If you’ve never been to a counselor you might imagine therapy to be a little like the movies. Enter a middle-aged doctor with distinguishing salt-and-pepper hair who sits in a chair with a notebook opposite the patient lying prostrate on a leather couch.
“Tell me why you hate your mother.”
Let me assure you, it’s far less dramatic. I’ve been to marriage counseling, personal counseling and counseling with my kids. I’ve yet to see a leather couch.
After writing Top 10 Signs You Should Seek Counseling, some of you asked how you would go about finding a counselor. This is a great question! If you’ve tried therapy before and had a bad experience don’t give up! If you’ve never tried counseling and the prospect seems overwhelming let me break it down for you.
5 Tips on Finding the Best Counselor for You
Tip #1: ID the titles and acronyms
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW or LSW): Training for social workers can vary but most of the time social workers have master’s degrees in social work or in another related field of study.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) or Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): These individuals have achieved a master’s degree in counseling or psychology or a master’s in a related field. They are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT): In most cases these are professionals who hold at least a master’s degree in psychology or counseling and whose education has focused on relational issues and family structure.
Psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.): They are people who have a doctorate and are licensed and certified. Psychologists are therapists as well as mental health professionals that have specialized training to test for and officially diagnose mental illnesses.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (NP or PMHNP): A person with advanced training as a registered nurse trained to provide a wide range of mental health services to patients and families in a variety of settings. They are also able to prescribe medication.
Psychiatrist (M.D.): A medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health. They address issues of chemical imbalances in the brain associated with mental illnesses with medication and refer patients to a psychologist for therapy.
Tip #2: Check on your health insurance coverage and preferred providers.
Tip #3: Ask friends, family, and your church for references.
Tip #4: Cross reference your preferred providers and gathered recommendations. Do some online research on these doctors.
Tip #5: Start phone interviews. You are hiring them!
- Ask about their training and specialties (make sure they are currently licensed with the state and have graduate or even postgraduate training).
- Ask the counselor how they work with clients who are people of faith. And follow-up by asking about their worldview. Most people have one of two basic views of life: the universe and life is the result of random events; or there is some power/intelligence beyond our universe that gives order and meaning to life. If you are seeking a Christian counselor and one isn’t available these questions are crucial to understanding how your counselor will approach treatment.
- Tell them a little about why you are seeking counseling and ask if they have had success treating those issues.
- Do you feel comfortable talking with them?
- Are they warm and approachable?
- Discuss insurance coverage, payment requirements and possible payment plans or sliding scale options.
- Once you are comfortable, make an appointment. Most providers are also willing to do an in-person interview.
We live in a broken world that is far from perfection, so why do expect our lives to be faultless? We have the opportunity to seek spiritual healing and wholeness through a relationship with Jesus. (Romans 10: 9-10) In addition, seeking counseling is a choice of immense courage where you admit that you don’t have all the answers. The great news is that God has equipped and gifted His children to serve one another in this beautiful endeavor towards healing.
Have courage and step out in faith!
What’s stopping you from seeking counseling? What tips above did you find the most helpful?
A special thank you to Dr. Bart Fowler of Charis Counseling Associates for consulting with me on this article for accuracy and insight.
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