Taking the step to begin counseling is probably one of the most difficult
decisions people make when they seek help. After that initial decision,
the next step is finding a counselor who is a good fit for you, which
can be easier said than done.
Finding an effective counselor who works for you can be a little like buying
a car, a home, or deciding stocks to buy—it takes a bit of research
at times, some test-driving, and asking lots of questions before settling
on a decision. Here are three tips to help you decide when selecting a
Clients improve from effective counselors who track outcomes of their treatment. Ask your counselor how they track outcomes and incorporate YOUR feedback
about the treatment. Research shows that giving simple feedback to your
counselor—about how well the sessions are going, and how you are
feeling in your life from session to session for example—can be
helpful in making therapy more effective.
The quality of the therapeutic relationship is one of the biggest predictors
of successful outcomes. Some 40 years of research has concluded that one of biggest difference
makers to change through counseling is the
quality of the therapeutic relationship. This means that you feel heard, understood and respected by your counselor.
It also means that during your sessions you talk and work on what YOU
want to talk and work on. Ask what your counselor’s approach is
and, if there is a good connection, try it out. If the approach doesn’t
seem to work, talk to your counselor about what can be changed in your
sessions that get the outcomes you are wanting. There is no harm in changing
counselors if their approach doesn’t fit.
Ask friends, family, and co-workers for referrals. You have a good chance of finding an effective counselor via word of mouth
from someone who has worked with that counselor. It won’t guarantee
that you will have the same outcome, or even a connection with that counselor,
but it can be more effective than a random assignment. Again, you are
looking for someone who works for YOU.
If you ever feel rushed into choosing a counselor, seek help elsewhere.
The process should take as long as you need it to in order to feel comfortable
with the decision. Often, our problems don’t want to wait to find
the right counselor – sometimes it requires who we can see the quickest.
This is OK, too. Just remember that the more effective the counseling
relationship, the quicker you will be able to manage and move beyond the
issues you are seeking help for.
Brian J. Edwards, LMFT, CATC, is a clinical supervisor at
Behavioral Health Services (BHS) at
Campbell County Memorial Hospital. BHS provides professional mental health and substance abuse services
to the community through prevention, education, advocacy and treatment
for all ages in the community. Appointments are available Monday–Friday
from 8 am–5 pm. Call 307.688.5000. Learn more at