I need a counselor! (part 2) “Aren’t tryouts for sports and plays?”

Oooookay, so now you have this mega-list of potential counselors. Well, now it’s time to make the big decision. Who will be lucky enough to tip-toe through the tulips of your psyche?

I’m recommending you whittle your list down to the three counselors who at least on paper appear to make the best fit. And then it’s time to get on the horn and call all three. If they handle their own calls, start asking questions. If you get a receptionist, tell him you’d like to start a therapeutic relationship. Then go on to say you have some questions, and if the counselor is busy you’d like her to call you back.

It’s your right to make these inquiry calls, and if you sense any hesitancy on the other end you might consider crossing the counselor off your list.

Do not schedule your first appointment without first talking with the counselor, unless the referring information you received was top-notch and the source was rock-solid.

Oh, and before we move on, it would be super helpful if you drafted a list of issues and questions you want to address with your candidates. Why not place what you’re about to read on your list.

Now, then. When you talk with the counselor, confirm he has experience and expertise with your circumstances. You’ll also want to know about his therapeutic preferences and style. I mean, does he use cognitive, cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, interpersonal, dialectical behavioral, and other therapies? And ask him which of these he’d recommend for your situation.

Go on to ask for a guesstimate on length of therapy. How long are the sessions? Is his style collaborative and warm, or is he more directive and distant? Does he have relationships with psychiatrists, and is he willing to refer as indicated? What is his academic background and licensure? Has he ever been disciplined by the state? F.Y.I., you can research that on your state’s department of professional regulation website. And what about fee, payment, and insurance details? Do his hours fit your needs?

These are all questions you have a right to ask, and a right to have answered.

And as you’re getting responses to your questions, make sure you listen beyond just ingesting information. Tune-in to how the counselor interacts with you. Do you like the characteristics of her voice? Does she sound like someone with whom you’d be comfortable just being yourself and sharing intensely personal information? Do you get the feeling the counselor really wants to be talking with you, and wants to work with you? It’s up to you to truly listen between the lines.

If the services of a psychiatrist are indicated, secure names and numbers using the same methodology I proposed for your counselor search. Of course, if you’ve started working with a counselor and he’s provided a referral, the process could well be streamlined.

Please understand, choosing and working with a counselor and a psychiatrist are very different matters. Certainly, you’d like your psychiatrist to be someone with whom you can work collaboratively; and it would be nice if he was someone with whom you could deeply connect. But that may not happen; and, frankly, it doesn’t much matter. See, in most cases your one and only mission with your psychiatrist is symptom management from a biological perspective. And that doesn’t require your psychiatrist to be Mr. Rogers.

What it does require is expertise and experience in making folks like us more comfortable, using the minimum measure of medication.

Well, okay. So you’ve found someone you believe is a fit. And now it’s time to show for your first appointment. Hmmm. Won’t you come back so we can talk about what to expect?