What to Look for in a Therapist

Clinical Experience

The more experience a counselor has, the more expertise they can offer.  It is important to choose a counselor who specializes in specific populations and mental health conditions.  They should be open to discussing their areas of expertise while being willing to discuss the areas where a referral to another provider might be appropriate.  Ask your counselor about their professional experience, time spent in practice, and any licenses and/or certifications.  

Connected and Consistent

An important activity for any counselor is professional consultation.  This ensures best practices and encourages the counselor to look at their own blind spots.  It provides a renewed perspective, a degree of objectivity, and ongoing professional development.  Moreover, one of the best ways to learn how to help someone to heal is to do your own counseling.  Think of good counselors as being “wounded healers.”  They have been in the other chair and hopefully continue to do their own work.  A balanced counselor should be involved in some type of processing to off-load work-related stress and mitigate compassion fatigue.  They should also be open to receiving feedback, looking at themselves, checking in with their feelings, and admitting to mistakes.  It is important that counselors demonstrate a willingness to grow.

Philosophy and Approach

Does your counselor espouse your inherent goodness or are they deficit-oriented and pathologizing?  Maintaining optimism and positivity are more directly correlated with client growth and satisfaction than a pathology-based approach.  Moreover, counselors shouldn’t affirm that they can fix your problems.  Instead, their job is to help you to resolve your own.  They should offer new perspective, emotional support,  and individualized strategies while encouraging you to access and use your own resources.  In this way, you learn to develop resiliencies rather than depend on someone else.  A good counselor might ultimately consider their goal as putting themselves out of work because of their clients successes. 

Defining the Process

Counselors should be able to give you a basic road map of your work based on your problem, including an anticipated timeline for treatment.  It’s also important that they offer hope but never guarantees.  If you have the will to change and put in the necessary time and energy, healing is possible.  But it happens only after navigating the layers of protective gatekeepers.  Additionally, people are not always at a place where they are ready to heal.  No counselor, however talented, can change this.  There are numerous factors that contribute to or interfere with healing and there are no guarantees. 

To Sit and Feel

Do you feel safe when you share a room with a counselor?  Do you feel comfortable?  Is the person easy to relate with or do they feel cold and distant?  Are they overly logical or too emotional and empathic?   Seeing a counselor for the first time can be anxiety provoking, but it’s important to separate your anxieties and apprehensions from what the counselor does or says.  If after a few sessions you don’t feel it’s good fit, then stop.  There’s no contract or rule requiring you to continue.  But if you find yourself reacting negatively to every counselor you see, the issue could be yours.  Perhaps it’s better to stick it out for awhile longer to work through your fears.  Counseling can feel cathartic and rejuvenating, but it can also be very hard work.  If you have rapport and sometimes still feel like calling it off, stick with it. This is usually when the best work is done.

1638 Eagle View Drive
Homer, AK 99603

(907) 602-2578

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