How To Seek Out A Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Updated August 22, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Chances are that if you're considering seeing a therapist, you're concerned about something in your life. Perhaps you're dealing with anxiety or depression, you've had a massive life change, or you're experiencing difficulty in a relationship. The search for that therapist shouldn't be an additional stress. 

Finding a mental health counselor, especially a licensed one, can be difficult. If you live in a rural area, for example, finding a good counselor can be very hard. However, finding a good fit in a large area can be just as tricky, since you may have many to choose from.

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Our aim is to make sure you find a counselor who is just right for your needs without adding an additional stressor to those you already have. Keep reading for the best ways to search for help and support for whatever you've got going on in your life.

Do You Need A Counselor?

Before we look into finding a licensed mental health counselor, you may wonder if you need a counselor in the first place. There are many ways to determine whether you need one, including noting that you may need one if you're asking about finding one. Here are a few other ways of knowing.

  • Your age. Therapy can be helpful at any age, but it can be particularly helpful for a young adult who is aged 18-35. Your life is going through many transitions, and it can be hard to figure out where you're headed and what your purpose is. A therapist can help you with these issues.
  • If you're going through a significant life change. Moving to a new house, losing a family member, getting a new job, and any other massive life shifts can make be a challenge for your mental health. A counselor can help you to consider potential solutions and develop coping strategies for a wide variety of circumstances.
  • If you have a mental health concern. Therapy, in addition to other potential medical solutions, is important when it comes to treating a mental health disorder such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression, among others.
  • You need someone outside of family or friends to talk to. You probably have friends and family who can help you, but they may be biased and may not know how to help in many cases. Counselors are not your friends, but they do want to help you in a way that is honest and solely focused on you and your needs.

These are just a few of the many reasons why you might need to seek the help of a mental health counselor. Here are some ways you can find a licensed counselor that is the right fit for you.

Just Ask!

Someone in your family or your friends circle have probably seen a therapist, even if you don't know it. It may be worth it to talk to those you are close to and ask if they have seen a therapist. They can tell you who they see (or saw), and these recommendations can help narrow your choices down. If they helped your friends and family, then they may be able to help you, too. That said, your situation may be different, and the recommended counselor may not be able to help you. However, this is a good way to get started since a therapist can recommend colleagues if they feel you might not be a good fit, or they are too busy to take on a new client.

Research, Research, Research

When it comes to finding a counselor, it helps to do your research. You can look up resources that tell you where the closest counselors to you are, and you can see if they're licensed. If you're not comfortable with traditional therapy in the therapist's office, online therapy and telephone counseling are great options. You can research how these methods work, then locate counselors or platforms that support this type of counseling.

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Many websites can give you a list of providers. Psychology Today, NAMI, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, and other professional sites of a similar sort can help in this regard.

Local Mental Health Clinics

Local mental health clinics, which are state-run, can be a good place to start when it comes to your search. They are less expensive, but they may have a long wait time, and you should go into this situation expecting this. If you need help as soon as possible, you may not find the solution here, although you could get lucky. This will depend on the size of your town and the counselor's current caseload. You likely need to choose a different method of finding a counselor if you need immediate assistance.

Your Job Can Help You

Employee assistance programs (EAP) are available for employees at a large number of organizations. They can either provide counseling directly or offer a list of outside therapists who take referrals from the EAP. These therapists are often paid for by the EAP for a specific number of sessions, so be sure to ask about this option. 

Colleges And Universities

If you live in a college town, universities may provide counseling for the public for an affordable price. Not only can you get services, but you can also help support your local university and students who are trying to succeed in clinical psychology or counseling programs.

Your Insurance May Be Able To Help

If you're insured, you can talk to your insurance provider and find a list of mental health counselors. These counselors are covered and can provide you care for free or for very little money. This allows you to go to therapy without the worry of how to pay for services and seek medical treatment from a mental health therapist.

Talk To Your Doctor

If you have a good relationship with your general practitioner, you can talk to them, and they might be able to recommend a mental health counselor to you. By getting a professional recommendation for clinical counseling, you can speed up the process of finding a good match.

Your Pastor Can Help

Not everyone is religious, but if you are, talk to your pastor or authority in your place of worship. Religious counseling can help you through the lens of your religion. For example, if you're having marriage problems, you can get a solution from a Christian perspective, which may be just the right base for you to start counseling from.

You've Found a Potential Counselor—Now What?

So, you've found a mental health counselor who seems like a good fit. Your next step should be to interview the counselor to see if they're right for you. Wait, interview the counselor? Yes, that's right. Good counselors will be more than willing to answer your questions so you can decide if they're the right fit for you. You should also do some specific research on a potential counselor to get to know their background. 

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Look up online reviews. Many counselors have reviews online from previous clients. These reviews should not be the deciding factor on which counselor you choose; however, some reviews can break down how the counselor works and provide legitimate criticisms of the counselor. Keep in mind that many times, a satisfied client won't leave a review, whereas a dissatisfied client might.

Seek out details about their credentials. One of the most obvious credentials to look for is their license, but you can also look up the college they went to for their degree. You may wonder about their experience, how they've helped people, and what they can do for you—these are legitimate questions to ask. Their website may contain this information—or you can ask these questions in your interview

Online Therapy Can Help

Online counseling allows you to talk to a counselor anywhere, any time, and using various formats at your disposal. When you are having an episode, you can sometimes interact with your therapist immediately via text message. Regular sessions may take place through the telephone or a video call.

While online therapy has limitations, the evolving technology we have today has made it relatively close to the in-person experience. It has allowed those who live in remote areas or those who can't travel due to disability or lack of transportation to find the counselor that they need.

BetterHelp is one online platform offering connections to licensed therapists who can help with a wide range of mental health concerns. All you'll need to do is fill out a questionnaire, and you'll be matched to a therapist trained to help someone in your particular situation. If the first counselor you're matched to isn't a good fit, you can switch until you find someone you feel comfortable talking to.

Takeaway

A mental health counselor can change your life, and by following the tips above, you can narrow down the search for a counselor who can help you specifically. There's strength in seeking help. A counselor is out there who can help you live your best life.

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