How to Get Counselling

Three Parts:Preparing for CounselingFinding a CounselorGetting Counseling

Once you've made the decision to receive counseling, it can be daunting to find a counselor. There are many options to consider and different types of counselors that the whole process can feel overwhelming. When choosing to get counseling, be informed in your choices in order to find the best counselor to meet your needs.

Part 1
Preparing for Counseling

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    Identify your reasons for seeking counseling to find the best possible counselor. It's important to know what makes you want to seek treatment, so this can be communicated later on to match you with a counselor. Some common reasons to seek counseling include:[1]
    • Symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression
    • Interpersonal difficulties with family or romantic relationship
    • Grief (such as breakups, deaths, parental divorce, or other major losses)
    • Questions/confusion about identity, sexuality, or gender
    • Concerns about body image and relationship with food
    • Trauma (such as experiencing a catastrophic natural disaster, sexual assault, relationship violence, or abuse)
    • Thoughts of suicide or hurting others
    • Harming behaviors, such as cutting or substance abuse
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    Know when to seek counseling. Counseling can be helpful across many situations, but it is highly recommended in certain situations or conditions. A few examples include:[2]
    • You are unhappy most days
    • You worry excessively, feel on edge constantly, or feel overwhelmed often
    • You have experienced a change in your appetite or your weight that varies significantly from what is normal and there isn't a medical cause
    • You have experienced a significant loss (breakup, a parent's death)
    • You have dramatically increased your use of substances such as alcohol or drugs
    • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else
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    Identify goals for counseling. Before you seek counseling, try to be clear about what you are seeking. Think about what events or feelings are contributing to your current concerns. Consider the severity of symptoms, and remember nothing happens over night. Think about what goals you want to accomplish by the end of counseling. This can be as simple as, "I don't want to feel sad anymore" or "I want to move past my disappointments".
    • Working with a counselor will not solve all your problems. Instead, in working with a counselor, you will learn to build coping skills and problem solving skills that will help you handle life's challenges in a more productive way.
    • Other goals can be to reduce addiction, break free from an eating disorder, or escape an abusive relationship.
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    Know what kind of counseling you want. Different types of counseling are available, including individual, group, family, and couples. Some religious organizations also offer counseling, in which case you will directly work with those organizations and not deal with insurance. Know what you want ahead of time so that when the time comes to seek a counselor, you know what you are looking for.
    • Individual therapy is most common. You meet with your therapist one-on-one and you are the focus of each session. People suffering from chronic psychological disorders, such as OCD, bipolar, depression, and trauma benefit from individual therapy as a way to continuously monitor progress and learn ways to cope and work through issues.
    • Group therapy is especially helpful in learning skills. Less attention is on you, and more time is devoted to learning skills, practicing them, and then enacting them throughout the week.
    • Family therapy is often recommended for drug rehabilitation and eating disorder rehabilitation, as families can play a large role in recovery.[3][4]
    • Couples often seek counseling together when they feel significant strain on their relationship. Counselors may choose to see couples together in addition to having separate sessions.
    • If you want a religious context for counsel, seek a rabbi, pastor, priest, or other religious leader in your community. Religious counseling is sometimes helpful for people who want to follow a path rooted in religious teaching.

Part 2
Finding a Counselor

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    Contact your insurance. If you choose to pay through insurance, call your insurance company and ask for a list of providers. Some insurance companies offer a full list of providers in your area online. Don't just look at the top three choices, look the list over extensively. Then, ask friends or family if they know of anyone on the list that they recommend.[5]
    • Make a decision whether you prefer to pay through insurance or out of pocket before beginning counseling. Accepted forms of payment will vary among counselors.
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    Look at experience. Assess whether education level matters to you and whether you think it will affect your counseling experience. Many professionals are qualified to offer counseling services, and it can be a little confusing to decipher different titles in mental health.
    • Some providers hold a doctorate (such as Ph.D. and Psy.D.), meaning they received extensive schooling (five+ years) in mental health and most likely conducted in research.
    • Other professionals hold a Master’s degree (like licensed social workers and marriage and family therapists), who typically receive two to three years of post-university education.
    • Some psychiatrists (medical doctors) also offer counseling, although they are trained specifically to manage medications.
    • All of the above are qualified to offer counseling if they offer it.
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    Check licensure. Make sure the counselor is licensed within the state which you live, and that they are in good standing with the state regulatory board. You can also check for complaints against the counselor through the state regulatory board, which differs by state and can be found online through a search engine.[6]
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    Ask for recommendations. Ask your friends and family if they've had a good experience with a counselor. Ask your general practitioner or family doctor for recommendations. If you're moving to a new city, ask your current counselor for referrals, or have her check with colleagues
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    Call a large clinic for recommendations. Call a large clinic and ask the receptionist for recommendations based on what you're seeking. Receptionists know their counselors well, and can match you with a counselor. They also know what insurance each counselor takes, and can tell you whether sessions would be covered by insurance.[7]
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    Use a university counselor. If you are a student, many colleges and universities offer counseling to students for free. Ask your university healthcare provider to refer you to a counselor, or go to the mental health center at your college to inquire about obtaining counseling.

Part 3
Getting Counseling

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    Attend the first session. The scariest part of getting counseling is showing up. The first session is often spent answering many questions, such as birth history, childhood and development, previous mental health history, family history of mental illness, drug use or abuse, reason for seeking treatment, onset and persistence of symptoms, describing symptoms, and formulating a plan for continued ongoing counseling.
    • Many counselors will speak with you ahead of time or have you fill out paperwork prior to your appointment that outlines much of the information above. They will tell you how to come prepared.
    • The counselor may take some time to describe her role in treatment as well as your role in treatment.
    • The counselor may also outline ways that she uses to treat individual's having similar problems as you, and techniques she may use in counseling. She can outline the course of therapy and help you develop goals if you are unclear of your goals for counseling.
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    Go to appointments regularly. Make regular appointments with your counselor, and don't blow them off. Noticing real change requires a commitment to participate in the therapeutic process. Show up, be timely, and be committed.
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    Follow through with treatment. Your counselor may ask you to practice the skills you’ve learned in therapy throughout the week between appointments. It’s important to follow up with activities outside of counseling, and discuss them when you meet again. If you struggle in completing these tasks, talk to your counselor. Remember, she is there to help you.[8]
    • Practice skills may include finding new ways to deal with stress, such as deep breathing. You can practice different ways to resolve conflict, such as using active listening or not casting blame.
    • Not all counselors will assign practice skills or activities.
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    Do the work. Don't expect a counselor tell you what to do. This is your healing journey, and you are empowered by making progress on your own. A counselor is there to support you and provide insight and guidance. Only you can make the changes necessary to move forward.[9]
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    Know when it's time to move on. When you feel like your goals have been met and you can function in a healthy way, talk to your counselor about ending treatment. As you progress in treatment, sessions may become more spaced out, changing from weekly to bi-weekly. This is a way to practice your skills and become more independent but still maintain therapeutic support.
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    Change counselors if it's not the right fit. Don't stick with one counselor if you are not satisfied. Reflect on your progress, and if you don't feel like you are improving or will not improve, it's ok to switch. Revisit the ways you sought out a counselor and try again, asking for referrals or recommendations that fit with your insurance plan.

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Categories: Positive and Reflective Lifestyles | Emotional Health