HOW TO FIND THE BEST COUNSELOR
Updated: May 12
About 15 years ago I used to have a cash-based business. Because I didn’t take insurance, I ended up referring about 80% of the people who called me to other Therapists in the area. One of the things I would always tell people is “You should interview your Therapist to see if they are somebody you want to work with”.
In life you have so many choices to make. If you were trying to find someone to fix your old car, how would you go about it? The same method applies to finding a Counselor.
1. Ask friends and family “who would you go to?” Much in the same way you can find a good mechanic, you can also find a great therapist. One roadblock is the stigma of mental health. Most people don’t discuss issues about our Depression, Anxiety, or Mental Health. If you are brave enough to ask the question to someone you trust, you might be surprised that they know of a Therapist.
2. Look at online reviews. Just like a mechanic, people will either love the service or try to steer other people away. My experience is that clients are very happy with the progress they make in therapy…however, they rarely review their therapist on websites. Once again, the stigma of Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Health.
3. Don’t choose the first one you see listed, unless you research. Just like the old days of the yellow pages, you might know that AAA Auto Repairs is listed before Z-Best Auto. First does not always mean best. If you know about the internet, you know that everything is about ranking the highest on search engines like Google. I can improve my ranking on Custercounseling.com by putting key words in my site development like “Best Counselor” “Counselors near me” “Depression Depression Depression” and so on. Also, I can spend money to improve my search engine results. Just because someone has the largest advertisement budget doesn’t make them the best!
4. Look at their picture. If you were looking to repair your car would you go to a garage that had tools thrown everywhere? In the same way a picture says a lot about a Therapist. Granted it’s not a beauty contest, however you should look for any red flags. These red flags might include picture that looks seductive or ones that show they are engaging in activities like fishing. Basically, think the opposite of a dating profile. Ask yourself these questions: Can you imagine yourself trusting them? Do they look like they would be more concerned about your problem…or their appearance? Use your intuition. It is the most important method to avoid a bad experience.
5. Call them. If you were dealing with repairs on your exotic car, you would ask the mechanic “Have you ever worked on my kind of car before?” Therapists are the same way. Have they dealt with an issue like yours before? How much experience do they have in this area? Does their theory or approach match with you issues? Do they seem kind when they speak to you on the phone? Do they offer to help you find someone who will help you, if they don’t specialize in your area of concern? Quite honestly most people want something more than just being listened to. They want someone who makes them feel heard. I personally might choose a someone as a Therapist if I called them to deal with my problem and they said, “Oh wow. That sounds difficult. I can help you find someone who specializes in that.” I would rather see someone who is kind.
6. Ask how much they charge, even if insurance is paying for it. If someone ran into your car and you were getting it repaired using their insurance, it still matters the quality of the repairs. Therapists are the same way. You may have to pay a $30 copay each time you see them with your insurance picking up the rest. Still, you most likely pay for your insurance. Pretend like it is your own money. Use it wisely.
Finding a therapist can be somewhat difficult, but if you approach it like you would getting car repairs you can get good results. One word of caution though. Unlike car repairs, don’t schedule appointments in the same week with multiple therapists to “try them out”. Most likely your insurance won’t pay for it, and it is rude to do this to Therapists. It is best to make a decision, whether or not to continue, after meeting with the therapist the first time. For more ideas on what to expect from therapy, please read my article “what to expect from therapy”.
Greg Custer, MS, LCPC