How to Find a Counselor
Individual and Couples Counseling | Columbia, Mo
We get this question frequently - not only from family, friends, and strangers, but also from people who call in. For whatever reason, if they can't schedule with us for individual counseling or couples counseling, they still need to find somebody to work with. And leaving a caller in need without offering resources or help is not something we do.
Here are some things to keep in mind and ways to find a counselor in your area.
But first (as per usual), some additional information.
Finding a counselor isn't a one and done process. Our team practices counseling (obviously), but we also attend counseling as clients. And while I can only speak about this next part for myself, I'm sure there's a general consensus among us, I LOVE counseling. It's absolutely an enormous part of who I am and what I find meaningful and valuable in the world.
And, as somebody who has reached out and attended counseling with multiple counselors/therapists throughout my adult life, I can understand what the experience is like when I find a good counselor (someone that fit with me) and when I find a counselor I'm not very aligned with.
Although it seems counterintuitive, I want to go over some things you can do to make sure you're finding the "right" counselor for you, as well as the nuances within each of those things (just keep reading, you'll see what I mean).
Pros and Cons of Insurance for Counseling
This is such a difficult piece. There are many counselors who practice "in network," but there are many who practice "out of network." With in-network counselors, you get to work with somebody who you know accepts your insurance and, ideally, your coverage includes counseling and you have good coverage (i.e. a high percentage, low deductible, and low co-pay). Sure, that's ideal.
The reality about insurance and counseling is this.
It can be difficult to find a counselor that you like, who is good (how you can tell when a counselor is good), and who also accepts your insurance.
I don't say that lightly. I say that because I know what it's like to be picky. And if you're looking for a counselor who works with a specific issue (and you want to make sure they're actually qualified to work with that issue), then you're further limiting your searches to people who accept your insurance and work with said issue.
Another piece of this is that not all aspects of counseling are covered by insurance. Generally speaking, individual psychotherapy is covered and family therapy (aka counseling) is covered, but couples counseling isn't. Again, generally speaking. I'm sure there are some exceptions.
One of your best bets is to contact your insurance provider to get a list of counselors in the area who accept your insurance. From there, you google their names, visit their websites, or call the directly to get a feel for whether or not you think they'd fit with you, and to see if they work with the issue you're coming in for.
Training and Expertise
Finding a Counselor Who Works With Your Issue
Okay, so this is twofold.
First, there are some things that most counselors work with. For example, depression, anxiety, and general dissatisfaction with life. These are run of the mill, so to speak. That doesn't take away from how hard they are to experience, but it does mean that most counselors can work with these issues. The way they work with the issues will vary (i.e. training, theoretical orientation), but most are able to effectively do counseling.
And even with all that said, there are folks who specialize in anxiety, depression, and general malaise. So, if you really want to find somebody, then you may want to keep that bit in mind.
Good, now that that's off my chest. Here's what I mean when I say to find a counselor who works with your issue.
There are some things that most counselors shouldn't work with unless they have additional training and experience. I may sway a little far on this topic, but I feel pretty strongly about it. It's important that you find a counselor who specializes in or has experience with the issue you want to come to counseling for.
Think about it like this. If you start to have weird spots on your skin that weren't there a week ago and you can't seem to find a reason for them, what do you do?
You might start by consulting google (Hahahahaha! Unless that's just me?). Dr. Google knows all. But after that, you'd probably call your doctor and say, "Hey, doc, I've got some weird skin thing going on. I need to come in for an appointment." You doctor might say, "Oh, skin stuff? Your best bet is probably to go to Dr. dermatologist/oncologist/blahblahblahogist, but let's start with an appointment to make sure it's actually something." So, you go to your general practitioner doctor, they look at your skin, and they say, "Wow, yes, that looks like something. Go to the dermatologist/oncologist/whateverelseogist." They'd refer out to a specialist.
That's my point.
When you've got a specific issue (i.e. couples counseling, quarter-life crisis, excessive conflict or fighting, issues with confidence, sexual identity), then you want to reach out to somebody who you know works with or on that issue.
You also might know more about the counseling field, in general, and that means you might want to search for somebody who does the type of counseling that you want. For example, if you want EMDR, then you'd want to be sure the person has experience or training in EMDR; if you want Gottman Method Couples Therapy, then you'd want to be sure the person has experience or training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy; if you want CBT, then you'd want to be sure the person has experience of training in CBT.
And if the above paragraph reads like jargon, then don't even worry about it. I mean that sincerely. It's not even worth it to try to explain, just simply ask, "Tell me about your training/experience with [insert issue here]."
Goodness of Fit
Finding a Counselor You Like and Mesh With
This aspect is pretty quick and dirty (largely because I've done it before), so here we go. I've also written and talked (more extensively) about this very topic, such is its importance (two side notes are that I'm super pregnant in that video and I don't field all the calls anymore; we've got an awesome client liaison who does that!!).
- You should get your questions answered (within reason) during your first call to your counselor.
- You should know within about three sessions if it's a good fit.
- You should be able to talk about hard things.
- You should be transparent and expect transparency from your counselor.
Boom. Those are some important aspects.
You'll also want to check in with yourself throughout the process of counseling. You might ask yourself questions like, "Am I being honest with my counselor?" Or, "How comfortable do I feel with them?" Or, "Are we actively working on what I want to work on?" Or, "Do I feel steamrolled by my counselor" and/or, "Do I have space to be me and show up?"
These are also important aspects - the experience is yours, and thus you get to choose and decide if you and your counselor are a good fit. And, like I noted above, I'd say give it three sessions. That's a small, but decent enough amount of time to get a pretty clear flavor of their style and your fit.
Counseling in Columbia, Mo
Finding a Counselor in a Specific City
This is easy peasy.
You can pop on over to psychologytoday.com and look for a counselor in your zip code (you can also filter by issues/topics, which is awesome). You can call a counselor or two and ask for referrals for people who work with specific issues and/or take insurance (although I'd say you'd have better luck with calling your insurance for a list of providers). You can also ask for word of mouth referrals. If you know your friend Susan went to counseling for xyz issue, and you're struggling with xyz issue, then you might just give Susan a call and ask, "Hey, Susan, who'd you go to see for xyz? Where they helpful? Would I like them?"
And that's all, folks! Good luck and happy counseling!
About the Author
Tara Vossenkemper | Couples Counseling in Columbia, Mo
Tara Vossenkemper is the founder, owner, and therapist with The Counseling Hub, and a counselor (LPC) in the state of Missouri. She specializes in couples counseling using the highly effective Gottman Method Couples Therapy (and is currently obtaining her certification, which requires three levels of training and ongoing consultation - it's a necessarily rigorous process that she loves).
Tara has a diverse set of clinical experiences, working with both adolescents and adults on issues ranging from eating disorders and anxiety to spirituality and existential crises. However, she is most passionate about couples counseling. Tara enjoys working with couples looking to decrease or enhance conflict, relearn healthy and effective communication, or are healing from an affair. She's also been formally trained as in the Prepare-Enrich Premarital Couples Counseling approach and the PREP Approach for couples counseling.
Tara is also earning her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri - Saint Louis. She's "ABD" (all but dissertation) and furiously researching and writing to finish things up. She's presented at national, regional, and state conferences, as well as locally, on the topics of discrimination, sexual minority distress, spirituality, healthy lifestyle and mental health, and private practice.