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He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” ― Lao Tzu

If you are reading this blog, congratulations on deciding to seek counseling! I hope you find these 4 Easy Steps to be helpful guide on finding the perfect counselor for you.

1. Identify what type of counselor you need.

The first step in finding a counselor is to research the counselors in your area in order to find one who specializes in, or has experience in, helping people with needs similar to yours.  One of the easiest ways to do this is by going online and using a website such as Psychologytoday.com to search for a counselor. This site, and others like it, allows you to narrow down your search to only those who have training to work with clients with your specific issue.

For example, if you are looking for a counselor who specializes in divorce counseling in the Carrollwood, Lutz, or West Chase area, the Relationship and Divorce Counseling Center will come up in your search because we specialize in helping individuals and couples decide whether to work through their relationship issues or separate and rediscover themselves as individuals.

2. Learn more about your options.

You will most likely find that the first step does not narrow down your options to one counselor, so next, you need to learn more about each counselor by doing some research.  This can be done by reading through information online about each counselor.  I would suggest reviewing each potential counselor’s website to learn about their experience, treatment approach, location and any client reviews that may be available. In addition, most counselors offer a complimentary consultation either in person or over the phone.  Contact one to two counselors for a consultation to learn more about them and their practice.

3. Make an appointment.

Once you have done your research and, perhaps, talked with one or a few counselors in person or over the phone, it is time to choose the counselor that best meets your needs. Call or go online to set a time and date for your first session.  Many counselors call this an “intake session.”  Prior to the start of the appointment, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork and a questionnaire. This information will be help the counselor determine the treatment plan that is right for you and your specific concerns. Note, that some counselors charge a bit more for the intake session than they charge for regular sessions. This is to accommodate the extra time required for setting up records and getting a basic familiarity with a first-time client.

It may seem like the selection process stops here.  After all, you have found your counselor, but I want you to consider one more very important thing.

4. Is this counselor the right fit for you?

After a few sessions you should feel comfortable with your counselor and get a sense that you are beginning to resolve the issues and concerns for which you originally sought help.  This comfort level, which counselors refer to as a “therapeutic alliance,” has been found to be the most crucial factor in whether a client benefits from therapy.  This feeling of comfort is not something that you can force and must be taken into consideration when you are deciding whether to stay with a counselor.

For example, I would like to think of myself as a warm, friendly, empathetic person who can sometimes even be funny. My office has a comfortable couch and chairs, a calming paint color on the walls, and I often have soft music playing in the background during sessions, but none of that matters if my clients do not feel comfortable.

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself when you are with your counselor:

  • Do I like his or her communication style?
  • Is he or she someone I can open up to?
  • Does he or she have the ability to help me with my specific concerns?
  • Do I feel that I am making progress?

If, after asking yourself these questions, you come to realize you do not feel comfortable with your counselor, I am going to offer you a surprising suggestion. Let your counselor know. While this may be uncomfortable for you, this is something that counselors are well prepared for. It is an important part of the counseling process.  He or she may be able to adjust their therapy “approach” and help to make your feel more at ease.  If you still feel you would like to see another counselor, he or she may be able to refer you to a counselor who might be a better fit for you.  Keep in mind that the most important thing for you (and your counselor!) is for you to get the support and guidance you need and deserve.

I hope these suggestions have been helpful in your search for a counselor.

The Relationship and Divorce Counseling Center supports individuals and couples deciding whether to work through their relationship issues or separate and rediscover themselves as individuals. If you live in the Tampa Bay area, I encourage you to learn more about the Relationship and Divorce Counseling Center by visiting www.radcounseling.com.