In our current culture, mental health is a top priority for many people. We hire coaches, teachers, tutors, counselors, nutritionists, trainers, and consultants for just about every aspect of life we want to do better in. When it comes to our mental or psychological health, we have to venture into a sea of counselors and therapists with varying levels of educational degrees, certifications, trainings, and experience. In a given geographical area, there can literally be 100’s of people to choose from. Deciding which therapist to choose is very important, because this person will get to know you in ways that maybe no one else ever will. Counseling is a choice, and commitment that can reap life-changing benefits. So choose wisely.
Asking a counselor questions about their experience is ok!
One size doesn’t fit all. Most licensed mental health professionals (Psychologists, Marriage & Family Therapist, Social Workers, Professional Clinical Counselors, Psychiatrists) have a strong foundational background of training and experience, in a wide variety of areas and problems. In addition, they may have extra training in specific areas. Finding a good fit can mean a few of things. First, a fit for the particular issue or problem you are seeking assistance for. For example, if you are looking for help with an addiction issue; ask the counselor if they have experience and training in working with addictions. If you need help in a relationship, a marriage; ask the counselor if they have worked with couples in counseling. If they don’t, ask them if they know a counselor who does. Secondly, gender may matter to you. One of the most important factors in successful counseling is that the client feels emotionally safe, and can trust their counselor. You may prefer to work with a male, or female, depending on your life experiences, and whom you would initially feel safest with. It is ok to choose the gender you prefer. Thirdly, when you initially talk with the potential new counselor, do you feel listened to, understood, cared about? Are your questions answered in a way that makes sense to you? Do you feel a sense, in your gut, of hope and confidence that scheduling an appointment is a good idea, to get the help you are looking for? If so, make that appointment. If not, let them know you are ‘shopping’ for the right fit, and want to keep talking with other therapists. You can even ask, whom else they might recommend.
While therapists do not need to have personally been through, or had extensive training in every problem, or situation a client may present, it is important that they are able to understand, and help you navigate through it, in a nonjudgmental and compassionate manner. If you know someone who has seen the same counselor, you can ask about his or her experience, without prying into his or her personal story. You can ask about the style of the counselor, to get a sense of whether it would be a fit for you.
If you get started with a counselor, and discover that your styles clash, or any other reason you are not comfortable, bring it up, discuss it openly, and move on. Go back to the interviewing process! It will be worth it. When you find the right counselor, you will have a good idea of how therapy works, you will feel like progress is being made one step at a time, and you will continue to understand more as time goes on.
We at Coherence Associates, Inc. understand that we are not always the right fit for everyone. We will be happy to speak with you, and help you discover what you currently need based on your circumstance, and who may be a good choice to speak further with. Feel free to call us any time at (760) 942-8663.
Sara Gilman, MFT
Coherence Associates Inc.