By Erica Gregory, LMFT
How to Find a Quality Therapist or Counselor
First, the term "counselor" and "therapist" are interchangable and are both used to describe a licensed professional who can give counseling services. Finding the right person is the same process whether you are looking online or in person. You should assess their bio, speak to them in person, and make sure you feel comfortable in a conversation with them. Some exclusively online/phone/text counseling sites do not tell you about which counselor you will have- only about the services they as a whole offer. Only after signing up do you get a counselor, and that counselor can change over time.
The best way to determine quality and goodness of fit is to find the counselor first- not the business.
It is a golden rule to talk to your therapist on the phone prior to your first appointment with them. This gives you the ability to ask the following questions and determine if you feel comfortable talking to them.
What is good quality counseling? First what is it not...
**Text message therapy
**Different counselor each session
**Instant, whenever you want it
The essence of counseling is a relationship with someone that knows your story, knows your pain, understands, and accepts who you are. Good counseling has boundaries and clear expectations. You know when we will talk next, you know exactly what to expect from your counselor, and you know what clear tangible goals you are working on. Good quality counseling works, it helps facilitate change in your life, it helps you find the courage to face what is in front of you. Good quality counseling can also be hard work, it is not easy to face your pain and walk through it. That is why you have a counselor walk along side of you. That is what separates us from being a friend, a book, or a coach.
Good Quality counseling CAN occur online with a visual interface. While meeting in person is ideal, sometimes it is not an option. You can achieve the same goals online.
Assessing Education, Licensure, and Experience
Here are things to look for when you are first looking at a counselor's profile. This is a concise version, if you want more detail on any of these points, click here!
1) Coach vs. Counselor: This is a big difference! Coaches do not have to have any training to call themselves a coach (some do have training, but it is not regulated by anyone), while counselors have at a minimum completed 6 years of school, an internship, 100+ hours of supervision, and passed a very difficult test.
2) Education: At a minimum, counselors have a master's degree. Typically you will see which program they graduated from in their bio.
3) Licensure: This is the letters behind the counselor's name, it tells you that they have met all requirements with the state board to practice counseling. To understand the difference between all the different initials you see, Click Here.
4) Experience: The more they have the better, Right? Depends... Interns are still in college gaining their first experiences, yet they are supervised by 2-3 people each week! In seeing an intern, you are getting the expertice from three very experienced counselors! On the other hand, the more experience, the more the cost. It is good to think through the balance between what you can afford and the experience you need.
After checking that they went to school and have a license now see if they have experience in what you are needing. One does not go to a dentist with a broken leg. After graduation a counselor knows the basics of being a counselor but is not trained in any one specialty such as couples counseling, eating disorders, or OCD.
Specialty & Therapy Approach
You do not need to know any theory of therapy, but your counselor does. When you talk to your counselor on the phone, ask them what theory model they use, what training they received in it, and what they specialize in. Like the saying goes “a jack of all trades is an expert at none.” If the counselor you are looking at works with everything, that is a red flag that they may not have a lot of experience in what you are needing. By asking this question you are looking for the counselor to go into detail about their training, their theory, and what to expect in working with them. After you ask, Listen for confidence in their voice, a clear explanation of their theory model, and how much training they have completed. “I went to a weekend seminar” doesn’t cut it. “I have completed all trainings required to _____” is what you are looking for.
Comfort with your Counselor
A question to ask yourself after talking on the phone with a potential counselor is: How do I feel after talking to them? Do you feel understood? Cared About? Annoyed? Rushed? Valued? Listen to your gut.
1) Check that the counselor has a master’s degree, and a license. Match the level of experience you feel you need. Be mindful that the cost will be based on their experience as well.
2) Prior to your first appointment, ask your potential counselor what theory model they use, how much training they have in it, and what % of their clients they use that theory with.
3) Share a short version of your story with them on the phone. After you have talked, ask yourself how do you feel after talking to them.
Online vs. In-person
Quality therapeutic counseling is built on a relationship with your counselor. It is essential to build trust through connection, contact, presence, and caring. When most think of these things they think of an in-person interaction. It is a new idea to be able to connect this way online with a face to face portal. I was skeptical too, for a long time, until I started supervision online. It was great! After one session I loved it. Nothing can replace being able to shake the hand of your counselor, or be in the same room as your counselor. However, if there are barriers such as this social distancing or travel time a good option is to have a counselor that offers both in person and online. Since the social distancing started, I have started seeing all my clients online. So far, all of them are surprised how well it works and how much they like it.
I have seen a lot in ads about counseling through texting. A service that offers texting as a form of counseling is a red flag in my opinion. If I cannot hear your voice, see your facial expression, feel your pain with you, we have lost the core of the counseling relationship. Counseling is more than a few skills you try at home or “it will be okay…” If that is all you need, than texting can work fine (or good book can work too).
How we help- what makes us different
At Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling we offer online counseling through a visual portal called Doxy.Me. We offer all counseling services through the online portal: Couples Therapy, Adult Counseling, Adolescent Counseling, Play Therapy, Parenting Support, Tutoring Support, Etc.
What makes us different is that when you call us you talk to a counselor. That counselor will listen to your story and understand your goals and match you with the counselor most trained to work with you. From there you can talk to your counselor prior to meeting with them. You can ask the above questions, and we know how to answer them! Everyone at our office is highly experienced in the populations and presenting problems they work with.
Also, what makes us different is the mission of our practice is the serve the community. We are here with a heart of service. That means we will meet you where you are financially. We do not mess with those insurance companies that want to regulate your counseling experience or demand that you have a label such has Depression/Anxiety/Bipolar to justify services. We offer co-pay matching and sliding scale for clients who are unable to afford our base price. The prices of services depend on the experience and training of the counselor you see.
This is a difficult time for us all. Having a place to process your experience can help you grow rather than crumble. To find out if this can work for you, or if we are the right fit for you, schedule a time for us to talk. You can click below to schedule your online intake counseling session with us. If we are not the right fit, we will help you find who or what is. We look forward to serving you!
Click here to schedule your first online intake
Click here to learn about our counselors
The Counselors of Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling
Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling (#JCAC) is a warm and family orientated counseling practice in Alpharetta, Ga. We offer online counseling services in the states of Georgia and Florida. We offer in-office counseling service at our Alpharetta office which is conveniently located to serve Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, and Cumming, Ga.
The JCAC Counselors specialize in counseling services throughout the lifespan! We offer play therapy, counseling for children, parental support, adolescent counseling, mental health services, couples counseling, premarital therapy, and individual counseling for adults.
To learn more about our practice, click here!
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