How to Find a Right Mental Health Counselor?

How to Find a Right Mental Health Counselor

Mental Health Counselor:

A mental health counselor is a skilled professional who is equipped to guide people who are dealing with mental health issues. Often the word ‘counseling’ and its importance is misused. Have you heard someone, or specifically the elder people in the family say that they also do counseling for other family members or for their friends? For them the word counseling could mean giving right advice. When we talk about mental health counselors, a lot of people think that their job is to give advice or solutions to the issues that others are facing, but that is not the case. Mental health counseling is a process of listening, understanding and providing guidance to the client by formulating a proper treatment plan of therapies and techniques. Imagine a person suffering from depression being told to go out more or to focus on happiness instead of the negative thoughts in their mind. Won’t the issue accelerate rather than the person feeling good? And that’s why only a trained and skilled professional can be a mental health counselor and only they are allowed to practice in this field.

For one to feel better, psychologically, it is important that they first agree that mental health issues exist and that they can visit a professional for those issues. Along with this, it is also important to visit a mental health professional instead of only talking to friends or family members. And that’s why we have come up with this blog to help you understand how to find the right mental health counselor for yourself. Read till the end to know about it!

10 Tips to Choose a Right Mental Health Counselor:

Now that we know what a mental health counselor is and about their importance, the next question pops up is how to choose a mental health counselor for yourself or for your dear ones who are in the situation of distress. Finding the right mental health counselor is extremely important because that is who you are going to be discussing the most intimate and vulnerable things about your life. And all this may make choosing a mental health counselor a bit overwhelming.

So, to help you start off your mental health counseling journey on the right foot, here are 10 tips for you to understand how to choose the right mental health counselor:

1. Referrals, referrals and referrals!

Deciding to start with your counseling journey can be both empowering and overwhelming. The most important decision here could be to know where and how to find a mental health counselor? On top of it, there could be a confusion as to which mental health professional to visit- a mental health counselor, clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist. It would be safe to say that one may start their mental health counseling journey from a zero and that is absolutely fine. The best way to put an end to this confusion of finding the mental health professional is to talk to the people who know about this field. You can talk to your family doctor or your physician and ask them to give you referrals of mental health practitioners that they know of.

Another way to find a mental health counselor or a mental health practitioner is to talk to family members or friends who either have been to counseling themselves or know someone close who started their counseling process. This will give you firsthand information about the counselor and their techniques which will make your screening work much easier. And with the help of the feedback from your friends or family members about the counselor, you may also find it easy to trust the counselor.

2. Social Media for the rescue!

In today’s time, social media can be both, a curse and a boon. Sure, there are plenty of individuals on social media who may portray themselves as mental health practitioners or ambassadors without any proper training or qualifications in the field. But at the same time, there are plenty of verified counselors and organizations who are trying to reach out to the community to spread accurate mental health awareness. So go for it, try getting information about the organizations or an individual counselor through their social media handles. Get to know about their approaches through the content that they share and see if you feel they could be the right fit for you.

Along with Social media handles, Google can be another great option to search for therapists. You may get a lot of sponsored and most searched counselors, but go for it. You can put in filters of language, age and most importantly the filter of locality. If you want the therapist to be near your house or work place to cut down the traveling distance, then you can put in that filter and you will get lists of counselors in that area.

3. Know the areas of specializations of the counselors:

When we visit a doctor, we know what is the issue that our physical body is facing for which a medical intervention is required. Say for example, one may pay their doctor a visit if they have been having symptoms of flu for a longer period of times and it isn’t getting treated. But if one has ache in their tooth and they visit an ophthalmologist then their problem will not get treated. Similarly, if you feel that your relationship is problematic and is the reason for your deteriorating mental health, then a child psychologist will not be able to help you, but the counselor who specializes in relationship issues will be your go to mental health professional.

The reason for mentioning this is because there isn’t a lot of awareness about the specialization of the counselors in the field of psychology. Just like there are cardiologists, gynecologists, orthodontists in the field of medicine, similarly there are child psychologists, sports psychologists, industrial psychologists, adolescent and adult counselors, relationship counselors, geriatric counselors and so on in the field of psychology and knowing which counselor to visit for your issues based on their areas of specializations will help you to accelerate your process of counseling.

4. Get your detective mode on!

Once you get referrals of mental health counselors from your friends, family members, social media, doctors or through Google, the next step that comes in is to choose one counselor from the list that you got. How to do that? By asking questions! You, as a client have multiple rights under which you can ask your counselors questions to get to know their professional approach better and to check if they would be the right fit for you.

Here are few questions that you can ask the therapists before starting your counseling process with them:

  • Their qualifications and certifications. Please note that in India, the minimum qualification for someone to practice as a Mental Health Counselor is to complete a Masters course (either M.A or M.Sc.) in Psychology.
  • Their area of specialization (in terms of age such as child, adolescent, young adult etc. and areas of life such as relationship, marriage, work, parenting etc.)
  • Any specific community or age group they do not work with.
  • The approach they use for therapy sessions.
  • Their experience of dealing with people who have had similar issues like you.

These are few basic questions that you can ask the counselors while shortlisting them. Be completely free and list down all the questions that you’d like to get the answers from the counselor. Asking right questions will help you in taking your decision of choosing the right mental health counselor.

5. Time to check the logistics:

Once all the other questions are asked to the counselor, then comes the time to discuss the logistical factors which will help you further in deciding whom to start the counselor journey with. They include:

  • Cost: One of the most important factors to consider before starting your therapy journey is to understand how much the process will cost. While it is difficult for the counselor to state how many numbers of sessions will be required for the entire process, make sure you ask them their fees for every session. There are counselors who also provide sliding scale fees for some clients, this is also one point which you can discuss with the counselor before starting your counseling process.
  • Availability: Check whether the counselor that you are discussing with is accepting new clients. If you want to start the counseling session immediately, then you’d want a counselor who has immediate availability of slots for sessions. Along with that, you can also discuss about the frequency of sessions. Mostly the counselors schedule one session per week, but it may vary depending on your case and its intensity.
  • Booking of the session: Every counselor may have a different way of giving appointments to the client. Know your counselor’s way, whether it is through advance payment, online booking of appointments, telephonic booking of appoints etc. and proceed accordingly.  

6. Online or in-person?

The Covid and the Post Covid Era has had everything turned into a virtual world and therapy, like everything, wasn’t barred from this. For many years, until Covid, there was a great resistant to counseling and therapy sessions taking place online through video conferencing. But it is now been brought into light that online therapy, via video portals, has the similar effect in the treatment as it has for in-person sessions. On top of it there are many pros for online consultations. It saves the commute time the to-and-fro from the counselor’s office, saves you from the traffic frustration, it saves the petrol price used for commute, saves your time, one gets to attend session from their own comfort zone. These some of the benefits of online counseling. One drawback of online counseling is the privacy. If someone feels they will not be given space and privacy by others in the house to attend online sessions then that can be an obstruction.

Now that you know about online and in-person sessions, decide beforehand what you’d like to opt for and then discuss it with the counselors that you are screening.

7. Get in touch with those gut feelings!

Throughout the counselor hunt, you’ll always have an inner voice telling and guiding you towards finding the right counselor. Listen to that voice and follow that voice religiously because after all you know yourself better than anyone else! So, trust yourself, trust your gut feeling and choose the mental health counselor accordingly to start your counseling journey with them.

8. Are you comfortable?

After using all the above steps, you’ll be able to choose the mental health counselor with whom you can start your journey of counseling. But would that mean that you have actually chosen the right mental health counselor for yourself? As you proceed in the sessions, ask yourself whether you are comfortable with your counselor because this professional relationship is of utmost importance for your healing. If you are not comfortable with your counselor, then you may not be completely open while sharing the information with them. This may also bring an obstacle when the counselor may provide an insight because you may not completely trust them. To check your comfort level with the counselor, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the therapist making you feel heard?
  • Is the therapist giving you space to talk without interrupting and without judging you?
  • Can you see yourself sharing the most vulnerable incident with your therapist?
  • Does the question ‘what would my therapist think?’ pop up in your mind even after couple of sessions?

9. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’:

Do you know why therapy is a whole new different experience and why is it unique? Because just like no two people’s problems can be hundred percent same, similarly no two therapists can be same. When it comes to therapy, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ option in terms of therapist. Let’s see what that means exactly. We have discussed how every counselor will have different areas of expertise and specialization, in that too every counselor will have different approaches that they use for treatment plan. Hence, sometimes it may happen that a particular counselor, their approach may not suit you the best.

What to do at such times then? Talk to your counselor about it! Yes, you read that right. Keep a habit of exchanging feedback during the process. Since all therapists understand their approach may not suit everyone, they will not get offended if you tell them so. This will help you to be completely open to your counselor about their way of taking sessions and this will especially help you when you feel that you aren’t reaching your goal which you had in mind while starting therapy. This will help your counselor too to understand whether they need to change their approach or whether to refer you to another therapist who can help you in a better way. And so, by following this you will be in a win-win situation!

10. It is okay to change your therapist:

After starting the counseling process and progressing in it, there could be a chance that you may see that the process is too slow or the goals that you and your counselor have in mind are not getting achieved. In such cases, it is advised that you talk to your counselor first and tell them about it. This will help the counselor in either changing their treatment plan or to understand that they might not be the right fit for you. But how to understand that it might be the time to talk to your counselor about terminating sessions with them? This list of questions might help you in understanding it:

  • Are there any signs improvements in the areas for which you are seeking therapy?
  • Is the therapist not respecting their professional boundaries?
  • Is therapy going off track?
  • Are you finding it hard to be honest with your therapist?
  • Do you feel that the counselor lacks the experience for the issues that you have approached them for?

Sometimes, an individual may understand that their therapist is not the right fit but they might find it very difficult to break that bond and search for new therapist for varied reasons. But understand that not changing the therapist if they aren’t the right fit will not help you in long run and that it is absolutely okay to change your therapist if you feel the need for it.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know About Mental Health Counseling?

In today’s world, people are trying to normalize therapy and are trying to open conversations about mental health and mental health counseling and other treatments. We can see the young adults and adolescents openly talk about their mental health concerns, their counseling journey, but the middle-aged population and old age population is still resistant in even accepting that mental health concerns are real and that taking treatment for the same is alright. So, if you are resistant about taking therapy because you feel that it is something unacceptable in the society or because people’s views about you might change if they get to know that you are seeking help then don’t be afraid about it because change starts from you. So go ahead and take that step.

Another important thing that you should know about therapy or mental health counseling is that one of the goals of every therapist is to make the individual independent at the end of the counseling process. Hence, if you feel that you are not able to let go of the counselor’s support towards the end of the process or if you realize that relapse takes place, for the same issue, every time the process is terminated, then it could be the time for you to change the therapist.

Choosing Mental Health Counselor: FAQs

Now that we know about mental health, the mental health counselor and how to choose the right counselor, it is time to solve any further queries that you may have about these topics. Here are few FAQs that might help you in understanding the topic of mental health even better!

Q1. How do I know if I need to see a mental health counselor?

A: The answer to this is pretty easy. When you suffer from fever or viral cold, then what do you do? You may do some home remedies, take a few medicines and try to feel better. But when nothing works then you may go and visit your doctor to take treatment. It is similar for mental health too. When you realize that there are some ups and down in a particular area of your life that might be affecting your life adversely, which even after trying hard to get over still persists then it is time for you to see the mental health counselor.

The issues that can affect one’s mental health could be varied and its intensity can also vary from person to person. Here are a few points which you can refer to check if your mental health is getting affected and if you need to consult a counselor:

  • When one unpleasant thought continuously goes on in mind which leads to other negative thoughts and it becomes almost impossible for you to stop yourself from thinking about it and it becomes a train of negative thoughts.
  • When there is a constant fear or feeling of unpleasantness throughout the day (especially in the body) that you cannot explain.
  • If you get a feeling of being stuck which could be in anything such as relationship, work, career or something that you cannot understand.
  • When you have been overeating or indulging in unhealthy behaviors.
  • When there is a constant feeling of sadness, feeling low or fatigued and no amount of activity is helping you to get out of it.
  • If your anger is being incontrollable and you feel that you have been taking it out on others very frequently.
  • When you are in a state of transition such as changing cities/countries, breakup/heartbreak, moving out from home, getting married etc.

Q2. How do I find a mental health counselor that is right for me?

A: You can follow the following process while choosing the mental health counselor:

  • Identify what are the issues that are affecting your mental health. It could be your relationship, work, self-doubt or anything else. There can be more than one issue that you might be facing and that is alright.
  • Look for a counselor who caters to treatment for the issues that you are facing.
  • Check their credentials by having an introductory call and brief them about your issues to double check if they can take up your case.
  • If you feel everything is alright, then you can book a session with them.
  • In the process if you feel that the counseling approach isn’t working for you, then discuss it with your counselor.
  • Even after the discussion if you feel the counseling process with this counselor isn’t working out for you then feel free to change your therapist, but don’t stop your healing journey!

Q3. How do I know if my mental health counselor is qualified?

A: The minimum qualification for anyone to practice as a mental health counselor in India is having a Masters Degree in Psychology or a Post-Graduation Diploma in Counseling. If you are looking for a Clinical Psychologist, then the qualification for a Clinical Psychologist is having an M.Phil. degree and an RCI license. So, when you want to start your counseling process, you can always enquire the counselor about their educational qualifications.

Q4. How often should I see my mental health counselor?

A: Usually the frequency of counseling sessions is one session per week. It is planned in this way so that the discussion that you’ve had in the session and the insight that you have gained will help in bringing the change in your behavior or in noticing the changes in your environment. It is also because most counselors give clients homework and a week’s time is required for the completion of the same.

Nonetheless, the frequency of sessions may also increase to 2-3 sessions per week depending on the intensity of the problem. So, the right person to answer this question will be your counselor. They will evaluate your issue and your progress and will tell you how often should you have a session with them.

Q5. What should I expect during my first visit with a mental health counselor?

A: Starting counseling can be a very overwhelming experience for a lot of people due to the thoughts of sharing very intimate information about themselves that too to a stranger! But we, counselors, get your feeling of being nervous and that’s alright. Whatever feeling you have before your first session, go with it for your first session! Usually, the first session of counseling is considered as an introductory session where both the therapist/counselor and the client get to know each other and establish a professional relationship. Here are a few things that you can expect during your first visit with the mental health counselor:

  • The therapist may ask about you, your qualifications, hobbies etc.
  • The therapist may then ask you to describe what bought you to them.
  • Going ahead with case history.
  • A brief discussion about what therapist has understood about your current concerns and symptoms.
  • Booking of next session.

Q6. What if I am not comfortable talking to a mental health counselor?

A: It is absolutely normal and understood that initially you may feel a little nervous or uncomfortable while opening up to your counselor, especially in the first session. If the discomfort is coming from thinking that the therapist may judge you or may find your story funny or senseless, then firstly you will have to tell yourself that the therapist is there to make you feel okay and that they will truly understand your side. Secondly, you can tell them that this is how you feel and maybe you’d like to discuss the particular topic in the coming sessions and as you go ahead in counseling process you yourself will find that you are getting comfortable in sharing your thoughts with the counselor.

Another instance that can happen is, even after a long time in therapy you feel that your counselor is dismissing you, not listening to you, making you feel inferior/judging you at times. When this happens, then please feel free to change your therapist.

The Bottom Line:

Whether you are suffering from a loss, trauma, relationship issues, work stress or anything else when it comes to mental health, a treatment for this through counseling will be extremely helpful. And in this counseling process, having the right counselor with you is equally important and helpful.

To start your counseling journey, you can start searching for a mental health counselor by asking your friends, family members, doctors or colleagues. Once you have narrowed down your choices and have chosen a therapist, you can start your counseling process with them!

Need Mental Health Counselor?

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to go through the tedious process of finding referrals of the counselors, checking their credibility, discuss about the logistics and sessions and fees every time and finding the right fit for yourself without all the hassle? Well, that’s why we are here!

WAITT has been catering to the community’s mental health since quite some time now and as a part of it has onboarded experienced, knowledgeable and skilled mental health practitioners who have their own niche in which they work and a very unique way of dealing with various clients. So, if you are someone who is looking for a mental health counselor, then your search may end right here. All you have to do is go on to- https://www.supportoursafety.com/therapy/ have a look at the counselor’s specialty areas and book an appointment with the one that you feel is the right fit!


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Shriya R Khalate

Counselor Team WAITT

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