Choose a Mental Health Counselor or Psychotherapist
From Tips and Steps
Most Americans will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their life. Mood and Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems, and counseling can be a very effective form of treatment for these and most other mental illnesses. However, there are many different types of counselors and hundreds of different approaches that they can use to treat mental illness. So, choosing a counselor can be difficult. This article offers some guidance for making the best choice before starting therapy.
What's the problem: try to determine why you are going to counseling. "Having marital problems that are making me depressed," "feeling sad or depressed," "having panic attacks," "feeling anxious a lot," "just not feeling myself," "having family problems that are causing anxiety," "having trouble with alcohol," and so on.
Determine how you will pay. Insurance or Private Pay: This is a big decision for several reasons. Insurance coverage is not guarenteed, you will usually have to pay some portion of the fee, and personal information about you and your illness will be sent to the insurance company. This information may stay on your medical record for years, lead to pre-existing conditions by future insurance companies, and, depending on your diagnosis, prevent you from being employed by law enforcement or military enlistment.
If you choose to use insurance, call the customer service 800# on the back of your card and ask for the names of three outpatient mental health counselors in your zip code area (you're probably more likely to keep your appointments if you live close to their office).
If you pay privately, try to negotiate a fee with the counselor, but, first determine how much you could afford per session. If you pay privately, you're not limited to the therapists in your insurance plan. Visit a referral service, like www.psychologytoday.com; it will provide with some therapists sorted by zip code, gender, issue, and so on. It will also list other information about each therapist in their network.
Ask Questions: Prepare a list of questions to ask each counselor. Consider the following examples: "What percentage of your clients come in for marital therapy?" (fill in marital therapy with your problem); "What approach do you take to marital counseling?" "How many sessions do couples usually spend in therapy?" "Do you have a license to practice therapy?" "Do you bill my insurance company?" "Can you call my insurance company for me to find out my benefits?"
Research: Now that you have information about each therapist, do some more research. For example, if your therapist said that they use "Imago" or "Gottman" marital therapy, find out what does that mean. If they have an "LPC" license, find out what that is. You can visit www.psychologytoday.com or do a Google search for more information.
Try to arrange a free consultation. Still not comfortable: So you have this information and you are still having trouble deciding which of the three are best suited for you. Try to arrange a free in-person consultation. This is strongly recommended since you'll be able to see the counselor's office as well as have the direct experience of meeting with them. How you feel when you leave the office will probably be the most important factor in your decision making process.
Set up an initial appointment: Counselors are required to conduct at least one assessment session, which is usually completed in the first one or two meetings. You should be able to get an idea from the counselor about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Don't put off sharing any questions or concerns about the counselor's diagnosis and treatment plan. If you are not comfortable asking questions or expressing concerns, then perhaps that is an issue to discuss in therapy!
Don't limit yourself to the age, gender, or race of the counselor; you may skip over a very qualified therapist!
Find a licensed counselor. You can check to online to see if their license if valid and if there have been any disciplinary action against them. Visit your state's Department of Professional Regulation.
Things You'll Need
Your driver's license (or other ID) and insurance card and a method of payment.