Choosing a Counselor

How can I find a good therapist or counselor?

Counselor 1
  1. Start by getting a professional referral or doing some research as to whom and what services are available in your area.
  2. Take into consideration whether the therapist's or counselor's qualifications meet your needs
  3. Place a call with each of the potential therapists or counselor giving him/her a good time for them to call you back and have a 10-15 minute conversation. State your needs and concerns along with the question as to what kind of strategies or approaches would they take in assisting you.
  4. As a therapist or counselor give you feedback, listen to yourself. The more the conversation feels comfortable and productive and more that is an indication of a therapeutic relationship that would be most beneficial to you.
  5. Arrange for an appointment with the therapist or counselor. Remember it will be all about the relationship you will establish. If you don't feel comfortable, move on to the next qualified individual.

What credentials should a good counselor or therapist have?

To be a competent therapist or counselor, one should have all three of the following: education, experience and licensing to practice.

  1. A good therapist starts with a master's or a doctorate in a mental health field (DMin, EdD, MA, MD, MDiv, M.Ed, MS, MSW, PhD, PsyD). Wisdom, compassion and character are necessary, but they aren't enough; knowledge is essential.
  2. A good therapist or counselor has completed an extensive psychotherapy training program ('clinical residency'). It may have been part of his/her academic degree, or it may have been a separate postgraduate program. This is important to know about, because some PhD's and MD's have academic knowledge about psychological research or medication, but have never had actual training or practice. You can't simply learn psychotherapy out of a book or in a classroom. You need the books and the classrooms, but they aren't enough. A supervised residency is where they learn their trade.
  3. Counselor 2 After residency, and supervised experience, the therapist or counselor has been pronounced worthy by an authority to which they will be accountable. It could be a government licensing board, or some other credentialing organization. Some of the more common designations you might see include:
    • LCSW
    • CSW
    • MFT
    • LMFT
    • MFCC
    • AAPC
    • LPC
    • NCC
    • NCPsyA

How much does it cost?

Counseling or therapy can be expensive ($45 to $200 per session depending on your geographical area), but many private therapists charge on a sliding scale. You can also find therapists asking lower fees at nonprofit clinics, community mental health centers, and religious-affiliated counseling centers.