7 Tips for Choosing a Counselor

  • Psychiatrist with Patient
    A Personal Decision
    Choosing a counselor is one of the most important and personal decisions you make. Your counselor is your partner in emotional and mental health. Your counselor is there to guide you through many decisions about confronting life’s challenges. How do you find the best counselor who is right for you? Here are seven important factors to keep in mind.

  • Notes written while bracing file on legs
    1. Get Referrals
    Start by creating a list of potential counselors. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral list. You can add to this list by asking family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the counselors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. Then, call each counselor’s office to see if he or she is accepting new patients. If so, ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the counselor.

  • Businessman sitting at desk
    2. Research the Counselor’s Credentials
    Licensure is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing a counselor. It tells you that he or she has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide counseling services. Also confirm that the counselor has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the counselor’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.

  • Doctor during psychoanalysis session
    3. Consider the Counselor’s Experience
    Experience matters when you’re coping with life’s challenges. The more experience a counselor has with a condition or program, the better your results are likely to be. Determine if the counselor has completed training in areas that relate to your situation. Ask how many patients with your specific condition or problem the counselor has treated. If you know you may need a specific form of therapy or program, ask the counselor how many patients he or she has counseled using the approach and how well they did.

  • Female psychotherapist treating teenage female patient
    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important to feel comfortable with your counselor’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to counseling, your own gender is also an important consideration. Men and women can have different counseling needs, which are often related to cultural, societal, or caregiving roles. Ask the counselor about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.

  • Woman counseling a man in her office
    5. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a counselor with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the counselor, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Afterwards, did you feel that your counselor understood your situation? Find a counselor who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.

  • Smiling Women
    6. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a counselor can provide insight into how he or she counsels, as well as how his or her practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn about how well patients trust the counselor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.

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    7. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a counselor who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a counselor from your plan.

7 Tips for Choosing a Counselor

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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