Things To Consider When Selecting Your Counselor
As you consider entering counseling or therapy, it is important to know what distinguishes licensed clinicians from those who do not hold a professional license. It is also important to be informed about what are your rights and responsibilities.
In most cases, graduates of accredited mental health education programs typically go on to receive further professional training under the guidance of supervision for at least 1-2 years after graduation. Once they complete a supervisory period, and attain the endorsement of their supervisor, they are permitted to sit for the state license exam. These exams assess the clinicians’ knowledge of multiple aspects within the arena of the mental health/counseling field.
Even after they are licensed, clinicians must continue – throughout their clinical practice – to complete a specified number of continuing education hours and abide by their professional code of ethics and conduct. Clinicians who are more invested in maintaining up-to-date practices and continuing to develop themselves as clinicians will often take more than the minimum required continuing education trainings, engage in other workshops and trainings, provide seminars, and review current literature and research.
Let me be the first to say, not every counselor is right for you. Any clinician or provider who thinks they are the best choice for every/any patient is, in my opinion, misled and likely doing a disservice to some clients. Clinicians should be willing to come right out and tell you what areas they specialize in and what areas they do not specialize in. There are not enough years in any lifetime for a doctor to specialize in every aspect of medicine that exists – likewise no counselor is the best choice for all clients. Ask up front, “What problems or issues do you not treat?” The answer you receive should tell you a lot about the clinician.
Just as in personal growth; your level of investment in what you seek, often correlates with the results. Whether it’s your job, your relationships, or your children – what you put in, impacts what you get out. The very same can be said with a counselor’s training and development as a professional in the field. You need to ask your potential counselor what they have done, recently, to keep them current and engaged in their areas of specialty.
When you buy a car, invest in a home, or select a school for your children – you shop around, ask friends and co-workers, read reviews, interview the representatives, and so on…. i.e. you do your homework and research a bit. You would never just “find” a babysitter for your kids in the newspaper and say, “Let’s just use that one”. You would be careful and gather info to make a wise decision. Your emotional health is a very important investment – it impacts your quality of life, your job performance, your relationships and family. So choose your counselor with the same regard for your investment; you.
Your personal comfort with a counselor is paramount to the success of your treatment. The counseling process includes talking about issues that may make you feel emotionally vulnerable. If you don’t feel comfortable with a counselor when you first start seeing them, you need to go and find someone else. A counselor of any merit, will recognize the importance of your initial comfort and should be more than happy to provide you with referrals to someone else. If later on in your treatment, you don’t feel comfortable – you should speak to your counselor about those feelings. A good counselor will tell you what they believe needs to be said, not just what you may want to hear. It’s expected that in the course of therapy that at times you may feel uncomfortable – before starting over with someone else, make sure your decision to leave is really the best choice for you.
Also keep in mind that while ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, gender, etc. – may be issues to consider for your own initial comfort when selecting a counselor, they do not relate to the quality of experience or skill base of the clinician. For example, there are many clinicians in the field who have entered into counseling as a second career – herein age may give the impression of experience. Find out when they were actually licensed and even more – what experience they have had treating your specific concerns and symptoms. Many insurance companies will not even consider allowing a clinician on their panel who has less than 3-5 years of experience under a full license – you shouldn’t accept less.
Ben Carrettin – Live Better Live Now – Things To Consider When Selecting Your Counselor