What to Look for in a Mental Health Counselor

You will become intimately close with your mental health counselor. You will spend at least one hour per week with them, and you will share things with them that you may not have shared with anyone before. As such, you will want to feel comfortable with your counselor and feel like you connect with their personality. Even after choosing a therapist that might seem right for you on paper, be mindful of how you feel your sessions are going. You should feel comfortable and heard during your treatment; if you feel like your personalities are clashing or you aren’t getting what you need out of therapy, feel free to get in touch with other therapists who might better suit your needs.

The search for a new counselor can appear overwhelming at first, especially because there are many different types of mental health professionals. First, narrow down the type of counselor you need:

  • Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental health disorders and prescribe and manage medication.
  • Psychologist: A scientist who holds a doctoral degree, like a PhD or PsyD, and can diagnose and treat mental health disorders through counseling.
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner: A registered nurse with an advanced degree and additional training who can diagnose mental health disorders, prescribe and manage medication and conduct counseling.
  • Physician assistant specializing in psychiatry and/or mental health: A practitioner of medicine who can diagnose and treat mental health disorders, advise your treatment plans and prescribe medication.
  • Licensed professional counselor: A clinical counselor, often with a master’s degree in a relevant field, who can provide mental health assessments and diagnoses and conduct counseling.
  • Licensed clinical social worker: A social worker who can provide support and services for issues relating to mental health, such as grief support.

Then focus on the aspects that are important to you in finding a mental health counselor:

Gender identity, age, religion, sexuality, and/or ethnic background

There are certain issues that can only be truly understood by other individuals of a certain background. You may also find it easier to identify with and relate to others of a similar background to you. If you, for instance, are struggling with your family’s acceptance of your sexuality or gender identity, you may feel more comfortable seeking a therapist who identifies as LGBTQIA+. If you are working through childhood trauma that is unique to, and common among members of a certain ethnic background, a therapist of a similar background might more readily understand and be able to treat these issues.

Area of expertise

Although mental health professionals receive comprehensive education and training, many choose to specialize once they begin practicing. If you are seeking mental health counseling for depression, be sure to find a therapist who specializes in depression rather than, for instance, behavioral issues in children.

Practice approach

The brain is complex, and there are many different ways of understanding it and interpreting mental disorders. As a result, there are many different approaches to mental health therapy. No one approach is better than another, but you will learn which method works best for you and your treatment.

Common approaches to mental health therapy include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction

Insurance and fees

Not all mental health providers accept insurance; those who don’t will often offer a sliding scale payment plan commensurate to your income. Before committing to regular appointments, be sure to have a clear understanding of any fees that you will be responsible for.

Appointment flexibility

Teletherapy is becoming increasingly common and many patients find it preferable to in-person sessions. If you are interested in teletherapy, the ability to call or text with your therapist, or anything outside the scope of typical in-person therapy, check with your potential providers to see what your options are.

Feel free to ask your potential mental health counselor plenty of questions so that you can get to know their practice prior to committing, including:

  • What is your education and training background?
  • Do you have experience or expertise in treating my area of concern?
  • Do you accept insurance? If so, do you accept my insurance?
  • What are your fees? Do you offer a sliding scale?
  • What is your treatment philosophy?
  • What is your approach to prescribing medication?
  • Do you offer teletherapy?

Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling offers comprehensive and compassionate mental health treatment through our highly trained and experienced therapists. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud to offer teletherapy as part of our mental health treatment to ensure the continued health and safety of our patients. Reach out today at 800-809-2925 to find the mental health counselor who is best for you.