Finding professional ehlp that is right for you

Finding professional ehlp that is right for you

By The Counseling Corner from the American Counseling Association

The Counseling Corner

from the American Counseling Association

As has been mentioned at other times, when a decision is made to seek out professional counseling, it can require a little effort to locate a counselor. But with recommendations from health professionals, social service agencies and friends, as well as simply consulting the Yellow Pages of your local phone directory, it’s seldom difficult to assemble a list of counseling possibilities. Your real task, however, is to turn one of those possibilities into a counseling relationship. For counseling to be effective, you want to find someone who is a good fit for you. That means locating a counselor who not only has the right credentials and experience for your situation, but also someone in whom you have confidence and whose approach and style makes you feel comfortable.

Your basic starting point is ensuring that a counselor has been educated at an accredited school and is licensed in your state for the work that he or she does. But to find the right counselor you want to know much more.

When you meet with a counselor for the first time, it is perfectly appropriate for you to ask the counselor some questions to determine if this is a person who will be good for you. Consider this an important job interview–you are hiring someone who will help you with important life issues. And just like a job interview, you have the right to decide that a counselor is or is not a good fit for you.

You also have the right, and responsibility, to tell a counselor, “This doesn’t feel right. I believe I’ll continue looking.” Don’t continue with someone if he or she doesn’t feel like the right person. And be honest–say something, don’t just skip the next appointment. Begin the interview process by telling your counselor a little about yourself and why you are seeking a counseling relationship. Then ask the counselor to tell you about his or her education, licensing and experience in working with the kind of situation that you have described. Ask the counselor how his or her education has equipped them to work with you on the issues that you have initially identified.

Look around the office. Is this the kind of environment in which you feel comfortable? Do the books on the shelves and the pictures on the wall tell you things about the counselor that make you feel good or not? Is the waiting room or reception area a place where you feel comfortable and where you are treated with respect? It is reasonable for the counselor to describe how they would normally work with you or what approach they would use. This may be a time when the counselor might use technical terms or psychological jargon. If the terms don’t have meaning for you, make sure to ask for clarification. A good counselor will want to communicate so that things are clear and understandable for you.

It’s also important not to be shy about the financial aspects of counseling. Payment for services may already have been covered in preliminary paper work that you completed or that was part of the referral process; however, you have the right to ask the counselor what the sessions will cost and to discuss how you will pay. Many counselors have a sliding scale based on ability to pay–ask about financial arrangements if that is an issue for you. Counselors often will provide you with printed information that includes much of this information. It may also include statements about their code of ethics and about laws governing what they are required to report to authorities and what they can keep confidential. The printed material might even tell you how to file a complaint if you are unhappy with the counselor’s work. All of this is generally a part of the counselor’s license requirement in many states. Don’t be afraid to ask for this information, or about any other issues not fully covered or that seem unclear.

A productive counseling relationship should be the result of your careful interview. You increase the likelihood of successful counseling outcomes when you begin your sessions with confidence in the person with whom you will work and with a clear understanding of the process you’re beginning.

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