10 Tips on Finding a Counselor

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April is Counseling Awareness month! Entering counseling can feel like a scary or daunting process. You may have a number of questions. Maybe you’ve given some thought to seeing a counselor but have felt uncertain about what to do. Or, maybe you’ve avoided the process because it feels too overwhelming trying to decide where to begin. This post provides some tips to help you find a counselor who will be a good fit for you and hopefully eliminate some of the uncertainty around getting started.

Here are 10 tips on finding a counselor who is a good fit for you:

  1. Check therapist directories such as PsychologyToday and GoodTherapy.org Both sites allow you to filter the type of counselor you’re looking for by zip code, insurance coverage, issues of concern, and more. These sites promote counselors with verified credentials.
  2. Contact your health insurance company and ask whether mental or behavioral health is covered, there is oftentimes a phone number for these services on your insurance card, or you may visit your insurance company’s website and search for a provider there.
  3. Talk with friends and family, chances are someone you know is already seeing a counselor or has seen one in the past and they might have recommendations
  4. Talk to your doctor, they may have a go-to provider or a list of providers to refer you to.
  5. Check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program that provides a limited number of free mental health sessions for employees.
  6. Do a Google search for counseling or therapy in your area using specific key words you want help with such as “depression” or “teen counseling.”
  7. Call a few counselors. Many counselors offer a free initial consultation either in person or over the phone. Speak with a few of them to help you decide who you might feel most comfortable with and to get a sense of what you’re looking (and not looking) for. If a counselor wants to schedule you while you’re still trying to decide, just let them know you’re not ready to schedule yet and you’d like more time to think about it.
  8. Visit counselors’ websites. You can shop around and learn about the counseling services you’re interested in before you pick up the phone to call anyone. On many websites you can find out information about fees, insurance, and the counselor’s approach to helping.
  9. If you schedule with a counselor and discover afterward that it’s not a good fit you can always let your counselor know you don’t think it’s working. Your counselor may be able to refer you elsewhere, adjust the treatment to better meet your needs, or explore with you where the feeling of disconnection might be coming from. Unless you’ve been court-ordered to attend counseling, you have a right to stop going whenever you want and for whatever reason.
  10. Check your local colleges, places of worship, mental health agencies, or family crisis agencies to see if they offer counseling and if you are eligible for services.

Uncertainty and avoidance are two possible barriers to getting started with counseling and can prevent you from getting the help you need. Since April is Counseling Awareness Month, hopefully this post has increased your awareness about how to find a counselor and given you some suggestions to help you feel more confident when you’re ready to reach out and begin the counseling process.

Employee Assistance Programs: A Free Counseling Resource

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Did you know that many employers offer programs for counseling as part of the benefits to their employees? Employee Assistance Programs or “EAPs” provide temporary, brief counseling services that are meant to help employees manage problems that might interfere with job performance. EAP counseling services are usually provided at no cost to employees and oftentimes include other members of the household as well.

EAP providers can address many common problems employees have that are personal or work-related such as depression, anxiety, conflict with coworkers, difficulty performing job duties, substance use, and relationship problems. In some instances, such as when job performance is suffering, employees may be mandated or strongly encouraged by their employer to attend EAP services.

The following are some examples of companies providing EAP services:

  1. Magellan
  2. First Choice Health
  3. ComPsych
  4. Aetna
  5. Life Services

If you’re unsure whether your company offers EAP benefits you can check with coworkers, your employer, your human resources department, your company benefits package or policy manual. Many organizations have brochures, posters, or fliers around with the EAP phone number you can call.

Once you contact the EAP you will be provided a name or list of names for mental health, behavioral health, or chemical dependency providers in your area who help with the specific concern you have. Depending on the EAP, you will either contact the mental health counselor yourself or the EAP representative will call the provider, authorize services, and connect the provider with you. The number of sessions typically authorized is between 3-8. The services you receive are confidential. In instances where you’ve been mandated to attend EAP services, your employer may be informed of whether or not you participated as requested and informed of the status of your progress by the EAP representative. Confidentiality is also limited if you threaten to harm yourself or someone else.

You may wish to continue services beyond the authorized number of EAP sessions, in which case you can choose to use your health insurance coverage or pay for ongoing services yourself. Check with your counselor and insurance company to determine whether the counselor is a provider with your insurance if you want to continue meeting using your health coverage. Not all counselors accept insurance and some only accept specific ones. Another option is to pay for the services out of pocket and then ask your counselor to provide you with a document that you give to your insurance company for reimbursement.

EAP services can be a helpful way to address personal or occupational problems in a short amount of time. A common barrier to receiving the service is that many employees are unaware that the benefit is available. Services are generally brief, solution-focused, and can help you maintain your work-life balance.

When I grow up…

When you think back to when you were 10 years old what did you dream of being when you grew up? Did you achieve that dream or did you take another path? How does what you became connect with what you wanted to be as a 10 year old?forkintheroad

When I was 10 years old I discovered music and knew I was going to grow up to be a great musician. I pursued my dream up into college and, based on the feedback I received from others, was a pretty great musician. I practiced diligently and consistently but found I was losing interest as a music major after a couple of years at the college level. I felt disappointed and reluctant to let go of something I had poured so much time and effort into and part of me felt like I was letting go of a part of my identity when I decided to take a break from college and musical performance.

I eventually decided to pursue an interest in studying psychology and returned to college. I immediately loved the class content and found that I thrived on reading, studying, taking tests, and writing papers! Of course, I needed to do something with a psychology degree and decided that I wanted to pursue a path as a counselor, which meant more school. Grad school was grueling but incredibly rewarding and transformative for me. Leaving behind my musician-identity allowed me to discover new talents I never realized I had. I found that letting go was both scary and rewarding. Now, I enjoy helping others explore their own identities and paths.

I think my two paths are connected with a desire for creativity. Music allowed me to create new compositions and interpret notes in my own way. Counseling allows me to meet hundreds of different people and help create positive changes as we work toward goals together. Counselors can use different theories and dozens of techniques to help people which provides an ideal environment for creativity. Among many other things, counseling can be a helpful way to explore your identity, interests, strengths, and feelings about facing life’s transitions. I’m happy to be a part of so many people’s lives whose personal journeys have crossed paths with the professional path I chose.

Inspired by a prompt from: Ballerina Fireman Astronaut Movie Star