What to consider when you’re looking for a counselor

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When someone decides it's time to go to counseling, there can be a lot that goes into a decision like that.

Unless we're in a crisis, there is typically a period someone will go back and forth before officially making the first contact with a therapist.

So what are a few things you should consider as you're beginning therapy?

1. Is this counselor the right fit for you

As a counselor myself, I know the value of the therapeutic relationship. Because let's be honest, if this isn't someone you can see yourself opening up to, someone you can't trust, or someone whose personality you don't jive with, then why would you open up and be vulnerable with this person?

One of my favorite things about the therapeutic relationship is that it allows you to do things you may not do in a "normal" relationship.

For example, I like to give clients full permission to ask for what they want. So this might be sharing their concerns about opening up before doing so. Maybe they want to ask for a big ole bear hug. Or perhaps they want to know what I'm thinking about them at any given moment.

All of these things can be profoundly healing when done in a safe, nurturing environment.

If you can't trust or don't like your therapist, then it's going to be challenging to open up fully.

And what is left in secret will never heal, my friend.

2. Consider how you may self-sabotage

You may say you want to get assistance in dealing with your anxiety, but then you don't engage in anything that will help. It's not always easy to see in ourselves the way we self-sabotage. So take a look at your behavior and see if you can identify any patterns.

This self-reflection will help you during the counseling process if things begin to get emotionally painful.

For example, you may be making good progress and then decide you're "too busy" to go back, it's "too expensive," or "your counselor is (fill in the blank)." Or maybe you'll revert to old patterns and be too ashamed to go back.

We can all start to make excuses when things get hard. And you'll want to make sure you check the validity of what you're saying. Is that 100% sure and a legitimate reason for me to stop investing in myself? Or is this a temporary excuse, so I don't have to feel pain? Will my counselor judge me? Or do I want to avoid the discomfort I feel inside and let shame rule my decision making?

If it's the latter, consider talking to your counselor about it. There's nothing wrong with talking through this or taking breaks as things get painful. But if we aren't honest about our pain or why we want to take a potential break, then we aren't doing ourselves any favors.

Because being able to share your voice and authentically communicate what you want, is therapeutic in itself.

3. How much have you budgeted?

Counseling is a financial investment. So before jumping in, you may consider what you want to budget monthly to meet your therapeutic goals.

Upfront, counseling can sound expensive. But we all spend our money on what's important to us. So if you can resolve upfront that this is a time for you to invest in yourself and a process you'll be working through, it'll help you make the necessary sacrifices to commit financially.

You may even consider setting a schedule up that fits your needs. That may mean you go every other week and ask for homework to work on in between sessions so you can continue your process while staying in budget.

Take as much time as you need to go through this process but don't cut yourself short.

To invest in a few sessions most likely isn't going to help you with a problem you've had for years. But if you're working with a good therapist, you'll also be seeing progress and won't be in therapy for years, either.

4. Ask about anything you're concerned about upfront

A few examples of this might be:

If you know you'll need someone to testify in court on your behalf in a child custody case, then you need to make sure your counselor is willing to do that before you get started.

Or perhaps it's important to you that you incorporate faith into the process. Letting your counselor know how important this is to you and asking him or her how they do or don't incorporate spirituality into the process will be helpful with determining whether or not they are the right fit for you!

And don't forget that if there's something you forget to ask upfront, then ask along the way. It's okay to ask clarifying questions or for feedback from your counselor throughout therapy.

At the end of the day when you're doing genuine, therapeutic work, you can know these two things to be true.

It'll get worse before it gets better.

And growth takes humility.

But I can also tell you this… I've never had a client fight for freedom that didn't say it was worth it when they got to the other side.

The way I see it, you've got two choices. You can keep living the way you're living and be in the same spot 5, 10, 15 years from now. Or you can jump in and fight the good fight and come out on the other side living in the freedom you were always intended to live in.