How does someone approach a counselor?

How does a person start the counseling process?

Cimberly R. Nesker
Cimberly R. Nesker
Registered Psychotherapist (3579)

Hello, 

There are many ways to approach a counselor and starting the process, however they all start with picking up the phone.  It's most definitely an uncomfortable feeling, but once that first step is taken it is often met with a wave of relief. 

My recommendation is always to call and speak with a therapist over the phone before scheduling an appointment. Listening to how they converse, use their tone and inflection, may give you a brief insight to how they will respond to you and increase your comfort right away. You may also discover, rather quickly, that this therapist is not the right match for you.

Regardless of how you go about it, I like to remind all people who call, email, text or walk-in, therapists are a bit like pizzas - if you don't like the toppings, send it back! There are hundreds of therapists offering all kinds of styles of therapy - take the time to pick one that suits you. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Traci Lowenthal
Traci Lowenthal
LGBTQAffirmative Therapist

Hi! Great question! My suggestion would be to google therapists in your area.  One great website is called Psychology Today, which is a National site.  You can search for therapists in your zip code and search more specifically for the issue you are seeking support about.  It's a great way to find out if they therapist has a speciality, accepts insurance and whether they offer a free phone consultation. I would then make a list of the ones that may be a good fit and then give them a call!  :)  Hope this helps. Remember you get to ask anything you need to, to determine if someone is a good fit.  Don't be afraid to ask anything!  :)  Best of luck!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Shawn Thomas Berthel, M.S., LMHC
Shawn Thomas Berthel, M.S., LMHC
Step into your new life path.

Hello. Counseling often begins way before the client ever actually calls the local therapist. There is often a tipping point in the internal struggle that the client experiences, where they can no longer deal with the issues on their own and thus giving the motivation to seek external help. That said, clients usually go seeking therapists based on what their insurance will cover, or what is likely to be more and more the case in the near future...what they are able to pay for out of pocket. That first phone call to a prospective counselor can often feel like torture, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Counselors are well trained to acknowledge the inherent goodness of all clients, and should be able to see and hear the sense of fear in the client of being judged or put down in some way. The counselor you select should be compassionate, caring, able to join with you on your journey to resolving your issues or concerns, and to do so without negative judgment of you as a person of worth.

Once you have found a counselor you want to work with, you would then schedule an appointment to meet. That first session is often very low key. There might be some forms for you to complete, which will help the counselor address your concerns and learn a bit more about you. The counselor will typically provide you with what we generally call in the profession a professional disclosure or practice statement. This document (which may be several pages long) usually outlines the counselor's credentials; practice rules; forms of payment; office hours; emergency contact details; and confidentiality guidelines under state and federal law, among other details. All of this benefits you as the client, so that you are well informed and can focus your attention on why you are meeting with the counselor.

In the first session, it is absolutely okay to be nervous. Here's a really big secret (which is important to keep in mind as counseling begins): Counselors are often as nervous (if not more) to meet a new client, as the client is to meet their new counselor. It's true. We as professionals are trying to put our best foot forward to impress you with our awesome counseling skills. While simultaneously hiding all the troubling unwanted issues that we ourselves have in our life too, and being worried that we might not know if we can help the client sitting in front of us. What makes it even more challenging, is that counselors are often put on a giant pedestal of perfection by clients (all while we as counselors tend to look at it like we're standing on a three legged stool). This is normal for us when seen from the eyes of the client. Counselors and clients are both human, and we both make mistakes. Coming from that place of understanding, might bring a sense of ease to both the client and the therapist as they seek to work together. 

Part of this perception of perfection held by clients toward counselors, is that the skills of the counselor might look like they have all the answers. We honestly do not, plain and simple. Counselors come from life experiences (where they might be farther down on life's road than you); they hold completion of various forms of training; and have advanced education. Yet we are in the end, imperfect beings struggling to help imperfect people. This makes it easier to be compassionate to new clients walking through our door with the hope that we will receive that same compassion in return. Very often, we can find ourselves reflected in our clients' lives with their struggles and can become more effective at helping if we have resolved similar issues in our own life. So as you begin to seek out a therapist, try looking for one who is aware of their own life issues and is actively working on them too. Someone who can meet you where you are at emotionally and can understand your sense of your struggle that you are facing at the present moment. That counselor may be a good example for you as you enter into therapy and build your own strength, and thus begin dealing with the issues more effectively you bring up in therapy.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Cory Ian Shafer LPC
Cory Ian Shafer LPC
Psychotherapist, Jungian, Hypnotherapy

Usually people call me by phone, they introduce themselves, we chat for a bit, then we schedule a time for their appointment

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Julie Desjardins
Julie Desjardins
Mental health counsellor

First, identify the areas that you need help with. What are the issues that are most troubling you? Are these situations creating an impact on your daily routine?

Second, do some research as to the type of counselling service you are looking and that would best suit your needs. Are you looking for individual sesssions, couples/family sessions, etc. And research potential therapists in your area that focus their counselling approach on your therapeutic needs. 

Third, contact the therapist (most don't answer the phones, so leave a message or send an email). Don't be affraid to ask questions. You want to make sure that this professional is a good "match" for you and will work with you at working toward your therapeutic goals (the things you want to address/work on during the sessions).

Fourth, have the expectation that, depending on the issues, you will need multiple sessions/appointments with the therapist to really address the issues and work toward your therapeutic goals.

It takes strength and courage to reach out for help, but I know you can reach your goals. It takes time, patience, and practice do really address your needs. 

Good luck!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sally High
Sally High
Make The Return Back To Self

I always suggest that you find the right fit. You have every right to interview the therapist and ask as many questions as you need. It is our job as a therapist to explain our approach and philosophy. This gives you a good overview of the therapist. Just call and say that you would like to talk to the therapist. Say your interested in the services but unclear about how the process works. From there a seasoned therapist should be proficient in helping to guide you through the process with ease and comfort. 

www.lifecounselingorlando.com

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Anna McElearney
Anna McElearney
Helping Couples Build Stronger Relationships

Starting the counseling process can be daunting but here are some ways that hopefully help make the process a little less overwhelming. 

First,

  • I'd start with finding a therapist through a therapist directory and searching for a therapist specifically in your area and with the expertise you're looking for. There are many reputable therapist directories online that offer specific information and links to therapist websites to learn more about how they can help.

Next, 

  • I'd pick two or three of interest to contact directly. Have a list of questions that are important to you that you can ask to determine whether a particular therapist is a good fit. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation to allow you both to determine whether it is a good fit.
  • Then, after you schedule, the next step is to see what it's like being in session to determine if the fit is still a match. 
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
David Routt
David Routt
Totius Therapies

The easiest way to start the counseling process is to do a little research online. A quick search for the type of counseling you are looking for can be helpful. There are lots of Counselors out there to choose from, so many times you will have to take it a few steps further than that. Check out their website, social media, and any reviews (but remember, people are not always very nice). If you plan on using insurance to pay for at least part of the services, look for one that is in your network. You can find out if someone is in your network by looking for providers on your insurance's website. If your coverage isn't that great and you know you're going to be paying for it all anyway (because you're an all-star and verified your coverage already with the insurance company), then you can really pick any Counselor you want, but working with one that is at least out of network will give you the benefit of having it applied to your deductible. If you have any questions about that process or just want some help in getting your benefits from the insurance company once you've started counseling, Better is a good option. Once you've found a Counselor you think is a good fit for you, normally the best step to take here is to call and schedule your very first appointment. With many Counselors you can now send an email, but a phone call can normally tell you quite a bit about someone and their clinic. Once you're all scheduled, they will either get you to do some paperwork before you come in, or many times they just let you fill it out once you get there. From there, all you have to do is show up!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Samantha  Osborne
Samantha Osborne
Encouraging and Compassionate

Approaching a counselor can seem intimidating at first, but most mental health professionals want to help you feel safe and heard.  You can often find counselors using search engines like CounselChat or Psychology Today.  These websites allow you to get to know therapists before you take the next step.  These days, counselors have websites where you can learn even more.  These websites usually have clear instructions for contact.  Typically, you can reach out via phone or email to request a consultation.  During a consultation call, you can ask the therapist questions about their credentials and areas of expertise.  If you feel like you connect, you can schedule a first session where you will tell them more about yourself and why you are seeking therapy.  The thing to remember is that therapists want you to reach out to them, and they are happy to be approached for support.  Good luck!  

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

I think it is important that you are able to convey what you are looking for in a therapist even if that changes over time.  You need to look at it like you are interviewing the counselor and that they will be able to provide you with the therapy you need.  To many times we do not know and it ends up not being a good fit and then people are left with a bad experience and do not want to re-engage.  Remembering you are basically hiring someone to help you so I would treat it as such. Do some research and be clear as to why you are coming to therapy and ask questions as how they will be able to help you. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Jason Davis
Jason Davis
Helping You Find A Better Way Today

The first thing to do is to reflect on what you want to seek counseling. Search online and then set up a phone consultation. A person can find out a lot about a counselor and the services that they offer over the phone. After a consultation then set up an intake questions. The overall goal is to make sure that you are comfortable with the counselor and the services they can offer.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Phone or email a counselor whose profile you've read and which feels right for you.

Ask to get a feel as to the way the person would handle your problem and work with you.

In my practice I offer a phone consult which generally continues for twenty minutes.

I feel it is only fair that a prospective patient has a feel for the service they are about to purchase before they can be expected to pay money for a service which may not be to their liking at all.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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