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.
Elaine Alyson
Elaine Alyson
Psychotherapy and EMDR

Most counselors are very approachable and many offer a 15 minute chat by phone to allow you to talk about your issue, and to get a feel for the counselor.  If you like what you hear by phone, the next step is to set up a face-to-face meeting. Studies show that the most important element in effective therapy is that you feel a connection with your counselor.  Trust your instincts and if you don't feel comfortable, let him or her know that you don't think it's a good fit.  Many counselors list on websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy.  Visit these websites to learn more about therapists in your area.

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.
David Klein
David Klein
Humanistic Psychotherapy for Individuals & Couples

I have found that if you go to my website and fill out the form, I can usually get back to you within 24 hours. In my most efficient instances, I've been able to set-up a consultation within a couple of days, which is just 15 minutes by phone, to chat a little about what you might want to work on, how I may or may not be a good fit, etc. Then from there, if you want to meet in person we can set up an initial session. I will usually be able to let you know what kinds of ongoing times for counseling that I have available over the phone. Scheduling is a big barrier to finding a therapist, especially in New York, when schedules seem pretty busy all around.

I've heard a lot of statistics about how prospective clients in therapy will often wait for months before reaching out, which is why I think that email is great. Cold-calling can cause an unnecessary amount of anxiety (also, who will hear me on the phone?) whereas email is relatively easy to begin a conversation, from what I've found.

I tend to recommend clients give a new therapist a couple of sessions to get a feel for fit. But, if it's horrible after one session, and you feel awful when you leave, that's another story. I might want to explore with you what felt so awful, but if you don't want to come back, that is well within your right.

Also, keep in mind that we want to help. So, please don't feel like we are judging you for seeking out help! You are strong for doing so. Far too often I hear about it as a weakness, and that's just BS:)

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 Cox
Julie Cox
Julie Cox, LCSW

A great place to start is at www.psychologytoday.com.  You can search by location and identify therapists who have expertise in your area of concern.  Once you find a few people that fit your criteria, read about them on Psychology today as well as check out their website if they have one.  Next, either call or email them to set up a time to talk for a few minutes.  When you speak with them, you want to know a few things: do they have a decent amount of experience in your area of concern?  Are their fees, insurance coverage and scheduling availability a good fit for you?  Most importantly, see if you feel comfortable when you speak to them on the phone!  If this person is a good match in these areas, schedule an initial consultation so that you can see if you are also a good match in person.  

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.

Hello. Usually the person interested in therapy reaches out to the therapist, by telephone or email.  I like to respond with appreciation for their making contact and ask if they are available for a phone consultation in order to see how I may be able to help.  Once we are on the phone, I like to get a brief sense of what's happening in their life and the way in which I respond and the way we communicate will give each of us a sense of whether our dynamic is appealing enough to take the next step.  And the next step is making an appointment.  Also in the initial conversation, you can feel free to ask what their therapeutic modality is or give a brief scenario and ask how the therapist might respond to that situation.  I encourage you to be fearless in "interviewing" the therapist.  This is one of the most sacred connections of trust you could be about to forge, so if you don't feel comfortable, move on to the next therapist on your list.  

If the connection feels good to you, then it's worth it to make the first appointment.  You will immediately know if you don't feel comfortable speaking with this person.  But if you DO feel comfortable, heard, validated even in that short conversation, I encourage you to make the appointment.  Once you're in the first session, you can continue to assess through how your feeling and responding, just how comfortable you are or are not. Just keep listening to yourself every step of the way!

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.
Shy Porter
Shy Porter
Specialist in couples & individuals

Great question. The decision to pursue therapy can be a very difficult one and the fact that there seem to be so many profiles that you have to wade through can be particularly daunting. Here's what I suggest to make the process a bit easier: 

1) Narrow down your preferred geographical area. Are you in a rural, suburban, or urban environment? If it's either of the latter two, you'll probably have a mental health professional close by. Decide now if it's important to you that their office be within walking or short driving distance. 

2) Decide if you need it to be covered by your insurance. You'll have more options if you're willing to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed by your insurance, but more and more people are accepting insurance these days. 

3) Find someone whose profile has the key words that you're looking for. If you're struggling with traumatic flashbacks, make sure they have "trauma" or something along those lines in their profile.

4) Make sure they have a friendly and professional picture. This is small, but this detail shows that they really care about how they present to the world. 

5) Come up with a list of about 3 people and rank them from most appealing to least. Set up an appointment with the person who seems like the best fit and give it a try for the first session. You'll know by the end of it if it's a good fit.

It can be scary, but finding the perfect fit makes it so worth it. 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.
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
President and Clinical Counselor at 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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