Picture this: you’ve finally come to the realization that you want or need some professional counseling.
Maybe you’ve experienced an unexpected, large life event that you need help processing, maybe you’ve been struggling for years and have finally worked up the nerve to go to therapy, or maybe you’ve just been curious about doing some positive self-improvement and want a resource outside of yourself. All of these are wonderful and valid reasons for pursuing help, but not knowing where to start looking or what you’re looking for can really slow down the process. Coming to the point of being emotionally, mentally, and financially ready for therapy can take a while for some, so the last thing you’d want is to wind up with a therapist that isn’t a good fit for your goals or needs and start feeling like you’ve wasted your time and money.
I’m going to share with you a few things to keep in mind whether you’re at the beginning of the search process for a therapist, trying to decide if your current one is a good fit, or want to try again after a potentially bad experience within therapy. The first thing that’s important for people to think through before looking for a counselor is to decide their personal goals for therapy. Do you need help moving through grief? Or with your intimate relationship? Are you struggling with OCD or anxiety? Are you looking for therapeutic methods beyond standard “talk therapy”? Going into your search with a clear list of defined goals can help you narrow down what you’re looking for in a counselor. If you’re coming in with a history of OCD, you’ll want a counselor with experience or certification in ERP. If you’re wanting to address trauma from your past, you’ll want to search for therapists that are trauma-informed and feel comfortable working with your background.
Once you’ve decided on your personal goals for therapy, you’ll need to decide on a few practical matters.
Therapy can be expensive, so deciding on a budget for your counseling can help you quickly filter through counselors that are simply too expensive. A helpful tip for setting a budget is to do some research on the average session cost in your state or city, and factor in if you plan on using insurance. For example, in Atlanta where our clinic is based, the average cost for an individual session is anywhere from $120-$150. If you plan on using insurance, having upfront communication with your insurance to find out what they cover as well as finding a therapist within the network can give you a better idea of how much you’ll end up being responsible for.
If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover mental health services, then asking any therapists you’re interested in if they do sliding scale pricing based on income is always worth asking. If the practice doesn’t offer a sliding scale or discounted appointment slots, don’t fear. Most cash-pay private practices will still send you a superbill at the end of each month for you to submit to your insurance and potentially get partial coverage as an “out-of-network” expense.
Along the lines of budgeting, you’ll also want to think of what’s doable for you in terms of frequency.
The most common setup is going to therapy once a week when starting, then tapering off to twice a month, and then once a month once your presenting issues feel resolved or better handled. Of course, this isn’t the only way to do therapy, and if you can only do it once or twice a month to stay within budget or schedule, then doing that is better than waiting for “the perfect time”. You’ll also want to decide if you want to do in-person or virtual sessions. Many clinics offer both, but a growing number of counselors are doing online only now. Knowing your preference and how flexible you’d be for the format of your therapy will also help you narrow down your search.
Ok, now you’ve done all of the work, reached out, and scheduled your first therapy session.
Congrats! Here are a few red flags to look out for within your first few sessions with a counselor. The first and biggest red flag to watch out for is any kind of boundary violation. Appropriate boundaries between therapist and client are pivotal for the success of the therapy. Inappropriate physical contact or extensive questions about an unrelated topic (like prying into your dating life if that’s not a concern you brought into therapy) are two examples that if noticed, the patient should leave and seek out a different therapist. Any breach of confidentiality, sharing of your personal information without your consent, or talking to you about other clients would be a violation of privacy and if applicable could be reported to the therapist’s licensing board. Confidentiality is of utmost ethical and legal concern and any breach of that would be grounds to move on. If your therapist is excessively sharing about themselves, that would also be a point of concern.
Sometimes patients find it helpful to know a little about their therapist and there’s a level of self-disclosure that is normal for a therapist. But you as the client are there for you, the focus of the sessions should be you. If you feel like your therapist is talking too much or sharing too much personal information, it could be worth talking to them t about said communication issues. Most experienced therapists will take your feedback and make changes accordingly, but if you find yourself feeling continually frustrated or misunderstood or like your time is wasted, it could be time to find someone new. If you feel repeatedly judged or embarrassed by your therapist, then that could also be a sign that you two might not be a good fit.
You might also realize as your therapy goes on that you need someone a bit more specialized or with specific training.
There might not be anything inherently “wrong” with your therapist, but they could be at the end of their resources to help you. Many therapists themselves will bring this up and refer you out if they feel they’re no longer helpful, but if you end up needing to bring up any of your own concerns then make sure you do it near the beginning of your sessions so you have time to discuss it thoroughly.
Finding the right therapist for you and your goals is integral for therapy to be successful. The relationship between counselor and client is one of the biggest tools for change. Some signs you’ve found a good therapist are that you feel understood, heard, and comfortable giving feedback or asking questions. You should also feel challenged when appropriate and ultimately that your issues are being addressed with measurable progress being made.
Begin Working With A Therapist In Smyrna, GA
Finding the right therapeutic fit can take more time than one may think. You can contact our team of caring therapists to find the right support. You can start your therapy journey with Remain Connected Counseling by following these steps:
Other Services Offered at Remain Connected Counseling
Our team knows you may experience more than one mental health concern. This is why we are happy to offer a variety of services including teen therapy, trauma therapy, PTSD treatment, anxiety treatment, and EMDR therapy. We also offer Pastoral counseling, life transitions therapy, depression counseling, and more all under a Christian counseling lens. With online therapy, these services are available to anyone in Georgia. Learn more about our team of dedicated therapists and contact us for more information.