How to Choose a Therapist or Counselor

Image for fertility issues article Perhaps you have a chronic or difficult problem, or maybe you feel depressed or anxious. Before you jump into therapy, there are important issues that you need to consider. For example, "How do I choose a therapist?" "How much will it cost and how long will it take?" "What kinds of therapies are there and how do they differ?" "What should I expect at my first session?"

What to Look For

It is important that you choose someone that respects your opinion, your input, and your individuality. One of the most important things to consider when entering a therapeutic relationship is whether the values of the therapist match your values. Conflicts can occur when the client and therapist have different value systems or when there are misunderstandings about the level of conversational intimacy. Engaging the right therapist—someone with whom you are comfortable and trust—is important in ensuring that you get the best treatment possible.

Where to Find a Therapist

Look for recommendations from your doctor or other healthcare providers, professional organizations, or friends. Healthcare professionals may be able to separate your physical problems from emotional ones. For example, Laura went for a physical checkup when her anxiety over moving to a new city and the birth of her second child made her irritable and chronically fatigued. Her primary care physician could find no physical difficulties, and instead recommended that she talk with someone about her concerns."Although I didn't know my primary care physician well," Laura says, "he had an excellent grasp of my problems and talked about it in a way that made sense to me. The therapist he recommended also seemed to understand my issues and was able to help me without putting me on any sort of medication."

How Much It Will Cost and How Long It Will Take

Check with your insurance company about coverage. Costs may be based several factors, such as location, the type of counseling you need, and for how long. Learn about payment arrangements in advance. For example, some offices may bill you by mail, others may require payment at the time of your appointment. If your are not fully covered, or are uninsured, look for local resources in your area where you can get counseling for a reduced rate. These may include state or municipal services, community centers, or teaching hospitals. Your employer may also have services through an Employee Assistance Program.The length of therapy can vary widely depending on your particular issues and your background. Treatment for mild or situational problems can be relatively short and might be accomplished in as few as 5-6 sessions. Chronic problems and long-term difficulties, however, may require a year or more before you feel that progress is being made. One way to monitor your progress is to formalize (in writing) a set of treatment goals. This ensures that both you and your therapist are working on the same issues and helps you assess the benefits for yourself.When it comes time to end therapy, your therapist may encourage you to discuss your decision, but a good therapist should always respect your judgment about when it is time to go it on your own. Although the cost of therapy can affect the way you approach the process and what therapist you choose, the length of treatment should be based on more important factors.

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