Finding The Right Counseling Service Provider For You

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated October 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Admitting the need for help can be challenging, but with over 41.4 million US adults seeing a therapist yearly, reaching out to a mental health professional is courageous. If you're considering finding the right therapist, factors such as specific licensed therapists, the therapy approach, the patient-provider therapeutic alliance, and the type of mental health services offered should be considered.

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The Right Therapist Can Make All The Difference

Consider The Different Forms Of Counseling 

In modern psychology, there are many therapists practicing various therapy modalities, including individual, couples, family, or group therapy sessions. You may want to explore options offered by community counseling and mental health clinics to make the most appropriate decision for your care. You might also research the staff qualifications, specialized training licenses, health services offered, and hours of operation that the facility or program has.

When deciding on a type of therapy, consider your emotional health or mental health condition, symptoms, prior diagnoses, goals for treatment, approach to talk therapy, and how easily you can contact the therapist for additional support. Research therapy methods and discuss them with potential mental health professionals like clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, or a licensed professional counselor.

Whether it’s adolescent counseling, adult therapy, or other forms, therapy may help people improve their emotional health, well-being, and overall quality of life.

A few common types of counseling you might encounter include: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) 
  • Interpersonal counseling (IPC) 
  • Grief therapy 
  • Art therapy
  • Equine or animal-assisted therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) 
  • Radically open dialectical behavior therapy (RO-DBT
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Support groups 

At your initial appointment, a good therapist may ask you about your goals, symptoms, and concerns for treatment. Inquire about their treatment approach, experience, training, and licensing. Discuss your insurance company and insurance plan to determine your coverage for counseling services.

If you're uncomfortable with a particular form of therapy, let them know and consider asking about another. You might find a therapist specializing in a specific type of therapy by searching mental health services, health support, and news events from mental health organizations or psychology department listings in your area. 

Think About Your Ideal Therapist 

Before starting your search, come up with a list of traits you'd like your ideal counselor to have. You might ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are you looking for a "tough love" approach, or a compassionate, validation-based therapist? 
  • What therapy modalities are you interested in trying? 
  • Do you prefer a therapist of a specific gender? 
  • Do you prefer a therapist of a certain race? 
  • Do you prefer a therapist of a particular LGBTQ+ identity? 
  • Do you prefer a therapist of a specific religious or spiritual background? 
  • Would you prefer a long-term or short-term form of treatment? 
  • Do you want to meet in person or remotely? 
  • Are you looking for a specific specialization? 
  • What are your goals for therapy, and how might a therapist meet them? 

It may also be valuable to note whether you'd like to attend individual therapy, group therapy, couples therapy, or family therapy. In individual therapy, a therapist can focus on you, your family systems, interpersonal relationships, past experiences, and current situations. Couples therapy might focus more on how you and your partner interact and how your personalities come together. 

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Seek To Understand Therapy Modalities 

Below are further descriptions of popular therapy modalities a therapist might use. Keeping these in mind can help you make your decision when searching for a potential therapist. 

Psychoanalysis 

One of the most historical forms of treatment is psychoanalysis, a process of individual treatment focusing on uncovering unconscious thoughts or feelings that may be affecting an individual. The therapist may prompt the client to discuss anything that comes to mind and offer advice or analysis based on what is said. These techniques are often based on the premise that what you think, feel, and experience are interrelated. Thus, interventions may be made to help you change these processes. Often, psychoanalysis and other types of therapy provide an empathetic, client-centered relationship and a process that facilitates your overall improvement.

Short-Term Treatment 

If you are feeling overwhelmed by counseling services or are looking for short-term treatment, you may benefit from a type of therapy like CBT or a structured form of therapy like DBT. Busy professionals, or those starting therapy for the first time, may prefer short-term therapy for immediate concerns. Long-term treatment may involve a dedicated effort to achieve more profound and lasting results. Once you enter therapy, evaluate the process as you go. You can let your therapist know if you want to change their chosen approach or prefer to stay for more sessions. 

Finding A Counselor

Once you understand the type of therapy you want to try, the type of counselor you'd like to meet, and your availability, consider starting a search with your health insurance provider. They may offer you a list of life counseling services covered and any approved counselors you can contact under your plan. 

You may also get a referral from a primary care provider or doctor. Additionally, you could perform a broad online search to discover various programs community resources, addiction treatment centers, and national associations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Often, people use the internet to find resources, and websites that list therapists within their area. Many websites also provide educational workshops and resources to help individuals understand therapy better.

The Right Therapist Can Make All The Difference

Alternative Counseling Options 

Although you may be able to find a counselor in your area, if you face barriers to treatment or specific concerns about the process, you might feel hesitant to meet with a provider. In these cases, online therapy could be a cost-effective, flexible, and reachable option. Often, online therapy offers users the option to meet with a therapist through phone, video, or live chat sessions. Additionally, you can meet with a counselor from home, cutting out your commute time or costs for travel. 

One study on internet-based CBT (I-CBT) found that short-term CBT sessions with clients experiencing anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and long-term stress were effective in reducing prolonged stress-related symptoms and increasing quality of life. You might also see a reduction in stress by cutting out the barriers to in-person treatment that many individuals experience. 

If you're interested in talking to a counselor on a personal device, from any location with an internet connection, consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp, which offers a wide variety of professional counselors specializing in various treatment modalities and areas of focus.  

Takeaway

Finding a suitable counselor can be a lengthy process for some, especially when addressing substance abuse or other serious mental health conditions. In some cases, you might also need assistance from a mental health provider who can prescribe medications. Still, there are options if you struggle to find a therapist in your area that meets your needs. Consider signing up for an online platform that focuses on patient activation or contacting a therapist for further guidance and support. 

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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