Is Counseling Right For You?

If Yes…
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How Do You Choose a Counselor?

By Julienne Derichs LCPC

You see it on Dr. Phil…Steve Harvey... read about it in newspapers and magazines…hear it on the radio…it seems that everyone is talking about the benefits of counseling, but how do you know if it’s right for you?

Most of us experience times when we need help to manage the problems that cause us to worry. When you are having trouble with friends, co-workers, close relationships, family, or career, and you feel overwhelmed, you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced professional counselor. 

During these stressful times, a professional counselor can help you take steps toward gaining insight; increasing your ability to take action, and helping you find resolution in problem areas.

People seek the assistance of a counselor for many different reasons. Frequently, there are specific issues, which can be addressed in brief counseling, while other issues may need more time. 

Some of the most common reasons for seeking help from counseling include:

Personal Growth

  • You have a hard time setting and reaching goals.
  • You lack a sense of purpose.
  • You just don’t know what makes others tick.
  • You are bored frequently.

Relationships Issues

  • You are having problems with your family members or in other important relationships.
  • Your family has a lot of conflict and tension.
  • You are planning to marry.
  • You have a hard time talking with your partner, children, parents, family members, friends, or coworkers.
  • You are experiencing a divorce or marital separation.

Emotional Distress

  • You feel unhappy most of the time.
  • You feel extremely sad and helpless.
  • You feel nervous, anxious, and worried most of the time.
  • You feel lonely and isolated.
  • You have a hard time talking with your partner, children, parents, family members, friends, or coworkers.

Coping Mechanisms

  • You worry frequently and are unable to find the solutions to your problems.
  • Your emotional state is affecting your daily life: your sleep, eating habits, job, and relationships.
  • You are having a hard time functioning from day to day. Your emotional state is affecting your performance at work or school.
  • You have gotten a divorce and your family needs help adjusting.
  • You are having a hard time coping with change.


  • You are having trouble getting over the death of someone you love.
  • You or someone you love has a serious illness and you are having a hard time with it.
  • You have recently lost your job.
  • You are feeling impatient and angry with someone you are taking care of.

How to Choose a Counselor

Making the decision to enter into counseling can be a long process, at times met with excitement and anticipation, at times met with fear and uncertainty. Choosing the right counselor for you is a very important step and can greatly influence your future attitude about counseling in general. 

It is important to be aware that choosing the right counselor can be achieved just by gathering some information and having some idea what you expect from counseling. Let’s start with a brief explanation of credentials.


There are many initials and abbreviations that follow a therapist’s name. A psychiatrist has an M.D., a psychologist has a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., a counselor or social worker has an MA or MS, all of those letters refer to the length of training for that degree. The most important thing to look for is a counselor who is licensed in the state in which he or she practices. If a counselor has a degree and is licensed by the state, it will almost always follow their names on printed material or advertisements. 

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors and are the only mental health professionals who are able to prescribe medication. 
  • Psychologists are trained in assessment and research and work with children, individuals, couples, and families focusing on serious mental illness as well as change of life issues. 
  • Counselors (LCPC) are trained to work with individuals, couples, and families, focusing on helping people manage workplace, home life, and personal change.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained to work with individuals and families, focusing on how they relate to others. 
  • Social Workers (LCSW) are trained to pay attention to the environmental forces that may contribute to the individual’s life problems.

While training is important, it is essential to remember that counseling is a relationship with a person, not just a consultation with an expert. As in any relationship, strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and life experiences are all going to enter into the process on some level. 

Remember, choose the whole person, not just the appropriate degree. The most important consideration is to select a licensed professional who has the suitable training and qualifications to help a person with your specific issues. 

Referrals to Counselors

You’ve made the decision to seek counseling or find a counselor for someone you love. Now what? The best referrals are professional referrals. These are recommendations from professionals who know the counselor professionally, that said, most people find potential counselors by searching online.

Who to ask for referrals:

  • Friends
  • Family members
  • Google search for "Counseling, then the name of your town or zip code," (eg: Couple's Counseling, Highwood, IL)
  • Online Directories
  • Physicians
  • Accountants
  • Financial Planners
  • Lawyers

Getting the names of therapists is the easy part. The next step will be key to getting off to a good start and choosing the best counselor for you.

Narrow Down Your Choices

  • Choose 3 or 4 therapists to call.
  • Narrow down choices first by location. Ask yourself, “Can I get there on my lunch hour, after work, or on the weekend?”
  • Narrow down your choices by ability to pay. A counselor in private practice will generally charge a higher fee than those at a community mental health center, typically because of more experience and a smaller caseload. If you choose to use your insurance, check your plan to verify coverage for counseling services.

Calling Potential Counselors

Talk to several counselors before making an appointment. Any professional counselor will be willing to have a brief phone conversation with you to answer any questions you may have about counseling, their area of expertise, and how they work with clients.

Have an idea of the style of the therapist you want. Do you want someone who:

  • Listens quietly while you speak.
  • Gives input only when asked.
  • Has back and forth dialogue during the session.
  • Gives homework assignments.

There is no right or wrong style, as long as it is a style with which you are comfortable.

Suggestions for Talking with Potential Therapists:

1) Talk about your reason for calling.
2) What are your office hours?
3) Briefly, describe your reasons for seeking out help.
4) What are your areas of expertise?
5) What sort of approach do you use to help people with my problems?
6) What will be my role in counseling?
7) How often will we meet?
8) What are your fees?
9) Do you accept insurance?
10) When do I pay for sessions?
11) Thank you for your time; I'd like to schedule an appointment now or I need some time to think about this.

Who is the Best Person for You?

After you have spoken to a few counselors, above all, pay attention to how you felt talking with that person. Aside from the initial awkwardness of revealing yourself to someone new, do you feel comfortable speaking with this person?

  • Do you seem to “click”?
  • Were you treated with respect and regard?
  • Does the person seem warm enough to suit you?
  • Does the person ask questions that are on target for you?

Scheduling an Appointment

Once you have selected a counselor to see, make an appointment and KEEP IT. Nothing short of a major unexpected emergency should make you cancel or reschedule. Anything else might be a reflection of nervousness or fear about change or getting help.

Remember that counseling has one clear definite purpose and that is, something of positive value and practical usefulness will come out of it for you. With a bit of knowledge and preparation finding the right counselor for you can be a manageable task.

Contact Julienne Derichs 
  Call 773-562-3074 or 
    email me at
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Couples Counseling Today
Contact Julienne Derichs 
Call 773-562-3074 or 
email me at