So you’ve decided it’s time to get counseling, but you’re not sure where to start?

Here are the 4 questions you must answer before choosing a counselor:

  1. Will I use my insurance or go the private pay route?
  2. What is the problem I’m facing?
  3. What are their office hours?
  4. How quickly do I want to start?

INSURANCE OR PRIVATE PAY?

 If you want to use your insurance, call the member services line on the back of your insurance card and ask them to send you a list of “MENTAL HEALTH/BEHAVIORAL HEALTH providers” in your network. From this list, do your research online and see if you can find a good match.

Contrary to what some may think, not every counselor takes your insurance

Be sure to call your insurance to see if they will cover counseling sessions [like phone or virtual counseling, couples counseling or group counseling]. 

If you are using the private pay, take a look at your finances. Many private pay counseling sessions can run you anywhere between $90-$160 per one-hour session. There are, however, other options such as sliding scale fees, hardship options, or lowered rates with clinicians. 

PRESENTING PROBLEM

If you had to sum up the problem you’re facing in 1 to 3 words, what would it be? Anxiety? Family problems? Marital issues? Child’s behavior? Whatever it is, try to narrow it down. Don’t diagnose yourself, but gain an idea so you can explain it to the person on the other end of the line. It’s important your counselor has experience with your issue. Counselors have specialties or niches; so again, contrary to what you may think, not every counselor has experience or works with your presenting problem. 

Also VERY important, if the person needing counseling is a child (under 18), specifically ask if the counselor has experience working with their age group (preschoolers/elementary aged/tweens/teens).

OFFICE HOURS

Counseling can be hard enough, don’t make things more complicated by having someone whose office location or hours are inconvenient for your life situation. If you live in a large city, there are actually more counselors than you may think. Check into different office locations, hours and days open during the week and make sure it compliments your life schedule. If needed, ask about virtual counseling as this could also help take the hassle out of a weekly drive to an appointment.

WAIT TIME?

Lastly, and perhaps most important, how quick is their turnaround time? How long will it take to set up an initial appointment? Some counselors have availability to see a new client asap, others have a wait list and some aren’t taking new clients at all. This is a tough trade off because some counselors are worth the wait. However, if you’re issue is urgent and pressing, the sooner the better.

I hope this list helps! Happy hunting!