Help! I Need Counseling!

You’ve been told you should go to counseling, but you really don’t know what that means or where to start.

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many people who experience difficulties in life and relationships struggle to take the step they need toward hope because they don’t know where to start. Let’s talk about what counseling is and isn’t, why you might want to see a counselor/therapist and how you can find the best fit for you.

What counseling is…and isn’t

Counseling is an opportunity for individuals, couples or families to discover new ways to approach hurts, difficulties and conflict caused by negative thoughts, problematic behaviors, relationship issues, troublesome beliefs and frustrating feelings. Counseling is a process of exploring the problems currently hindering your from living the life you want to live! During counseling you may discuss physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relationship troubles from the past that may be impacting you currently. The counseling process typically includes a professional relationship with a trained counselor or therapist who listens, educates, supports, challenges and/or guides you to a solution. The focus of counseling is change.

Counseling is NOT the same as coaching. Counseling often explores reasons for the distress that is being experienced. Coaching starts where you are and gives you tools to move forward without addressing the past. 

woman sitting in a wooden chair writing notes while counseling a man who is talking and moving his hands

Why see a counselor or therapist

You may currently be feeling anxious, depressed or overwhelmed. Maybe you are angry, grieving the loss of a job or loved one. You could also be struggling with parenting a child with ADHD or other baffling behaviors. These are just a few of the reasons why you may want to see a counselor. If you are needing a safe space to process your emotions, learn how to be more assertive or recover from substance abuse, counseling may be a way to find relief.

Finding the best counselor for you

Seeking counseling may feel uncomfortable when you first start but knowing what type of counselor/counseling you want will get you going in the right direction. Don’t be discouraged if the process requires talking to more than one counselor because you will benefit more from the process when you are confident you trust your therapist. (In fact, you may want to “interview” a few to find a great fit.)

Here are a few things to consider when looking for a counselor.

  • What is the issue you are needing to address?
  • Do you prefer a certain gender? 
  • Do you prefer working with an experienced counselor or are you comfortable working with someone who is being supervised?
  • Do you prefer to work with a licensed mental health professional who has met your state’s licensing requirements? Or would you be comfortable working with a pastoral counselor who works through the church?
  • Do you prefer your counselor to be trained in a certain counseling theory or approach?
  • Do you need a counselor who accepts insurance? Or will you self pay? How much will your financial situation allow you to invest in your counseling?
  • Do you need a counselor who is available at a certain time of day, ie. after school, weekends?
  • Do you prefer to meet with your counselor in person or would virtual sessions be helpful?

Where to find a counselor

Once you’ve made the decision to begin counseling, the search for a counselor or therapist begins. The following are sources for finding possible counselors.

  • Word of mouth referral. Your best source for finding a counselor will be those in your circle who know you or work with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
  • Ask your friends or family. 
  • Ask your doctor.
  • Ask your pastor or spiritual mentor.
  • Search a mental health professional directory. These websites provide listings of professionals and often have search features which include filters for issues, gender, theoretical approach, etc.
  • Psychology Today
  • Mental Health Match
  • Open Path
  • Use a search engine. Use keywords for the type of counselor, location, area of specialization. The more specific you are in your search the more specific your results will be. Here are a couple of examples.
  • “anxiety counselor in Dallas”
  • “EMDR for women in California”
  • “ADHD therapy for kids”

Take the leap

Starting counseling doesn’t have to be an intimidating adventure. You can find the help you need when you take time to think through what you want or need from counseling and a counselor. Take the leap and find the help you need!

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