Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware
Below is a short list of the complaints I have heard about people working with counselors. I have also included some tips and questions to help you find the right counselor for you.
- answered the phone during my session
- checked their email during my session
- regularly checked their watch during my session
- didn’t seem to pay attention to me/ seemed distracted
- would not return phone or email messages . . . ever
- started each session late and/or ended early
- didn’t seem to remember my situation from week to week so I had to retell the same story each session
- just didn’t get me
A counselor is a very unique service provider. In order for a counselor to do their job effectively you have to trust them and feel that they respect, value, and genuinely care about you and your situation. With the relationship you and your counselor need to develop with each other so crucial to the outcome it makes sense to put some time, thought, and effort into finding the best fit for you. Below are a list of questions to ask yourself, a potential counselor, or to research on your own that should lead you in the right direction.
Questions to ask yourself
- Can I discuss my issues comfortably with a male and/or female counselor?
- Do I want someone with/without a religious base to their counseling approach?
- How long did it take to hear back from the counselor after I left a message? Longer than 24 hours and/or next business day you might consider moving down the list.
- When I did speak with them did the conversation feel natural, forced, rushed, or comfortable?
- Do I want someone close to home/work, or would I prefer a little bit of distance so we don’t cross paths at the grocery store?
Questions to ask (by phone or email) a potential therapist before you book your first session
- What is your experience with my specific issue?
- How many clients do you typically see in a week? If they see more than 20 (generally considered a full load in this field due to the time spent on paperwork and preparation for each client), or they won’t give you a straight answer you may want to keep looking.
- What are your fees? Some therapists charge differently for different services. For example some charge a higher rate to work with a couple than they do for an individual. Also, some therapists (myself included) offer discounts for military/police/fire/etc. so be sure to ask.
- How long have you been in the field?
- Has your license ever been suspended?
- How do you typically approach an issue like mine? If the answer is a list of therapy styles/techniques that you are not familiar with don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation. If they can’t communicate how they plan to help you in a way that makes sense you might want to scratch them off the list.
Questions to research on your own
- Where did they get their degree? Believe it or not some professionals in the mental health field got their degrees from online/distance learning programs. For many fields this is a great option, but counseling? A field based on human interaction and talking to people face to face?
- Is their license in good standing? In Florida where I practice you can review any professional’s license status on the Department of Health website. Similar information is available in other states.
- Do they have any other areas of expertise that might be beneficial? If your issue includes addiction and it is also effecting your marriage you may look for someone experienced in both areas.
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