Factors to Consider in Choosing a Counselor

18 Jan

Perhaps you are stressed out beyond belief and you really feel as if you’d like to talk with someone who could be objective in helping you set priorities in your life. How would you go about choosing a counselor?
Or maybe you and your spouse have periods in which your relationship seems problematic, and you wonder whether the good times outweigh the bad or vice versa.
As you think about working with a trained counselor or coach, you should give thought not only to the geographic distance of the counselor’s office, but also to what factors might impact the quality of the helping relationship with this person.
So let’s look at whether you have very specific goals in mind, or whether you just want to get through a very rough time in your life. A specific goal might be dealing with your fear of speaking up in public, which you need to do every week at staff meetings. Or perhaps your “rough patch” has to do with a series of personal and/or professional losses. In scenario number 1 you will want a therapist who will specifically help you become more self-confident in public speaking (and maybe in other areas as well!).
In case number 2, you will want a therapist to guide you through grief and re-direct your attention toward hope. You will need support to let go of your loss and encouragement and creative thinking to embrace new directions in life. So based on what you perceive your goals to be, you will begin thinking about what you can expect from the relationship.
Of course, there are many other factors to consider, including the counselor’s philosophy or life values. Often you can get a glimpse of how a counselor presents him/herself through their website. Of course, you will do more research, including calling the counselor’s office and requesting a few minutes of her time. Your own values should be reflected somewhat in those of the counselor, so here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. How important is family to you?
2. How important is family AND community to you?
3. What values do you hold dear: courage, kindness, loyalty, privacy, compassion, etc.?
4. How do you balance career and personal life?
5. Do you have a spiritual life, and if so, how do you practice it in your daily life?
6. What are your views on social justice?
7. How important are money and material things to you?

The answers to these and similar questions will guide you not only in choosing a counselor who meets your needs, but also in beginning your own path to self-discovery.

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