How to Choose a Counselor



1.  Ask for a referral.

Chances are, you know someone who is in counseling or has been in counseling.  Some of their experiences were likely good, and some of them may have had less than positive experiences with their counselor.  Not all relationships were meant to be.  Ask friends, family, or co-workers if they have anyone they would recommend.  If you do not feel comfortable asking someone you know, there are websites like that give you a lot of information about counselors in your area.  You can also look to see if they have a LinkedIn account that might have some endorsements, or if they have any patient reviews on Google, HealthGrades, or other rating sites.  Nothing beats a referral from someone who has had experience with the person you are planning to see.

2.  Consider your therapy goals.

Like other professionals, counselors usually have a few areas in which they are experts.  Are you looking for a play therapist for your child, or a hypnotist to help you get unstuck?  Are you seeking someone to help you with a depressive episode, or are you trying to break the rituals of OCD?  There are many different areas that clinicians focus on.  Make sure the person you are considering for your counselor works with the issues you need to address.  Most clinicians are able to help you figure out what kind of therapist you need if you are not sure yourself.  Be honest with them up front and let them know you are trying to figure out what you need if you do not already know.

3.  You know yourself better than anyone else knows you.

Consider how comfortable you will be opening up to someone about some personal issues.  Think about gender, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, personality type, and any other characteristics that are important to you.  Do you feel comfortable with a relatively young counselor who is new to the profession?  Do you need someone with years of experience who may seem “wise” to you?  The quality of relationship you have with your counselor can have a high impact on the outcome of therapy.  Make sure you find a good match.

4.  Ask questions.

Transparency is an important part of building a therapeutic relationship.  Be sure to ask questions about the counselor’s education, specialized training, licensure, and experience.  Ask about their fees and how billing works.  How can you contact them between sessions?  How will you know if you are making progress or not?  It is important that you have your questions answered satisfactorily.  This is a professional relationship, and you have a right to know what you are getting into.  There are many counselors who will be a great match for you, and some who will not.  Do not get “stuck” with someone who does not work for you.  Ask questions!

At A Child and Family Psychiatry, we try to help get you matched with a clinician we think will be the best fit for you.  Our front office staff has a good success rate of making the right match the first time.  But we are always happy to help you transfer to another clinician if you feel that it is not a good fit for you.