, education, etc.
Because you’re trying to see if this is a good match, have some idea of your goals and hopes for counseling. (And it’s certainly okay if those goals end up changing later.) But the more specific you can be with potential counselors about what you’re needing, the better sense you’ll have about the fit between you. Lastly, try to schedule at least a couple of initial conversations with different counselors. That way, you have more information to go on before you choose a counselor to work with.
What to ask about in that first conversation
There are several helpful qualities to look for during your initial conversation. You might want to ask yourself the following questions after your initial meeting, and even make some notes while your deciding which counselor to work with:
Answering these questions can help guide your decision making. I’ve also created a downloadable (and printable) worksheet you can use to explore these questions before you choose a counselor to work with.
What happens next?
Once you’ve had some initial conversations with different counselors and you’ve found someone you’d like to start working with, let them know you’d like to schedule a full session to start counseling. Every counselor does things a little differently in terms of how they start care with a new client, and they’ll guide you through their process.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can always decide to stop counseling at any time, so never feel ‘stuck’ with someone. If you feel like you’re not making progress towards your goals or you’re not connecting with the counselor’s style or approach to care, let them know what’s going on. Sometimes it may take a couple of sessions to feel comfortable and find your rhythm with counseling, especially if this is your first time working with someone. But it’s also okay to check in with your counselor and express any concerns you have.
Last but not least...
If a particular counselor doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, that’s okay! Good, caring mental health professionals won’t take this personally: ultimately, we all want you to find someone you feel comfortable with and who can help you reach your goals!