How to Choose a CounselorWhen you or a loved one is experiencing emotional or mental health issues, it is imperative to choose a counselor. This can be a daunting task because research has shown that there is not always a clear correlation between training and successful outcomes in therapy. Differing research has identified that successful outcomes in therapy can be based upon factors such as the experience level of the therapist, the therapist personal characteristics, and the fit between the client and the therapist.

Questions you may want to ask your therapist:

How long have you had your license?

Somewhere between 5 and 10 years can be considered experienced. However, years may not equate to expertise or quality.

What type of license and certifications do you have?

There are different masters and doctoral licenses, which have different focuses on treatment populations. In Texas, for example, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC’s) especially those from CACREP accredited programs, receive focus training in treating clinical mental health disorders, and Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors (LMFT’s) are trained to work specifically with relational issues with couples and families.

What is your experience in provided counseling for someone with problems similar to mine?

A counselor’s experience with a specific population can be a double edged sword depending on the counselors. It is good that a practitioner has experience with the problems you are facing in counseling, because the counselor has probably identified the mistakes and successes for working with your particular issue. The potential downside choosing a counselor with extensive knowledge and experience with a particular issue you may have is that the counselor has the possibility of becoming rigid or jaded with this issue. Therefore, it may be wise to ask a follow-up questions about the therapist’s personal feelings about the issues you may be facing.

Follow up in a later appointment by asking for the therapist’s general feeling toward the issue you are facing. This allows you to know if the therapist shows care for how this issue may be affecting you and concern for the difficulties you have in solving the issue. The therapist’s response to these follow up questions should show s/he cares and has compassion for your struggles.

What are the various treatment options for my issue?

The counselor should also be able to provide several different treatment options for the issue you are struggling with, with a few exceptions. This is essential because not all treatments will be a fit for all clients. Saying that there is only one correct treatment for anxiety, would be similar to saying there is one correct diet for losing weight.

In addition, as a diligent consumer, it would be a good idea to check on the counselor’s corresponding licensing board website to identify if they have been reprimanded for ethical violations.

Once you have decided on a therapist, it is important to make sure that the relationship is a good fit.

If the relationship is uncomfortable, it is unlikely you will trust the counselor in supporting your change. The relationship should feel collaborative and supportive. However, the relationship at times might feel uncomfortable, because it is important that the counselor challenge you to grow and change. Finally, it is important for you to take and choose a therapist that best serve your needs, as it will directly affect the potential outcomes related to your goals.