How to Choose a Counselor

April 04, 2020

How to Choose a Counselor

What is Counseling?

Counseling – also referred to as therapy or psychotherapy – is the process of working with a professional to help you achieve certain life goals. Oftentimes, people seek out counseling because they have run into a rough spot in life. For example, you might be struggling to adjust to a life transition, feeling more depressed, or engaging in harmful behaviors such as gambling or using illegal drugs. Upon meeting with your counselor, you will work to identify the problem areas of your life, and begin to work toward achieving the changes necessary to get the lifestyle that you desire.

While there are many people who can help in these situations, it is important to know what type of professional you will be working with. The following four professions are all regulated by the state in which you live, and must have a valid license in their respective field to practice.

  • Counselor/Therapist: Someone who has received a Master’s Degree in Counseling, or a similar field. This title means that they have thoroughly studied counseling tools, theories, and interventions, including the proper way to work with various mental health issues.
  • Psychologist: Someone who has received a Doctorate in Psychology. This requires more schooling beyond a Master’s, and sometimes means that they can also do testing (that can be beneficial in certain cases).
  • Psychiatrist: Someone who has received their Doctorate, but unlike Psychologists, received it in the medical practice. Psychiatrists are the only providers who can prescribe medications. Some Psychiatrists provide counseling as well, but many times this is a separate person.
  • Social Worker: Someone who has received a degree in Social Work. Social workers often provide counseling, but they also focus on causing change in the community, including legislative efforts, and work to help their consumers find the right resources in their community to help them. Social Workers might have a Bachelor’s Degree, or a Master’s Degree.

There are other professions that offer similar results. For example, life coaches or speaking with a pastor can be very beneficial.  However, these positions are not always as regulated or as informed about the mental health needs of people entering into services.

Questions to Ask

Once you have decided that you want to speak with someone, it can be valuable to do a little bit of research before contacting them. Looking online and or asking people who you trust can offer some ideas about where to start. Picking the right Counselor for you will help to make your experience more enjoyable, and more productive. Here are some questions to ask when you are trying to pick a counselor:

  • Ask yourself: “Who do I want to speak to?”
    • Would you rather speak to someone of the same gender? Same age? Same ethnicity? Picking someone with whom you will feel the most comfortable can help you to open up and get the most out of your sessions.
    • Do you want to incorporate your religion/spirituality? Counselors should never force their beliefs on you, but if you feel it is important to include your faith or belief system into your counseling, you can look for someone who advertises those services.
    • Do you have a preference for the type of licensed professional you want to speak with? Each profession offers something a little different, and it might matter to you exactly who you speak with. Keep in mind that service costs will likely vary based on the type of licensure that they have.
    • Questions to ask a potential Counselor:
      • Do you have a specific population that you prefer to work with?
      • Do you offer faith-based services?
      • What license do you have?
      • How long have you been working in this field?
    • Ask yourself: “How am I going to pay for this?”
      • If you have insurance coverage, a great first place to start is by contacting your insurance company to see what type of Behavioral Health/Mental Health services they cover. Often, they will refer you to a list of providers that they will help pay for. It is common that insurance coverage only lasts for so many sessions per year, so be sure to ask about their policy.
      • If you do not have insurance, you will be paying “out of pocket.” Counselors should discuss their fees with you before you engage in treatment. Many offer a sliding scale fee, which adjusts the cost of a session as based on your income, to help make sessions affordable. You could also search for non-profits or community based programs that offer scholarships or use grants to help fund services.
      • Questions to ask a potential Counselor:
        • What insurances do you work with?
        • What are the fees associated with your services?
        • How do most people pay for services?
      • Ask yourself: “How do I think I can achieve my goals?”
        • The answer to this question will help you focus in on what theoretical approach you want your counselor to have. Most counselors will have a specific way that they choose to engage their clients. For example, a counselor might focus more on behavior, thoughts, or feelings. It is possible to focus on all three. There are countless ways to do this, so asking up front can help you prepare for what your sessions will look like.
        • Questions to ask a potential Counselor:
          • What theories do you use? What does that mean?
          • What does a session with you look like?
          • How often will we meet?

Contacting potential counselors is the best way to select the best counselor for you. Aim to select someone who you feel comfortable with, but will challenge you in the areas you know you want to change. If you are unsure, keep searching. Or, pick someone to get you started – you can always transfer to another counselor at a later time.


Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.



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