You’ve decided that you’d like to give counseling a try, whether for the first time, or coming back to it.
Great. So now what?

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before starting therapy

1) What are my goals for counseling?

Without goals of what you want to get out of therapy, you’ll have a difficult time getting out of it what you need. Think about the symptoms and feelings you’d like to work on or through and what you’d like your life to look and feel like. Here are some examples of what clients have said in sessions with me:

“I struggle with anxiety. I’d like to feel relaxed and confident in a restaurant.”

“I feel sad and down a lot. I’d like to be able to spend time with my children and not think about what’s making me sad.”

“I can’t stop thinking about when xyz happened. I want to start having days where I don’t think about it anymore.”

With these goals in mind, you can start thinking about what kind of counselor might be a good fit.

2) What kind of counselor do I want and need?

Most therapists will specialize on a certain population, such as adults, children, couples, veterans, etc. In addition, therapists are trained in different modalities that tend to lend themselves better toward specific needs. When interviewing potential therapists, ask them about how they go about doing what they do. Also, by speaking with them, even for just a few minutes, you may already get a glimpse at if you would like to work with them.

3) Does my insurance cover counseling?

Most insurances will cover at least part of your sessions. Others will cover a certain number of sessions per year. EAP – Employee Assistance Programs are a great example of this. A third variation on insurance coverage is reimbursement, where you pay for the session up front and then submit a “super bill” from your therapist to your insurance. Reimbursements come in handy when you have chosen your therapist but they don’t accept insurance.

Check your insurance benefits prior to searching for a therapist.

4) Does anyone I trust have a recommendation on a counselor?

Counseling is a very private thing. So it’s understandable if you do not want to talk to anyone else about getting help. If you do, however, feel safe to speak with someone trustworthy about your needs, ask them if they have any recommendations. It’s a great way to get the insider scoop on whether a therapist is effective, values a client’s time and is easy to relate to.

Whether or not you prefer to ask for a recommendation, check out Psychology Today for a fantastic directory on therapists. Here you can filter by location, specialty, payment and much more.

5) Am I open and ready for changes in my life?

Fact: effective counseling means things in your life are going to change. I know, this is a scary thought. But let’s think about this. If you are looking into going to counseling, you are looking to feel different than you currently are. The only way that is going to happen if current patterns change. Patterns can take shape in many ways: things you do, people you spend time with, things you avoid, things you think about, etc. Some of them may have become maladaptive over the years and may need to be reevaluated.

Here are some common patterns that have a need for change during the course of therapy:

Alcohol consumption to decrease anxiety. Lack of boundary setting. Lack of movement, physical activity.

Of course these are just a few examples.

What it comes down to is this: if you are looking for change, expect change.

I hope that this list gives you a bit of a starting point. I presume in the following weeks, I will delve further into these, as each one could be its own article. Any questions, please feel free to post in the comments below.

Note: any statements by clients have been generalized and are not direct quotes by clients as to keep their confidentiality. 

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Maliha Mannan